Harriet Boyd Hawes – Archaeologist

Harriet Boyd Hawes

Harriet Boyd Hawes

“Riding on mule-back in attire like that shown in her photograph, accompanied by the faithful Aristides (a native of northwestern Greece) with his mother as chaperon, she was apparently perfectly unconscious – in the best American tradition – of doing anything unusual or courageous.” From the Introduction to Archaeology: Memoirs of a Pioneer Excavator in Crete by Harriet Boyd Hawes.

When Harriet Boyd finally decided that she wanted to study Greek archaeology at the source, in Greece, it must have been frustrating to find that her instructors didn’t think she should get her hands dirty. They expected female archaeologists to become librarians or museum curators, but she had always been more inclined to action than academics. So she set off to find her own site to excavate.

Early Life

Born on October 11, 1871, Harriet was the youngest of five children and the only girl.  Her mother died while she was still an infant and whatever her father did to try to “rouse domestic tastes” and “induce womanliness”, according to Harriet’s daughter, was useless against the influence of her brothers. Her doll house was taken over by a “military coup”, she would “scout” for the boys and took delight in pyrotechnic shows. They also had an area in their home where they kept pet squirrels. It was a happy, rowdy home and Harriet loved it.

One person who had a particular influence on Harriet was her brother Alex. Eleven years her senior he was a parental figure of sorts. He was especially influential in her love of and decision to study the Classics at Smith College. When he died her senior year it was a very sad time for her, but she graduated in 1892 and had to make a decision about what to do with her life.

For the next four years, Harriet taught school, first in a boarding school for impoverished students in North Carolina and then in a finishing school. When she became dissatisfied with teaching, she decided to take a tour of Europe. She was able to do this in part because of her inheritance from Alex. In this way he helped to set her on the path to her destiny.

Excavations in Crete

The sources I read didn’t give a name, but supposedly Harriet met a man in Europe who challenged her not to study Classics in Europe or America, but to go right to the source. Also, as a student at Smith, she heard a lecture by Amelia Edwards about her travels up the Nile. (Edwards wrote a book titled A Thousand Miles up the Nile which became a best seller about her adventures in Egypt and Egyptian archeology.) At that time she became intrigued by archaeology. Now she decided to combine the two, took the man’s advice and, in 1896, enrolled at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, Greece.

Map of Crete showing major archaeological sites, including Gournia.

Map of Crete showing major archaeological sites, including Gournia. (Author: Bibi Saint-Pol, Wikimedia Commons)

Her graduate studies went well, but as she advanced she wanted to take part in field work. As I mentioned, the common expectation for women in archaeology was that they would work as librarians or curators. Harriet had already made a bit of a stir by traveling to Greece without a chaperone and riding around Athens on her bicycle, so when she couldn’t get an excavation site through the school she decided to strike out on her own.

Jug found at Kavousi (source)

Jug found at Kavousi (source)

In the spring of 1900, Harriet decided to go to Crete and look for her own site. This involved traveling around and talking to farmers and villagers about the artifacts they found. She obtained all the necessary permissions to excavate and decided on Kavousi. With the help of hired workers, she excavated baskets of artifacts, a house, a number of Iron Age tombs, a small “castle” and one 3000 year old undisturbed bee-hive tomb. It might not have compared to the finds Arthur Evans was currently finding at Knossos, but it was her excavation. She returned to the US and published her work in the American Journal of Archaeology.

Returning the next year, Harriet made the discovery that she would be primarily remembered for, Gournia. After several discouraging weeks of searching for a new site, they were led to a place with “old walls” by a local man named George Petakis. Deciding that it looked promising, Harriet sent the men ahead the next day while she took care of mail. When she arrived, the site was buzzing with excitement. All the men were eager to show them what they had found and it was clear they had their site. Three days after first seeing Gournia, she sent a telegram saying “Discovered Gournia Mycenaean site, street, houses, pottery, bronzes, stone jars.”

Gournia consisted of a small acropolis surrounded by paved roads, more than 70 houses and “the small palace of the local governor.”  It was a town of workers and artisans with evidence of weaving, fishing, bronze-casting, and the making of pottery of different types. They discovered pottery ranging in age from around 2500 to 1000 BCE. Gournia was rich with history. All of this provided three years work for Harriet and her crew, 1901, 1903, and 1904.

Gournia, Vasiliki and other prehistoric sites on the isthmus of Hierapetra, Crete; excavations of the Wells-Houston-Cramp expeditions, 1901, 1903, 1904. By Harriet Boyd Hawes, Blanche E. Williams, Richard B. Seager, Edith H. Hall Philadelphia, The American Exploration Society, Free Museum of Science and Art, 1908

Pottery found at Gournia, Vasiliki and other prehistoric sites on the isthmus of Hierapetra, Crete by Boyd’s team. (source)

Harriet had a talent for organizing, but she also had a desire to share her passion. She took on a number of younger archaeologists such as Blanche Williams, Edith Hall, and Richard Seager. And since excavating is a seasonal activity, she also taught Greek archaeology at Smith and gave lectures for the Archaeological Institute of America becoming a recognized authority on Crete.

Nursing

Harriet took time out from her life regardless of where she was to be of service through nursing. Her talent for organizing extended to field hospitals. In 1897, she took time off from school to nurse soldiers during the Greco-Turkish War. In 1915, she took supplies and relief to wounded Serbian soldiers at Corfu. The next year she went to France.

Then in 1917, she spoke to an alumnae group at Smith about war relief. The first Smith Relief Unit sailed for France in August of that year led by Harriet and consisting of doctors, professors, social workers and of course a few archaeologists.

Personal Life

Gournia was the last excavation that Harriet directed. Her active life was complicated by the fact that at the age of 35, she decided to marry. During one of her trips to Greece, she met and fell in love with Charles Henry Hawes a British anthropologist. They married on May 3, 1906 and had two children, Alexander Boyd Hawes and Mary Nesbit Hawes.

Even though she gave up field work, she didn’t give up archaeology. In addition to publishing the results of the Gournia excavation, she and Charles wrote a book together called Crete: The Forerunner of Greece. She also continued teaching, lecturing and nursing.

Harriet did consider having a family an “interruption” in her active life, but she said that whether or not a woman was happy in this decision would “depend largely on her having anticipated it as part of the Good Life.”

Harriet Boyd Hawes was a pioneering woman in archaeology and should be remembered as such. She died on March 31, 1943 at the age of 73.

Gournia ruins Photo credit: Lourakis, Wikimedia Commons

Gournia ruins Photo credit: Lourakis at en.wikipedia

 

Resources
Ladies of the Field: Early Women Archaeologists and Their Search for Adventure by Amanda Adams
American Journal of Archaeology: Excavations at Kavousi, Crete, in 1900  by Harriet A. Boyd

Smith College: Despair in War-Torn France Eased After Smith Women Arrived in 1917

Breaking Ground, Breaking Tradition: Bryn Mawr and the First Generation of Women Archaeologists “Edith Hayward Hall Dohan (1877-1943)

This is the video on YouTube where I first heard of Harriet Boyd. The focus is primarily on Knossos, but the video is great.
The Ancient World: The Minoans with Bettany Hughes

These two articles are behind a subscription wall at JSTOR. However, you can register free and read three articles every fourteen days and her writing is delightful.
Archaeology: Memoirs of a Pioneer Excavator in Crete by Harriet Boyd Hawes
Archaeology: Part II Memoirs of a Pioneer Excavator in Crete by Harriet Boyd Hawes

Read about other Famous Women in Science

Wandering the Halls of History – On a Personal Note

Christine de Pizan lecturing men!

Christine de Pizan lecturing men!

I’m not a historian and don’t pretend to be. That may not be a wise statement to make on a history blog, but it’s the truth and I don’t necessarily believe it’s a disadvantage here. While the occasional author has popped in to comment about a woman she has written about, I think most of you are interested amateurs like I am. We know women have played a significant role throughout history, but for various reasons they haven’t gotten the recognition that they deserve. So this intrigues us, or angers us, and we seek out information or at least take note of it when we see it.

The Beginning

While I’ve always loved history, this venture began when I started collecting materials for a class I wanted to teach on the history of science and mathematics. Not long after that, health problems forced me to stop teaching and I never got to teach the class, but ended up with all these resources.

Also as a result of the end of my teaching career (at least in public schools), I ventured into the world of internet marketing. Well that didn’t last long. The people who make money that way are, as a rule, the people teaching others how to make money on the internet or affiliate marketers who sell other peoples products. Neither of which I could put my heart into. However, I learned a lot about websites, blogging, and especially WordPress that has helped me. (Although, wordpress.com has made blogging so easy now that you shouldn’t let lack of knowledge keep you from starting one if you want. Shoot me an email if I can help.)

So one day I decided to combine the two and start a blog about women in history. Actually, there were a couple of other blog attempts, but this is where I ended up about a year and a half ago.

Restored Stoa in Athens. (Photo: Adam Carr, Wikipedia)

Restored Stoa in Athens. (Photo: Adam Carr, Wikimedia Commons)

Wandering the Halls

To be honest, I’ve struggled with the idea that I needed to be an expert to write about this topic. There are many blogs and Facebook pages run by people who are experts and it can sometimes be a little intimidating. I’ll begin to get a handle on a particular subject, for example women’s suffrage, and something else will grab my attention which I just have to read about. So I’m off on a tangent pursuing my latest interest.

I was happily maintaining the Facebook page for “Saints, Sisters, and Sluts” and I kept coming across great posts about ancient Egypt, so I started the “Ancient History Lovers” page. Then I was watching a documentary with Bettany Hughes about the ancient Minoans when she mentioned a female archaeologist named Harriet Boyd, so of course I had to read about her. You get the idea. In fact, finding interesting posts for Facebook has sometimes caused my frustration, because there just isn’t enough time to read about all the fascinating subjects and people that I encounter.

I’ve decided to call this “Wandering the Halls” syndrome. Smile It’s like wandering the halls of a great museum and learning little bits and pieces about ancient peoples or great artists, and never seeing the “whole picture.” But all those little pieces, I believe, enrich our lives.

Some halls are more complete than others. (Photo: Adam Carr, Wikimedia Commons)

Some halls are more complete than others. (Photo: Adam Carr, Wikimedia Commons)

Where to From Here?

Is this a problem? It could be, but I don’t think it has to be. When I was teaching I always considered myself more of a facilitator than a teacher. It’s an approach that isn’t always appreciated in public schools, but I started in adult education. As a rule, adults learn better the more control they have over the learning environment. Providing resources, motivation and a little guidance can lead to some of the best results.

I love to see someone discover things themselves. And if they go on to become an expert, that’s great! But, if they are also afflicted with “Wandering the Hall” syndrome, then I’ve found a kindred spirit.

I decided that I’m comfortable being a “Jill of all trades, mistress of none.” Many of the most interesting women I’ve learned about were because someone else mentioned them to me. That is what I want this blog to be about; information that intrigues people and makes them want to learn more. I hope I’ve done that at least for some.

Please Comment

As I said, some of the most interesting people I’ve learned about were mentioned to me by others. I would love to have more dialogue on the blog. Which of these women interest you? Can you add interesting information about them? Do you like them, dislike them, etc.? Disagreement is welcome, politely of course.

If you’ve read this far into my little tangent, thank you. The next post will be about another interesting woman. I think I know which one, but you never know what hall I might turn down! Laughing

Any thoughts?

Any thoughts?

 

Rani Lakshmibai – Warrior Queen

Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi

Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi (source)

Lakshmibai was the queen of the state of Jhansi in northern India at the time of the Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as India’s First War for Independence. She was a leading figure in the rebellion and a symbol for her people of resistance to British rule in India. She was young and is remembered as fearless in battle. And, she made the list of Time’s Top 10 Bad-Ass Women in 2011.

Childhood and Marriage

Born into a Brahmin family, her given name was Manikarnika and she was nicknamed Manu. Her mother died when she was four, but she was well taken care of by her father and officials at the court of Peshwa Baji Rao II at Bithur where he worked. Educated at home and given more freedom than many girls her age, she trained in archery, horseback riding, and martial arts.

Manu’s birth year is given as various dates from 1827 to 1835, but sources agree that she married the Maharaja of Jhansi, Raja Gangadhar Rao in 1842. She was given the name Lakshmibai and as the Rani of Jhansi was called Rani Lakshmibai.

Lakshmibai around the time of her wedding.

Lakshmibai around the time of her wedding. (source)

In 1851, she gave birth to a son named Damodar Rao. Unfortunately, he only lived to be four months old. After their son’s death, the Raja and Rani adopted a boy named Anand Rao, the son of Gangadhar Rao’s cousin. The adoption of Lakshmibai’s son took place in the presence of a British official. At the time he was given a letter from the Raja requesting that after his death the boy be treated with kindness as the heir, and Lakshmibai be appointed regent. The day before the Raja died in November 1853, Anand Rao was renamed Damodar Rao.

Annexation of Jhansi

Gangadhar’s grandfather had signed a treaty in 1817 with the British assuring his successors title to Jhansi and they had been pro-British since that time. But, in spite of the official precautions that the Raja took, and the long standing right of an Indian sovereign to choose his own successor, the British East India Company refused to abide by the agreement. Because Damodar Rao was adopted, they chose to apply the Doctrine of Lapse.

The Doctrine of Lapse stated that any territory under the power of the British East India Company would be automatically annexed if the ruler died without a direct heir. The policy had been used previously, but under the Governor General Lord Dalhousie between 1848 and 1856 the company took over eight different states. This contributed to a growing sense of discontent all over India.

Lakshmibai wrote at least three letters protesting the annexation and consulted British counsel John Lang, but was unsuccessful in getting it reversed. After her third appeal, April 22, 1854, an appeal was made to the Court of Directors in London. This also failed and she was given a monthly pension, the state jewels, and moved to the palace Rani Mahal.

Rani Mahal (Photo credit: Allen Copsey)

Rani Mahal (Photo credit: Allen Copsey, source)

Even though the government  changed hands, Lakshmibai was still recognized by the people as Rani and was probably one of the wealthiest people in Jhansi. She still had responsibilities to her son and the people and was respected, although she may have annoyed the British officials with her petitions. She also continued her practice of daily exercise including horseback riding and shooting.

The Rebellion of 1857

In May of 1857, word reached Jhansi of mutiny among sepoys in the army at Meerut. Lakshmibai asked for permission to raise a small force as bodyguard for her own protection. British officials agreed, but failed to take the same precaution themselves. On June 5th, sepoys in the Jhansi garrison rebelled, looted, released prisoners from the local jail and took possession of one of the forts in the town.

At least two British officers were killed and the rest took refuge in the other fort with their families. Two days later, the fort was besieged and they surrendered. Although promised safe passage by the mutineers, once the British were out of town one of the rebel leaders ordered their deaths. They then turned their attention to Lakshmibai and demanded money.

There was little Lakshmibai could do at the time, she complied with the demands of the rebels for money under threat of violence and as soon as they left the area on June 11th she reported the situation to British authorities.  At this point, there was no government, so she took steps to stabilize the situation and three days later sent another letter to a Major Erskine who encouraged her to take charge until another official could be sent.

Over the next six months, Lakshmibai worked to protect the town and keep the situation stable. She had to defend against a rival for the throne as well as attacks from neighboring towns taking advantage of the absence of troops, and in one case claiming to act on behalf of the British. Throughout this time, she made repeated requests for help from the British and got no response. She also found it necessary to deal with the rebels in order to obtain the weapons she needed to build up her fighting force.

The Jhansi fort in 1857

The Jhansi fort in 1857 (source)

After spending most of her money and doing all she could, Lakshmibai wrote one last time to the British authorities. She closed her letter dated January 1, 1858, with this statement: “I beg you will give me your support in the best way you can, and thus save myself and the people who are reduced to the last extremity and are not able to cope with the enemy.”

The Final Showdown

There are conflicting reports of when Lakshmibai decided to oppose the British. To protect herself and Jhansi, she had been forced to cooperate with those opposed to the British; they had taken her throne from her, and the people were opposed to many things about British rule. They also received reports from villages and towns where the British had regained control. Some commanders were lenient, but others executed anyone they suspected of being a rebel, looted the towns and left the wounded to die.

The British force which marched toward Jhansi on January 5, 1858 was led by Sir Hugh Rose. He was apparently of the opinion that no leniency should be offered. One of his subordinates wrote to his parents, “Sir Hugh knows no native language so pays little heed to what a prisoner says. His first question is ‘Was this man taken with arms in his hands?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, ‘Then shoot him’ says Sir Hugh.” Hearing reports from other towns, Lakshmibai had no other choice but to expect the worst. So she prepared.

The siege began on March 21, 1858. She was given a chance to surrender, but the Rani knew that many of her supporters would be executed, so with the support of the people she refused. The British were outnumbered, but had a distinct advantage in weapons and training. The fort was surrounded and bombarded until finally a breach was made in the wall on March 30th.

At the same time, a rebel force of 20,000 under the command of Tatya Tope arrived, forcing Rose to delay entering the fort. Even though Rose was forced to split his forces, he was able to keep continued bombardment on the breach to prevent escape while pursuing the newly arrived rebels to the Betwa river where he defeated them.

Although they were delayed, on the morning of April 3rd, the British entered the fort at Jhansi with orders to kill any male over sixteen. Vishnu Godse, a Hindu priest, wrote of the experience that it was four days of destruction of property and people “without distinction.” The fighting was intense and the Rani was in the middle of it, just as she had frequently been seen on the walls during the siege.

In spite of Rose’s precautions, sometime on April 3rd or 4th Lakshmibai was able to escape. There is a legend that says, once she knew her capture was inevitable, she tied her son to her back, mounted her horse and leapt over the cliff. The horse died, but she escaped and rode 100 miles to Kalpi. At Kalpi, she met with other rebels, but Rose pursued them and again forced them to retreat, this time to Gwalior.

The point from which Lakshmibai supposedly jumped from the battlement on her horse. (Photo credit: Allen Copsey)

The point from which Lakshmibai supposedly jumped from the battlement on her horse. (Photo credit: Allen Copsey source)

The fort at Gwalior was considered impregnable and Maharaja Sindia had remained pro-British throughout the rebellion. The British expected them to disband, but instead about 11,000 rebels advanced on Gwalior. After the first few shots, most of the Maharaja’s army defected and he fled to safety. Another Maharaja, Rao Sahib, was crowned and Lakshmibai was given a priceless pearl necklace.

On June 17th, they faced the British in battle. Lakshmibai was given command of the eastern flank, supposedly the most difficult position to defend. There are several accounts of how she died. You can read several of them at Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi: Mutiny, but the one I like the best is from Saul David’s book Indian Mutiny 1857, and taken from the diary of Edward Grey, a veterinary surgeon with the 8th Hussars:

“The Rani was on horseback … when the British cavalry [8th Hussars] made their surprise appearance, causing her escort to scatter … she boldly ‘attacked one of the 8th in their advance, was unhorsed and wounded’, possibly by a sabre cut. A short while later as the British retired … she recognised her former assailant as she sat bleeding by the roadside and fired at him with her pistol. Unfortunately she missed and he ‘dispatched the young lady with his carbine’. But because she was ‘dressed as a sowar’, the trooper never realised ‘that he had cut off one of the mainstays of the mutiny, that there was a reward of a lac [lakh] on his victim’s head, or that at that moment she was wearing jewels worth a crore of rupees’.”

Rani Lakshmibai's statue in Solapur near the Kambar Talav (Sambhaji Talav). Author: Dharmadhyaksha

Rani Lakshmibai’s statue in Solapur near the Kambar Talav (Sambhaji Talav). Author: Dharmadhyaksha. Legend says that she escaped with Damodar tied to her back. (source)

Resources

Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi: Early Life
Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi: Annexation
Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi: Mutiny
Rani LakshmibaiWikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 08:18, May 24, 2013.

Florence Harding – Wild Child

Young Florence Harding

In 1920, when Warren G. Harding was running for President of the United States, he had secrets to hide, many secrets; and they all had female names. In fact, one of his mistresses is the only person, that we know of, to successfully blackmail a presidential nominee. But, he wasn’t the only one with a past that they wanted to keep hidden. His wife Florence had a few indiscretions of her own.

Florence Kling Harding was supposed to be a boy, at least in the mind of her father. When Amos Kling and his wife, Louisa, were expecting their first child, he told everyone around town in Marion, Ohio, that the child would be a boy. Aside from just wanting a boy, Amos owned a successful hardware store which required much of his time; a son could work along side him and eventually take over the business. So on August 15, 1860 when Florence Mabel, Flossie, was born, although Amos resented the fact that she wasn’t a boy, he had a practical solution. He would raise her as if she were a boy.

From the time Flossie could walk, Amos took her with him to the store. It became an environment that she would always be comfortable in, the sights, smells, sounds, and the company of men. As she grew, Amos trained her in the running of the store and his other businesses as they came about. By the time Flossie was a teenager, Amos had expanded into banking, real estate, and land/tenant management. He had also become a very wealthy man.

Florence with her horse Billy in Marion, OH

Florence with her horse Billy in Marion, OH

Florence’s education was extensive, including subjects not always studied by women such as math, rhetoric, logic, Greek, and Latin. She was also very active physically, running and playing with the neighborhood boys. Her favorite outdoor activity was horseback riding. Many of her Marian neighbors commented that she was the best horsewoman they had ever seen. (I suspect she was better than many of the men as well.)

All of this continued in spite of the fact that Florence had two younger brothers. Amos never switched his training to the boys. He was a tyrant in the home and it seems that Louisa and the two boys were more submissive, and thus less like Amos in personality than Florence. She was just as competitive and driven as he was and perhaps that’s why he seemed to favor her, but as is the case with many strong-willed children of overbearing parents, there came a time when Florence rebelled against Amos’ demands.

Florence also showed a talent for music. She spent hours practicing the piano, one time for eight hours, until her fingers bled. Music for the sake of art didn’t mean anything to Amos, but he was a firm believer that a woman should be able to provide for herself if necessary. For this reason, he allowed Florence to enroll at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, so that she would have a means to support herself by giving piano lessons. Her ambition, however, was to become a concert pianist.

Amos Kling

Amos Kling

Cincinnati was the country’s center of culture in the west and it opened up a new world to Florence. A world that she reveled in, a world with new people and experiences, but more importantly, a world of independence. After only a year, Amos called Florence home. Whether it was to take care of things at home while her mother was ill, as he said, or because he wanted to reign in his newly liberated daughter, I don’t know. But whatever the reason, he released a tiger that he couldn’t put back in the cage.

Amos tried to impose his own standards on Florence once again and their arguments were long and loud, sometimes lasting all night and heard in the street outside their home. More than once he locked her out of the house when she didn’t return before curfew. Sometimes she crawled into the window of her best friend Carrie Phillips, but other times who knows. Amos particularly disliked the fact that she was *gasp* hanging around the new roller rink in town.

Roller skating was a new fad that was sweeping the country. It gave young men and women a chance to socialize and listen to music, and if a few proprieties were breached well, you had to keep your balance, right? In fact the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1885 passed on a minister’s warning that roller skating rinks “corrupt the morals of all who associate with them.” As might be expected, it wasn’t long before Florence became interested in a young man, Henry De Wolfe, Pete to his friends. Amos was livid, which of course made Pete that much more attractive.

Couple roller skatingFor young women who feel trapped at home, there is one way of escape which has often been used, although it can sometimes have dire consequences. Florence had never expressed a desire to marry or have children and a family like her mother. She had been greatly inspired by Clara Baur, the unmarried founder of the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music who was a proponent of careers for women. But at the end of 1879, she found herself in trouble. Trouble that could provide a way out of her father’s house.

Kathleen Lawler, Florence’s long-time assistant said that Florence became pregnant to get away from Amos. Florence herself didn’t admit it, but in her diary early in 1880, she makes a cryptic statement: “Vice often comes in at the door of necessity, not at the door of inclination.”

Pete was fun-loving and handsome, and he drank to excess. Just a year older than Florence, they grew up across the street from each other. Pete’s father, Simon, was one of the few men in town who wasn’t afraid of Amos Kling and there was no love lost between the two, so when Pete and Florence took up with each other people held their breath waiting for the explosion which was sure to occur. Neither family approved, but Simon was a different kind of man than Amos and when Pete told him that he had gotten Florence pregnant, Simon told him to take her up to “Columbus, and get married as soon as possible.” So in March 1880, Florence and Pete eloped to Columbus to get married. But, they didn’t.

Carl Anthony, Florence’s biographer, states in his book that there is no record of a marriage between a Kling and a DeWolfe for 10 years before or after 1880 in Franklin County (Columbus), Marion County, or in Crawford County, where they soon set up housekeeping. Florence may or may not have wanted it that way, but Amos had to believe that they were married to prevent him trying to force her back home. And it worked. Not only did Amos leave Florence to her “marriage”, he cut her off and refused to talk to her.

Life with Pete was difficult. They tried to run a roller skating rink, but failed, and Pete didn’t adjust well to the responsibility of a family. He would be gone for days at a time and finally, before their son Marshall was two years old, he deserted them. Florence had no choice except to return to Marion. A friend’s father was kind enough to allow her to stay at their house as she began to teach piano lessons, until she finally was able to raise enough to get a small apartment of her own.

Kling home in Marion, Ohio

Kling home in Marion, Ohio

Even though Florence’s marriage was from all appearances a common law marriage, she did finally get a divorce from Pete in 1886. At that time there was some communication between Amos and Florence and he offered to provide for Marshall. The conditions were that Marshall would live in the Kling home and take the Kling name. Florence agreed.

Amos may have hated losing control of Florence, and hated the choices she made, but he had given her the tools to make them. She was now on her own, independent, free of responsibility for anyone but herself, and she set out to start over. She also set her sights on the dashing young publisher of The Marion Star, Warren G. Harding.

Young Warren Harding

Warren Harding

Resources
First Ladies: From Martha Washington to Michelle Obama by Betty Caroli
Florence Harding: The First Lady, The Jazz Age, and the Death of America’s Most Scandalous President by Carl Sferrazza Anthony
Presidential Wives: An Anecdotal History by Paul F. Boller Jr.
The Library Company of Philadelphia: “Roller Skating Fun

The Sultanate of Women

Mihrimah Sultan

Mihrimah Sultan

During the 16th and 17th centuries, there was a period of about 130 years when the Ottoman Empire was ruled or greatly influenced by the women of the harem. This period is called the Sultanate of Women and the reasons for their influence were the same as in many other countries of the time. The Emperors were either minors, incompetent to rule, or simply had great respect for their mothers as in the case of Suleiman the Magnificent and his mother Ayşe Hafsa Sultan.

Ayşe Hafsa Sultan (c. 1479 – 1534), was the consort of Selim I and mother of Suleiman the Magnificent. From 1513 to 1520, Hafsa Sultan resided with her son Suleiman in Manisa (now in western Turkey) while he was the administrator of the area. She is responsible for the building of a mosque, primary school, college, and a hospice in Manisa where there is a monument honoring her. She also initiated the “Mesir Festival” which is still in practice today. After Suleiman came to power in 1520, she was one of the most powerful people in the empire. Pietro Bragadin, the Venetian ambassador to Suleiman’s court, noted that he saw “a very beautiful woman of 48, for whom the Sultan bears great reverence and love.”

Reconstructed scene of a Vâlide Sultân and her attendants in her apartments at Topkapı Palace

Reconstructed scene of a Vâlide Sultân and her attendants in her apartments at Topkapı Palace

Ayşe Hafsa Sultan was the first woman honored with the title Valide Sultan. The Valide Sultan was the title given to the mother of the Sultan. The title Haseki Sultan was given to the mother of a prince. The Valide Sultan had the most powerful position in the royal harem followed by the Haseki Sultan of the heir apparent. However, it was always possible for the Haseki Sultan to lose favor and her position in the harem, such as when Hürrem Sultan was given favor over Mahidevran Sultan.

Hürrem Sultan (c. 1500 – 1558) was born Alexandra Anastasia Lisowska, or Roxelana, in the town of Rohatyn in what was then the Kingdom of Poland and is now in western Ukraine. The area was often subject to raiding by Crimean Tatars, and during one raid Roxelana was taken captive and sold as a slave. Taken to Istanbul, she was selected for Suleiman’s harem.  Hürrem caught the attention of Suleiman, and encountered the jealousy of Mahidevran Sultan, one of his favorites and the mother of the heir apparent Mustafa. One day Mahidevran beat Hürrem badly and was banished to a provincal town with her son.

As the new favorite, Hürrem asked to be instructed in Islam. Suleiman approved this and when she said she wished to convert he was happy. After her conversion however, she told him that she couldn’t sleep with a man who wasn’t her husband. After a time, he agreed and made her his wife. Suleiman obviously favored her a great deal to do this, but he eventually went a step further and freed her so that she became his actual legal wife. This was rare and gave Hürrem great influence.

Hürrem Sultan

Hürrem Sultan

Hürrem gave birth to five of Suleiman’s children, including the future Selim II. At least two letters Hürrem wrote to the King of Poland survived and some historians believe that she influenced Suleiman to curb Tartar slave-raiding in her homeland. Active in charitable works, she established a soup kitchen, a mosque, two Koranic schools, and a women’s hospital. She has inspired novels, paintings, and musical works, including Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 63.

Another of Hürrem’s children, Mihrimah Sultan (1522 – 1578) followed in her mother’s footsteps (pictured at the top of the post). At the age of 17, Mihrimah was married to Rüstem Pasha the Grand Vizier under her father. The marriage appears to have been an unhappy one and Mihrimah continued the practice of traveling with her father throughout his empire. It is even written in Persian literature that she went into the Battle of Gizah with him on an Arabian stallion named Batal.

Mihrimah had considerable resources. She was a patron of the arts and promised to build 400 galleys at her own expense for her father in a campaign against Malta. When her father died, she lent 50,000 gold sovereigns to her brother Selim. Her power wasn’t just in gold, however. By the time Selim II came to power, his mother had died, so Mihrimah took on the role of Valide Sultan for him. In addition to encouraging her father to launch the campaign against Malta, there is also evidence that, like her mother, she wrote letters in a diplomatic capacity to Sigismund II, the King of Poland.

Mihrimah Mosque in Edirnekapı, İstanbul, Turkey. Photo: Josep Renalias (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Mihrimah Mosque in Edirnekapı, İstanbul, Turkey. Photo: Josep Renalias (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

One meaning of her name, Mehr-î-Mâh, is “Sun and Moon.” There is a lovely legend about Mihrimah. Two mosques bear her name in the area of Istanbul, Mihrimah Mosque and Iskele Mosque. Both were built by Mimar Sinan, Selim’s chief architect and an admirer of his daughter. It is said that he fell in love with her and built the second of the two mosques, Mihrimah Mosque in Edirnekapi, at his own expense without palace approval. The legend says that if you stand with a clear view of both mosques on the Spring Equinox (March 21, also her birthday), you will see that as the sun sets behind the minaret of the mosque in Edirnekapi, the moon will rise between the two minarets of the larger mosque.

Kösem Sultan (1589 – 1651) was the orphaned daughter of a priest on the island of Tinos, a Greek island in the Aegean Sea. Her given name was Anastasia, and it is unsure how she got to Constantinople, but at the age of 15 she was a slave in the royal harem.

Kösem Sultan, from an engraving of her capture by the Knights of Malta during a naval battle.

Kösem Sultan, from an engraving of her capture by the Knights of Malta during a naval battle.

Kösem Sultan endured very tumultuous times during her life. She was the second wife of Ahmed I who came to power when he was only 13. Ahmed broke with the tradition of fratricide and instead sent his brother Mustafa to the old palace at Bayezit with his grandmother Safiye Sultan. This set the stage for several coups following his death at the age of 27.

Mustafa came to power when Ahmed died, but was displaced by a coup which put Osman II, the son of Ahmed’s first wife, in power. Osman was assassinated by the Janissaries, giving Mustafa a second chance, but Mustafa was mentally unstable and unable to rule. This led to his deposition by Kösem Sultan’s son Murad IV.

Murad was only 11 when his reign began and Kösem was appointed Valide Sultan and the official regent for her son. From 1623 to 1632, she ruled the empire, attending meetings of the cabinet (Divan) from behind the curtain. She continued this even after Murad reached his majority in 1632. During the time that Kösem ruled there were many problems, invasions, revolts, and rebellions. The Janissaries even stormed the palace and killed the Grand Vizier in 1631. Murad decided to exert his power and hopefully avoid the fate of Osman. This he did, but he died of natural causes in 1640.

On his death bed, Murad ordered the execution of his mentally unstable brother, Ibrahim, but the command was not carried out and Ibrahim became the Sultan. He was unofficially called Ibrahim the Deranged because of his mental condition and largely stayed out of politics at first leaving rule of the Empire again in the hands of Kösem. He was deposed and eventually strangled in Constantinople in 1648.

Murad IV

Murad IV

Ibrahim_I

Ibrahim I

 

Kösem’s sons who ruled with her as regent.

 

 

 

Mehmed IV whose mother Turhan Hatice protected his position from Kösem Sultan

Mehmed IV whose mother Turhan Hatice protected his position from Kösem Sultan

When Ibrahim was deposed, Kösem presented her grandson Mehmed IV to the Divan as emperor, basically declaring herself regent again. Mehmed was only six years old and it was his mother Turhan Hatice who was Kösem’s undoing. Turhan Hatice should have been named Valide Sultan as the new Sultan’s mother, but Kösem took over. A power struggle ensued. Kösem planned to dethrone Mehmed and replace him with another grandson, possibly one with a less ambitious mother, but her plan was unsuccessful. Instead, she was assassinated leaving the regency in the hands of another powerful woman, Turhan Hatice, who happened to have been a slave captured by Crimean Tartars and sold into the harem.

Although  the Empire did not flourish under Kösem’s rule, she was mourned for 3 days. She was remembered for her charity work and for the fact that she freed her slaves after 3 years of service.

Resources
The Imperial Harem: Women and Sovereignty in the Ottoman Empire by Leslie Peirce
The Private World of Ottoman Women by Godfrey Goodwin

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