14 - Helena Modjeska

 

 The Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago was filled with attractions from around the world. Great Britain was represented with a model of its latest warship, the Victoria. Japan hosted an outdoor exhibit of its unique Buddhist temple, and Egypt’s “Streets of Cairo” featured beautiful belly dancers. Fairgoers could walk through a Moorish palace, a German Village, and pavilions from Canada, Norway and Russia to name just a few.

 

One of the most interesting aspects of the fair was the celebration of women, thanks largely to the efforts of Bertha Honoré Palmer and the Board of Lady Managers. These women were dedicated to making the woman’s voice, and the woman’s cause, heard. Female artists, dancers, actresses, and suffragettes, were invited to show their talents, or speak their truths to the hordes of visitors who attended the fair. One such honored guest was the Polish Shakespearean actress, Helena Modjeska.

Born in Kraków, Poland in 1840, many of the aspects of Helena’s parentage and early life are ambiguous. Also uncertain in Helena’s history were the details concerning her first marriage, to her former guardian, actor and director, Gustave Sinnmayer—even to Helena. Years later, she discovered the marriage was null and void as he was still married to his first wife.

In 1861 Helena made her stage debut and for twelve years she graced the stage of theaters in Krakow and Warsaw, establishing herself as a consummate Shakespearean star. During that time, she left Gustav and in 1868 she married a Polish nobleman, Karol Bozenta Chlapowski who was employed as the editor of a liberal nationalist newspaper. Helena later wrote that their home became the center of the artistic and literary world of Kraków. Poets, authors, artists, actors and politicians clamored to frequent the couple’s salon.

In 1876, Helena and her husband emigrated to America to, in her words, “settle down somewhere in the land of freedom, away from the daily vexations to which each Pole was exposed in Russian or Prussian Poland.”

 

Despite the fact she could barely speak English, Helena was discovered by theatrical agent Harry J. Sargent who signed her for a tour on the east coast where she made her New York debut. She then spent three years abroad, mainly in London, attempting to improve her English, before returning to the stage in America where she achieved great success as a Shakespearean actress.

In 1893 Helena was invited by the Board of Lady Managers to speak to a women’s conference at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Her topic was the plight of women under Russian and Prussian ruled Poland. The talk resulted in a Tsarist ban on her traveling in Russian territory.

 

My novel, Folly at the Fair, the third installment in the Annie Oakley Mystery series, takes place at the Columbian Exposition of 1893, where Annie Oakley herself was one of the empowered women celebrated at the Fair. In celebration of the book’s recent release I am giving away three signed copies. To enter simply go to http://karibovee.com/raffle/

 

 

 

14 - Sophia Hayden

 

Sophia Hayden is best known for designing The Woman’s Building at the Columbian Exposition in 1893. She was only twenty-one years old.

 

Born in Santiago, Chili, Sophia would leave there at a very young age, on her own, to attend school. At six years old, Sophia’s parents, Elezena Fernandez, a Santiago native, and George Henry Hayden, an American dentist from Boston, sent their daughter to Jamaica Plain, a suburb of Boston to live with her grandparents and attend the Hillside School.

 

Later, at Roxbury High School, Sophia became interested in architecture. An extremely bright and dedicated student, she was then accepted to MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she obtained a degree in architecture and graduated with honors. But unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to get her hired as an architect, most likely because she was a woman. After graduation, she took a job at Boston High School as a mechanical drawing teacher.

 

Fast forward to 1891. Businesswoman, philanthropist, and socialite Bertha Honoré Palmer and her Board of Lady Managers, a group of women dedicated to representing women at the Columbian Exposition of 1893, needed someone to design The Woman’s Building to do just that. They ran a design competition for female architects. Thirteen women entered the competition by submitting their designs. Hayden based her design on her college thesis project, a striking classic Renaissance structure with pavilions at the center and both ends, multiple arches and columned terraces. She won first prize and the chance to go down in history as the only female architect involved in the building of what would become known as the White City.

 

However, the Board of Lady Managers and Sophia didn’t see eye to eye on much of anything after the contest, particularly concerning philosophies of obtaining furnishings and art for the interior. Sophia also faced frustration with the continual changes demanded by Bertha Palmer and her construction committee. Other architects sympathized with and defended Sophia’s ideals, but in the end, Bertha Palmer fired her.

 

Sophia’s frustration and dismay at being removed from the project was somewhat soothed with an award for the building’s “delicacy of style, artistic taste, and geniality and elegance of the interior.”

 

The following year, Hayden designed a memorial for women’s clubs in the U.S. but the memorial was never built. Hayden never worked as an architect again. Sadly, all of the buildings in the White City were destroyed two years after the Fair.

 

Since all of my books in the Annie Oakley Mystery series feature strong, talented and empowered women, I had to highlight the Woman’s Building in my latest release Folly at the Fair, which takes place during the Columbian Exposition of 1893. In celebration of the release I am giving away three signed copies of the book to my Alexa listeners. All you have to do to enter is go to http://karibovee.com/raffle/ I hope you are a winner! Good luck!

 

13 - Bertha Honore Palmer

 

In 1870, at twenty-one years of age, Bertha Matilde Honoré married Chicago millionaire Potter Palmer, a merchant who’d made his fortune catering to the tastes and needs of women through his popular mercantile. Palmer made even more money when he sold his store to a retail syndicate that would eventually become Marshall Fields.

 

With his riches, Palmer invested in real estate. He also built a luxury hotel which he named The Palmer House. Unfortunately, the hotel and many of their other assets fell victim to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Luckily, with the help of Bertha, Palmer was able to re-establish his fortune and rebuild his hotel, which would soon become the toast of the town and a Chicago landmark.

 

Meanwhile, Bertha was on the rise to the top of Chicago’s social elite. She became one of the earliest members of the Chicago Woman’s Club, a group of women dedicated to creating solutions to their cities’ social and economic concerns. The group in Chicago campaigned for impoverished children and also for the children of women incarcerated in prison. In addition, they developed and supported early childcare in the form of preschools and kindergartens, and petitioned for them to become part of the Chicago school system.

 

In 1891,Chicago was preparing for the World’s Columbian Exposition to take place in the city in 1893. Women played a large role in the planning of the fair, led by Bertha Palmer, the new President of the Board of Lady Managers. Collectively, they set out to celebrate women from around the world, and did so first by hiring female architect Sophia Hayden to design and build what would become known as the Woman’s Building.

The Woman’s Building contained exhibits of works by women across a variety of fields from fine art, applied art, literature and music, to science and home economics. There were also exhibits about women in American History and other cultures and places in the world.

Annexed to the Woman’s Building was the Children’s Building which exhibited American 19th century best practices for child-rearing and education.

In addition to her social causes, Bertha had passion for art, primarily French Impressionist art. She and her husband amassed quite a collection including almost thirty Monet’s and a dozen Renoirs. These works now form the core of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Impressionist collection.  

Later in life, after the death of her husband, Bertha purchased over 80,000 acres of land in Florida. An astute business woman, she became a progressive rancher and farm developer. She introduced many innovations to foster Florida’s ranching, citrus, dairy, and farming industries. Within sixteen years after her husband’s death, she managed to double the value of the estate he had left her.

Bertha Palmer was such a prominent figure in the history of the Columbian Exposition of 1893, I just had to make mention of her in my latest release, Folly at the Fair. In fact, in the book she invites Annie Oakley, Buffalo Bill, and other members of the Wild West Show to a party at the lovely Palmer House hotel where Annie’s sidekick, investigative journalist Emma Wilson has taken up residence.

 

In honor of the release of Folly at the Fair, I will be giving away three signed copies of the book. All you have to do to enter is go to http://karibovee.com/raffle/ Good luck!

 

12 - Folly at the Fair

Chicago World’s Fair, 1893. “Little Sure Shot” Annie Oakley is exhausted from her work with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. But when a fellow performer scuffles with a man who threatens her harm, she has to keep her eyes peeled. And when the man is found dead under the Ferris Wheel, Annie won’t rest until she proves her defender is innocent.

Before she can rustle up any clues, an old friend asks Annie to protect her young daughter. And as more bodies turn up around the grounds, it’s clear there’s a serial murderer on the loose. Annie is going to need all her wits and sharpshooting skills just to stay alive, and to protect those she loves.

Can Annie live up to her reputation and put a bullseye on the killer?

Folly at the Fair is the third book in the Annie Oakley Mystery series. If you like strong heroines, Wild West adventures, and suspenseful twists and turns, then you’ll love this fast-paced whodunit.

That is the description of my latest release, Folly at the Fair, the third full-length novel in the Annie Oakley Mystery series .

By the time Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World came to Chicago to participate in the fair, Annie Oakley had become the darling of America, and in fact she’d become a world-wide sensation. Her skill with the shotgun and rifle had garnered her a loyal following. Her act often consisted of shooting live birds released into the air, splitting a playing card in two, and—a crowd favorite—shooting a burning cigarette out of her husband’s mouth.

After two wildly successful tours in Europe with the Wild West Show, Annie had performed for hundreds of thousands of people, and had hobnobbed with members of all socio-economic classes, from the poorest of the poor, to the nobility including Kings and Queens.

In this novel, Annie’s mettle is tested with the appearance of a long lost friend, a demanding schedule, a possessive fan, marital troubles, and murder. But with the help of her old friend, investigative journalist Emma Wilson, Annie is determined to set things right in the White City.

I had so much fun researching and writing this novel, and I hope you’ll like it, too. In honor of the release I am going to give away three signed copies of Folly at the Fair. All you have to do is go to http://karibovee.com/raffle/ I hope you win! Good luck!

 

 

 

11 - Perle de Vere

Shortly after her arrival in Denver at the age of fourteen or fifteen, a girl with mysterious beginnings, who called herself “Miss Martin” became known as Perle de Vere, a beautiful woman with red-hair, a strong will, and good business sense. Her family believed she worked as a dress designer and catered to Denver’s wealthiest women. But, in fact, she catered to the city’s wealthiest men as a favorite prostitute.

 

During the Silver Panic of 1893, business in Denver dried up. Miss de Vere, then at 30 years old, packed her bags and moved to the booming gold camp of Cripple Creek, Colorado. She invested her savings and bought a house on Myers street. She hired several beautiful girls and started her own brothel. Her business proved to be an instant success, affording Perle fine clothing and an extravagant lifestyle. She also knew how to protect her investment and demanded her girls practice good hygiene, dress well, and have monthly medical exams.

 

Perle, a discerning business woman and the most successful madam of the town, didn’t cater to just anyone. Patrons of her establishment had to apply for a visit. Once their application was approved and their wealth determined, Perle allowed them to choose their girl. Evenings at Perle’s house, called the Old Homestead, often consisted of live entertainment, socializing, cards, and dancing before the girls and their clients retired upstairs. Perle often hosted lavish parties with imported foods and plenty of champagne and other spirits.

 

Much of Pearl’s early life is shrouded in mystery, and so is her death. In the summer of 1897, Perle hosted an extravagant party sponsored by one of her wealthiest clients and most ardent admirerers—a millionaire from either Poverty Gulch or Denver. Imported champagne, liquor, and caviar graced Perle’s establishment, for the wildest party the town would ever see. Perle’s admirer even brought her a beaded gown imported from Paris to wear to the event.

 

During the evening, after much drinking and revelry, Perle and her admirer got into an argument. He stormed out of the house and Perle retired to her bedroom. Later that night, one of the girls found Perle her lying on her bed, still in her gown, her breathing labored. Unable to rouse the madam, the girl called for a doctor, but it was too late. In the early hours of the morning, Perle de Vere died. She was 27. Gossip spread that Perle’s admirer poisoned her. The coroner stated her death was due to an accidental overdose of morphine, a drug she sometimes used for insomnia. Most of the newspapers reported the same, but one reported the death as suicide.

 

Most likely, Perle died of an accidental overdose, as the coroner stated. But, with a story as rich as hers, and with a cast of the intriguing characters she possibly entertained, it’s interesting to speculate on what might have happened to Colorado’s most famous “soiled dove.”

 

If you want to learn about more wild women of the west, you can head on over to my website at www.Karibovee.com, and read my empowered women in history blog. Or you might be interested in some of my historical mystery novels featuring gutsy, sassy, female leads like Annie Oakley. You can find my books on Amazon.