Thursday, August 30, 2012

There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it

How many of you have seen the movie Mary Poppins? Come on, show of hands. I’ll wait. For those of you who haven’t you’ve been living under a rock and you’re weirdos. There I said it. Well for those of you who have then you must remember the mother singing around the house talking about Women’s Votes.  When you’re five or six or seven, the song is just a catchy little ditty you can sing along with just like Spoonful of Sugar. As I grew older, and my obsession with American History and Women’s Rights grew like wildflowers, I began to understand what the song was really about. (Honestly my first real comprehensible introduction to Suffrage was a young adult romance I read around the age of 12 called Laura. She was a 16 year old girl who lived in D.C. during the time and had to decide which boy she loved. Of course she chose the one who supported her suffrage work. I think I still have the book on my shelf…)
In our history women did not get the right to vote, or essentially be equal to men, until around 1920 when the nineteenth amendment was passed. It was a hard fought struggle. (In some ways we are still fighting. see the Equal Pay Act, see all the bullshit talk about a woman’s reproductive rights being spewed in the news today.) One woman who fought harder and stronger was Alice Paul.
Paul was born in 1886 on a 256 acre farm named Paulsdales to Quaker parents. The most enduring legacy of Paulsdale was the role it played in the suffrage movement. Alice learned many of her Women’s Equality beliefs at Paulsdale. Her mother, Tacie Paul, was a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and held many of the meetings at the Paulsdale.

Alice had a Quaker background which also added to her belief that men and women are equal. A
brilliant woman as well as being an amazing role model, Alice graduated first in her class from Swarthmore College.

After college Alice travelled to England. There is transformed herself from reserved Quaker girl to militant suffragist. In 1907, when heading to study social work at the Woodbrooke Settlement, she passed a crowd jeering a female speaker. She stopped to observe. Alice was immediately taken over by the suffragette cause, however this was a different type equality protest then she was used to. The English Suffragettes resorted to more severe measures in their quest for the vote. They broke windows, heckled passersby’s, throw rocks, and were arrested any chance they could. In prison they staged hunger strikes. The women were forcibly fed, many times by brutal methods. But all the hard work paid off. In 1910 women were awarded the vote in England.

But what about America? Well you see, dear blog minions, America has always been a little slow on the equal rights front. In 1910, Alice returned home imbued with the radical taste of the English suffrage movement, ready to do battle for her American sisters.

In 1912, a massive parade was organized to coincide with President Wilson’s inauguration. It began on March 3, 1913 (The date of January 20th as presidential inauguration date didn’t come about until 1937 with the introduction of the 20th amendment) and started out well enough until the ladies encountered scores of male onlookers who attacked the women. First they flirted (hey baby, you don’t need to vote just make me dinner) then it turned to obscenities. It didn’t take long for the men to start physically attacking the women as the police watched (remember that the modern day rape and domestic violence laws didn’t come into effect until 1985) The rioting and violence turned the Suffrage Movement into a popular discussion topic among politicians and the general public.

Now we are into the World War 1 years. I don’t want to say that the movement was derailed by the war effort, but it was definitely pushed aside a bit. Not by Paul and the NAWSA, but many believed that the protests were unpatriotic, especially since the suffragists would picket, silently, outside the White House with incendiary signs and such. When the President ordered us to war he figured the women would simply go away. They did not. So he had them arrested on trumped up charges like obstructing traffic. Alice demanded that they be treated as political prisoners and staged hunger strikes as she did in England. She was moved to a sanitarium in the hopes that the officials could get her declared her insane, where they could then lock her up forever, if she was lucky. When news of the strikes and the horrible conditions and treatment of the women reached the press, the public demanded their release.

Upon the release of the women, Paul included, Wilson changed his stance on the suffrage amendment. (Order women arrested and beaten and people start to dislike you). By 1919, the House and the Senate passed the 19th Amendment, finally ratifying it on August 18 1920 and granting Women the right to vote. (Tennessee was the only hold out until 1920, refusing to ratify the amendment. The vote that turned the tide for Tennessee came from Harry Burn, 24 and the youngest member of the assembly for the state. He was going to vote no until he received a telegram from his mom telling him to vote yes. She probably threatened to kick his ass if he voted no. Go Momma Burn)

Alice Paul continued to fight for equality for women until her death in 1977, never stopping in her desire for all Americans to be equal and free.

So to my lady readers I ask you to remember Alice Paul’s sacrifice and struggle as you move through your daily lives and certainly when you head to the voting booth in November. We owe much to her and all her counterparts. To my male readers…never underestimate the power of women.

We’ll surprise…and the kick your ass.

This video is just plain awesome. It is from the people over at Soomo Publishing. They make amazing history centered videos. Enjoy.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It is always the quiet ones

We’ve talked about Jack the Ripper, who is arguably considered the first serial killer, and the deaths of Thelma Todd and Marilyn Monroe so murder and mayhem are not an uncommon topics here at History’s Mistress.  Today we will talk about an American serial killer. Not Ted Bundy or Jeffery Dahmer but a man named Richard Chase. Chase was known as the Vampire of Sacramento and the Dracula Killer. (This is the point in the blog where I tell you all I was going to write about a man named Albert Fish who was a serial killer in the 1900s in NYC, who was known as the Boogey Man and the Werewolf of Wysteria. That was until I read about him. I cannot unread what I have read and will likely have nightmares from it.)  

Chase was a nutbar of the highest caliber. He claimed to have been abused by his mother at an early which led to him develop psychological problems that fall into the MacDonald Triad. (I had no idea what this was until I read about Chase.) It means he suffered from Enuresis, Pyromania, and Zoosadism all at the same time. He claimed his cranial bones were moving around in his skull so he shaved his head to watch it happen…like you do. He was constantly high on LSD and other drugs and drunk out of his skull. Probably to kill the mental problems. Didn’t help.

At first he would kill, disembowel and capture various animals sometimes eating them raw other times mixing them with Coke in a blender. (Grossed out yet?) In 1975 he was institutionalized after injecting rabbit’s blood into his veins.  He was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic and given drugs. Now, I know what you’re thinking….why and how did he get out?? He was deemed safe and given into the custody of his mother…who promptly stopped giving him the meds and made him move out.  

In December of 1977, Chase took his first human victim. It was drive-by shooting of 51 year old father, Ambrose Griffin. He then claimed 5 more victims. All shooting deaths.

In January of 1978 he surprised Teresa Wallin in her home, shooting her three times. Now here comes the part that earned him the name “Vampire of Sacramento” Chase engaged in Necrophilia with Wallin…who was 3 months pregnant, as well as cannibalism.

Four more victims happened in one house. He entered the home of 38 year old Evelyn Miroth and shot her friend Danny Meredith with his .22 caliber. He then rampaged through the house killing Miroth, her 6 year old son, and her 22 month old nephew.  With Miroth’s body, Chase engaged in the same acts as with Wallin’s.  Miroth’s son Jason, who had been out at a play date, came home startling Chase, who then ran from the house with the nephew’s body. The police found bloody shoe prints and handprints around the house; helping them to identify him as the killer.

The police also followed the lead of a 20 something woman who had gone to high school with Chase. He had approached her car and she was wigged out by his appearance. He was gaunt, eyes sunken in, and had bloodstains on his clothes. When the police made the arrest, Chase has to be forcibly detained. A gun was found on site that matched the Miroth murders. They also found a 12 inch knife, some rubber boots, several blenders containing blood, and dishes in the fridge containing body parts. (I keep eggs and lettuce in my fridge) Later they found the mummified, decapitated remains of a baby. It was believed to be the body of Miroth’s nephew.

In 1979 he stood trial for the murders, six counts of murder to be exact. It all hinged on whether they found him crazy or if he premeditated the murders.  On May 8 the jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death by gas chamber. They didn’t care if he was crazy or not, they just wanted him dead. His fellow inmates were actually freaked the hell out by him and constantly tried to get him to commit suicide.

They succeeded.

On December 26, 1980 while a guard was checking on the cells Chase was found lying in an awkward lump on his bed, not breathing. The autopsy showed he had committed suicide by taking an overdose of anti-depressants which were doctor prescribed. He had been hoarding them for weeks.

I have always had a morbid obsession with serial killers and what makes them tick. I believe that part of our history is made up of the bad stuff and men like Chase, Dahmer, Fish, and Bundy are truly the bad stuff.  While it is vile and sadistic and most of us won’t ever understand and may even want to sweep under the rug and hide it from view, this is part of our history.

The film, Rampage, is loosely based on Chase’s crimes as well as episodes of CSI and Criminal Minds.

Monday, August 13, 2012

There is a Bedioun Guard on the roof

So I spent the weekend in Los Angeles.  The City of Angels is one of my favorite places because of all the Hollywood history, the movie industry and the beach…and my wonderful friends who live there.  My friends and I played tourist this weekend. In honor of that trip, today’s blog is going to cover some fun Hollywood History. Well one person in Hollywood’s history in particular. A person who seems to have gotten lost in the passage of time but should be a household name, at least with those of us cineastes.
Early on Saturday morning we piled into my friend Chris’s neat-o electric car, it’s a leaf, and headed out to tour Grauman’s Egyptian Theater. (I just like saying my friend Chris drives a leaf…it’s like he’s Queen Mab’s boyfriend or something. Yes, I’m a geek and yes I made a bad joke. Deal) We parked the car and hoofed it down Hollywood Blvd to the Egyptian, stepping on the Walk of Fame Stars of such celebrities like Dolly Parton and Bob Hope.  
Grauman’s Egyptian is one of the oldest movie houses in the city. It first opened in 1922 with the world premiere, the very first world premiere to be exact, of ROBIN HOOD starring Douglas Fairbanks. (Those of you who know me will understand the epic geek out I had at the mention of this title…my friend Megan just shook her head at me…then took my picture and posted it on Facebook.) Our tour guide, an older gentleman who thought he was the funniest guy since Danny Kaye, proceeded to tell us some of the titles of films that had played there over the years. It got me thinking about the men and women who helped shape the Film Industry.

One such person is Lois Weber. Lois was truly a woman ahead of her time. She has become known as “one of the most important and prolific directors of the silent film era.” Did I mention she was a woman?? In a time when women were for the most part supposed to be barefoot, blissfully uneducated, and in the kitchen, here was Lois Weber standing side by side with the greats of the film industry like D.W. Griffith and Charlie Chaplin.

Lois was born in 1879 in Pennsylvania. She was considered a child prodigy and an excellent pianist. She played music and sang, touring the country as a concert pianist. It wasn’t until 1904 that Lois took up acting. On the advice of an uncle in Chicago, she moved to New York to pursue the stage. For the next four years she was a stock player and repertory actress. (For those of you out there in the blogsphere who have no idea what that means, basically she would play parts like human prop #4 or girl in the back with a bowl of grapes)  She wrote in her spare time. Sang for her supper. Got Married. And then…moved to Los Angeles.

1910, Lois and her husband Wendell Smalley, an actor, moved to L.A. to take part in the fledgling movie industry. She starred in a film called Hypocrites, which she also wrote. What makes Hypocrites so special is it contains the very first full frontal female nude scene in film history. Yep, a movie made in 1915 holds this distinction. (I better you are all rethinking how you viewed people from the ‘olden days’ now aren’t you.) Also she wrote and starred in a film called, Where Are My Children, another controversial film which dealt with abortion and birth control…in 1916.
Lois was the first person to adapt a Tarzan novel for the movies. She is also credited with discovering people like Mildred Harris, Billie Dove, and screenwriter Frances Marion.  During her career she directed over 200 to 400 films. An exact count is not available because many of these films are lost and records have been destroyed, misplaced, or complete lost to time. Only about 20 of these films remain to this day. (Silent film era movies deteriorated badly over the years and many of what we would consider classics of the genre have been lost to the ages. If you take the tour of the theatre, the incredibly knowledge projectionist will tell you the details as to why they did.) She wrote over 114 and acted in 100. She was one of the first directors to come to the attention of the censors (Must be the naked chicks in her films and her controversial topics) Lois made only one talkie in her entire career and then faded from the flicking light beam of the movie world.  In 1932 she tried a final comeback of sorts after being hired by Universal as a script doctor. She was also a talent scout at that time. In 1933 she was offered a new directing contract for the film Glamour, but she was removed from the project abruptly. There are no records as to why.

Her final film, and her only talkie, White Heat was first shown on NBC in 1940. It is considered a lost film has no known copies exist.
In 1939, Weber passed. Her funeral was attended by over 300 people. Her death was largely overlooked though, garnering two brief paragraphs in Variety and even less in the Los Angeles Examiner. Gossip Columnist Hedda Hopper gave her a much better send off in her column. She was cremated at the Los Angeles Crematory. The location of her remains are unknown. It seems she is lost to time as many of her films are.  In 1960 she was awarded a star on the Walk of Fame at 6518 Hollywood Blvd.

Here was a woman who defied convention and become of the most prolific director, screenwriter, and producer of her time, not to mention of the highest paid earning about $50,000 a picture. (In the midst of the Great Depression and all that entails was a ridiculous amount!) When most women were standing in the kitchen with a baby on their hip, Lois Weber was breaking down barriers and crossing boundaries.  Yet, she is hardly ever mentioned in Hollywood History books or documentaries.  
There more I research topics for this blog, the more I find history appealing. There is so much out there that is not in the books. Search for it and you’ll be amazing by what you find.