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Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Female Author and the Dime Novel by Becky Lower

Do you remember how you reacted when you found out that poet George Sand was a woman? You were probably in high school and astounded by the revelation. I certainly was. I then decided to name my first girl George. Fortunately, I never had a girl child, but the father of my Cotillion Ball siblings is named George. 

How about Harper Lee? Come on, show of hands. How many of you were misguided into believing the author of To Kill A Mockingbird was a man? Or, more recently, do you remember when J.K. Rowling morphed into Robert Galbraith in a reverse of the phenomenon?

Women in the publishing world have been attempting to level the playing field for hundreds of years by creating ambiguous or misleading pen names. When dime novels—the first form of mass marketed books—came into existence in the 1800s, the odds were stacked even higher, as the topics in these books normally contained tales of swashbuckling heroes, gunslingers, gold miners or explorers, and generally harsh surroundings. Things that refined ladies would never know of, or ever experience, much less be able to write about.

The Dime Novel, or the Penny Dreadful, as these books were referred to in England, were the precursor to today’s paperbacks and e-books. Although these dime novels didn’t have as their primary focus the world of romance, they did set the stage for the romance industry, as they were responsible for introducing reading for pleasure to the masses. These books were printed in a four by six inch format, and were about a hundred pages in length, with a die-cut cover image that usually contained a spot of color. And thanks to the advancement of the printing industry at the same time the growth of education in America was happening, the dime novel was able to take advantage of both and become a major force in publishing. They filled a void in American literature for several decades, as the education of the working class created a need for reading material. They were published as frequently as every two weeks, and the characters developed in them often went from one tale to the next.

Dime novels in America were rough-and-tumble books, mostly about the Wild West. The plots were sensational and melodramatic, making for great reading among the streets of relatively tame east coast cities.

The first known dime novel in America was written by a woman—Mrs. Ann Stephens—and was entitled “Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter.” Risque, tantalizing reading in 1839, to be sure.

With millions of dime novels being printed each year, the search for quality authors and stories grew. The fertile imaginations of women molded from the same cloth as Mrs. Stephens led to the formation of many memorable characters, such as Harry Hawk, the hero in the dime novel I created for my book, The Duplicitous Debutante. The author of the Harry Hawk series is a well-bred young lady, Rosemary Fitzpatrick, who invents the name, F.P. Elliott, to disguise her true identity.

The Duplicitous Debutante is the sixth book in the Amazon best-selling Cotillion Ball series, and was re-released in a new format on March 28, 2019. 

Thursday, March 28, 2019

New Release — The Duplicitous Debutante (Cotillion Ball Saga Book 6) by Becky Lower

As the long-anticipated Cotillion Ball approaches, debutante Rosemary Fitzpatrick’s fertile mind is about to land her in all kinds of trouble—with no way out! Rosemary’s debut at the ball is the last thing on her mind—because for the past few years, Rosemary, one of New York society’s beautiful young ladies, has led a double life as that of a dime novel author. In her wild west stories, her handsome hero, Harry Hawk, lives a dangerous life filled with unexpected adventures that her readers believe to be written by a man—F. P. Elliott. The catch is, so does her publisher.

When Henry Cooper takes over the publishing enterprise in New York from his father, he insists on meeting with each author in person. Rosemary must protect her clandestine career by posing as the enigmatic author’s secretary. But during their meetings, Henry begins to fall in love with Mr. Elliott’s “secretary”, and her duplicity in their dealings begins to be a bigger burden than she ever imagined as she loses her heart to him, as well.

When her deception begins to unravel at the Cotillion Ball, will Henry forgive her—or has deceit cost her the man she loves?


     “What are you doing, Screaming Eagle?” Harry tried to keep the exasperation out of his voice.
     “Her father is running the railroad through Sioux land.”
     “And by kidnapping his daughter, you think he’ll sit down and smoke a peace pipe with you?”
The Indian tossed back his long, straight, black hair and tightened his hold on the woman. Harry’s grip on his gun tightened as well when her whimper reached his ears.

     Rosemary rubbed her eyes with the palms of her hands. She whimpered, much as her heroine had done in the passage she’d just written. She was to meet with her new publisher in a matter of hours, and she still had no solution other than to confess there was no Mr. Elliott. She was aware of the Brahmin Bostonians, and their ways. They traced their roots back to the original founding fathers of the country, and considered themselves “enlightened” in the arts. She huffed. Even in their “enlightened” states, she highly doubted they’d welcome a female author into their midst. Whatever was she to do?

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

What’s in a (Danish) Name ?

    Have you ever wondered why so many Danish surnames end in “sen?” Unless you have Danish ancestors, probably not. But the reason lies in a naming tradition that is not exclusive to Denmark.
    In the very-olden days, when the population was small and no official records were kept, most people had only one name such as Hans or Jens. As the population grew, many people were given the same names. To distinguish between the many who were named Hans, they added a descriptor such as Hans the baker as opposed the Hans the crook. These descriptors applied only to the individual, not to that person’s family.
     Surnames were initially used only by nobility and wealthy land owners, and they were usually based on where they lived, what they did for a living, a personal characteristic, or a parent’s (usually the father’s) name. This last option, known as Patronymics, became popular especially in the rural areas, which encompassed much of Denmark.

     The way Patronymic surnames work is to combine a person’s fathers’ first name and the word for son, sen, or the word for daughter, datter. So if you are a girl, your name is Inga, and your father’s first name is Jens, your full name would be Inga Jensdatter. If you are male, your name is Erik, and your father’s first name is Thor, your full name would be Erik Thorsen. Up until the mid 1800’s, patronymics were the most common type of surnames.
     As the population continued to grow, this naming scheme became problematic. Only one generation had the same the same surname, which made determination of familial lines in government records impossible. In 1828, a decree was issued, declaring that all families should have a permanent surname. However, especially in rural areas, it took many years to abolish the custom of patronymic surnames.
     In the 1850’s, people living in cities began taking permanent surnames that were not patronymics. Elsewhere, it was common for families to adopt a patronymic as a permanent surname.
     In 1904. a law was passed to allow people to change their patronymic family name to a more individual name. However, names ending in “sen’ are still predominant in Denmark.
     I am half-Danish. My mother’s family history inspired THE LEGACY. Neither of her grandfathers had a patronymic surname, but my married surname is Knudsen (Son of Knud). When I began writing, I knew I was going to choose a pen name that was easier to spell and easier to pronounce. My name is frequently misspelled as Knudson, Knutson, Knutsen, Kuntson, and so on. And then there is the dilemma, do you or don’t you pronounce the ‘K’? We do. Most people don’t. Why would they? Probably the most common English word beginning with ‘kn’ is ‘know.’ Apparently, in Denmark, the ‘K’ is pronounced, but the ‘d’ is silent.
    When it came to choosing my pseudonym, I wanted something family-related, easy to spell, and easy to pronounce. I also wanted something that would reflect the women in my family. So I chose ‘Ann,’ the first 3 letters of my mother’s first name, ‘Mar,’ the first 3 letters of my first name, and ‘Kim,’ the first 3 letters of my daughter’s first name. All together it is Ann Markim.

Do you know the derivation and meaning of your name? What kind of problems, if any, does your name cause you?

Ann Markim

    Buy Links:      Paperback at Amazon    Amazon Kindle 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

The Restless Dead in the Middle Ages by Lindsay Townsend

Did people in the Middle Ages believe in ghosts? They certainly believed in restless spirits, which they called revenants, from the Latin meaning ‘to return’. It was believed that the unquiet dead, particularly those who had died by violence or by reason of a grudge, or those who would not give up strong passions and carnal pleasures, would return to haunt the living. These revenants might appear within a graveyard or in a particular area, known to them in life, and terrorize the living.

In 'Dark Maiden' I have a woman who is tormented by a lusty revenant who comes to her bed and tries to lie with her. Yolande, my heroine, learns that in this case the restless dead is the woman's husband. As an exorcist, Yolande takes certain steps to ensure that his widow is no longer plagued. You can find out what she does in the novel.

Here's an excerpt to give you a flavour. Yolande is talking to the villagers in their church. All the things she speaks of were believed or done in the Middle Ages.

“Godith, I have said it already. This is no vampire,” Yolande repeated for the third time.
       “How do you know that?”
       “Because there is no plague, pestilence or disease here. There is a restless soul, a revenant, yes, but one drawn by love and desire, not by hate.” Her lips quivered slightly, the only sign of tension in her. “I will write a letter of absolution and the soul will find his rest.”
       “Does that mean the dreams—”
       “Another matter altogether. I will work on that when I have finished with the revenant.”
       “Yet how can that be, and so simple? A letter?”
       “Being a sacred scribe is not simple,” Geraint put in. He wanted to wag a finger at the noisy goodwife, but confined  himself to folding his arms across his chest. “Can you write, Mistress Reeve?”
        Even in the dim orange flames, he could see Godith blush. “We heard his dogs outside,” she exclaimed, as indignant as a hen pushed off its nest and determined to have her say. “They come because they dread him and how is that good? How can he be good?”
       “Whose dogs?” Yolande stepped forward into the heart of the nave and bore down on Godith. “Was he a huntsman, a forester? I promise I will harm nothing, do no injury to any of your kin, be they living or passed on.”
        She stood tall and slim as a lily, a gentle dark Madonna. The drooping garland of Christmas roses hung from her belt like a perfumed cloud, the candle and brazier flames surrounded her like a halo. “Please, let me help you. Let me help this poor soul to his final, honored rest.”
        “He was a huntsman for our lord. Martin, his name was,” remarked a quiet, weary voice. “He was my husband. He owned the dogs, though they come to me now, and often not only them… We buried him last month by the church gate so he can see our house.”
        A squat ball of a woman pushed through the reluctant villagers, with a son and daughter trailing behind like ducklings. When she looked up at Yolande, Geraint saw the grooved shadows under the woman’s eyes and could not help but notice how her homespun dress bagged on her.
       Martin liked his woman very plump, but she has lost much flesh of late.
       “Perhaps we buried him too close,” she was saying. “He can find us—find me—so easily. Father William said he would rest.”
        Father William knows little of rest himself these days. Geraint disliked the clergy but even he could find a little pity for this less-than-holy father.
       “Daughter, I can give him peace,” Yolande said gently. “He loved you greatly, yes?” And more gently still, “He seeks to remain with you? By day and by night? Does he come as himself, or as shadow?”
       “Shadow. Ah God!” The woman shuddered and fresh tears burst from her. Yolande swiftly drew her aside to the south wall of the nave, talking to her and her children in a low, urgent way. Geraint could tell it by the set of her shoulders and by the way she lifted and stretched out both arms as if to shield the stricken family.
       “She yours?”
        Geraint deigned to glance at the smith, disliking the fellow already, the more so because the fellow was still looming in church. “My lady is her own.”
        “Bitten off more than she can chew here, I wager.”

More details of 'Dark Maiden' here

Read Chapter One

Lindsay Townsend

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Book Review: The Badge and the Bride by Livia J Washburn



Emily Savage just wanted to help out her injured aunt. She never dreamed that she would wind up in the middle of a train robbery or being stalked by a charming but dangerous outlaw.

Texas Ranger Nick Braddock had a grudge of his own against the desperado Clay Galloway, a tragic secret that went beyond Nick's desire to bring law and order to the Lone Star State. When Galloway's pursuit of Emily Savage involved Nick, he had even more of a reason to bring the outlaw to justice.

At first, Emily is just the bait for the trap that will allow Nick to settle his score with Galloway at last. But she comes to mean more to him than that, and both of them will have to survive the fires of danger to discover what truly lies between them.

My Review:

Emily and Nick's story charmed my heart!

So, I thought I knew what I was getting into, yeah? An innocent woman hanging in there till she found herself in need of a rescue, and a tough lawman who owns the skills to get the job done and claim the damsel in the process.

Well, yeah, there's that... but there's more. Twists and turns abound that just kept me charmed and surprised.

The Badge and the Bride delivers a fun twist of a story to be captivated by!

Purchase Link:

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Nellie Cashman and Her Long Reach by Patti Sherry-Crews

"When I saw something that needed doing, I did it."--Ellen "Nellie" Cashman

Nellie Cashman: The Angel of  Cassiar, The Saint of Sourdoughs, The Angel of Tombstone, The Miner's Angel, and Champion Woman Musher of the Yukon

Whoa, Nellie!
Described as "Pretty as a Victorian cameo, and when necessary, tougher than two penny nails," this five foot tall force to be reckoned with was a legend in her own time.

If you look up Nellie Cashman, the word following her name is restaurateur. And though she certainly did open boarding houses and eating establishments, she did much more. Her real legacy was her philanthropy, which included building schools, hospitals, and churches in frontier towns from the Mexican border to Alaska--wherever she temporarily put down her roots. In addition to entrepreneurial pursuits, which included a boot store and a general stores, Nellie became a successful prospector herself. She made and gave away several fortunes in her life time. Did I mention she was also friends with the likes of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday?

Her story begins in 1845, Ireland at the start of the Great Famine, or an Gorta Mór (the Great Hunger). This was the year Ellen "Nellie" Cashman was born to a poor Catholic family near Cobh, Co. Cork. When Nellie was five her family emigrated to America as a matter of survival. Somewhere along the way she lost her father (bit of a mystery there. History doesn't tell us what happened to him), leaving her mother to raise Nellie and her sister, Fannie, by herself within the Irish community in Boston. 

Both girls took jobs as soon as they were old enough, and it was while working as a bellhop that Nellie was reportedly* advised by none other than Ulysses S. Grant to go west where there would be better opportunities.

The three Cashman women set off for San Francisco. This was during the Gold Rush, and the opportunity the ladies grasped was the miners need for creature comforts. They went from boom-town, to boom-town, opening boarding houses and restaurants. These were not places for the faint of heart and where many of the only other women were prostitutes.

Nellie continued successfully on her own, opening boarding houses, restaurants, and retail ventures all over the west. Though, not forgetting her family's own struggles, she wouldn't let a miner go hungry even if he couldn't pay for his meal. She befriended the homeless, prostitutes, outlaws, and other people on the fringe of polite society. Her restaurant, Delmonico's, was the first business in Tucson. Later she would raise money to open St. Mary's Hospital and a church.

She always had her ears cocked to gather information, and so was often among the first to go to the next big strike, pulling up stakes and moving on. It's said that just by sweeping the floors of her restaurants, she collected about $100 in gold dust a day. Over time, she learned the skills needed to be a prospector, at one time owning up to 11 mines.

Nellie Cashman covered a lot of ground and was active wherever she went. I'm going to concentrate on two of the more significant events in her life: her years in Canada and Tombstone, Arizona.

The Angel of Cassiar:

In 1871, Nellie, being the sole woman, joined a team of prospectors who headed for British Columbia. She continued, in her way, working and raising funds for charitable institutions, in particular her favorite, the Sisters of Saint Ann. She was on her way to deliver $500 to the sisters when she heard that nearly 100 miners had been trapped in a winter storm and were suffering from scurvy.

She organized a rescue team and they began the perilous journey. Wearing snowshoes they pulled sleds through sometimes 10 feet of snow, to deliver provisions, including limes to combat the scurvy. The Canadian army, deeming this effort too dangerous, set out to stop the party. When they caught up to them, Nellie explained over tea that she had no intention of calling off her rescue mission. Though she accepted that she might die in the attempt, she couldn't leave the miners to perish. The army let her proceed.

Seventy seven days after setting out, the rescuers reached the miners. They nursed them back to health and returned the men to safety, saving as many as 75 men and earning her the title of "The Angel of Cassiar."

The Angel of Tombstone:

In 1880, Nellie set up shop in Tombstone, AZ about the same time as the Earp brothers. She would stay in this town on and off for the next six years, becoming one of the prominent citizens during her time there, even contributing articles to the Arizona Daily Star.

Nellie's house on the corner of Toughnut (appropriately named) and Six St.

Here she was joined by her newly widowed sister, Fanny, and her five children. Concerned that her family had no church to go to, she persuaded Wyatt Earp to close his Oriental Saloon on Sundays so she could hold church services there. She was able to collect enough in donations to open Tombstone's first Catholic church. Besides establishing the church she also was able to raise funds to open the first public school in Tombstone.

She would solicit money from anyone for her charity projects saying, “Whether the money comes from an upstanding citizen, or a member of the outlaw faction makes no difference to me. The money doesn’t know the difference either. What matters is what it is used for, and I see to it that in one way or another, it helps humanity.”

She continued her charity work and took up nursing at the local hospital in addition to opening a restaurant and boarding house. When one customer complained about the food, Doc Holliday pulled out his pistol and said something along the lines of, "Do you want to repeat that, son?" To which the man said, "Best I ever ate."

Nellie's Restaurant Exists to this Day

Unfortunately, Fanny died of tuberculous. Nellie took on her orphaned nieces and nephews as her own.

In 1883 there was an event known as the Bisbee Massacre where four innocent people, included a pregnant woman were shot and killed during a robbery attempt. The town was incensed and wanted revenge, and in fact the leader of the gang was lynched by an angry mob. The four remaining participants were thrown in jail. 

When Nellie heard there was going to be a public execution and grandstands were being built for spectators, she was horrified, saying that no death was cause for celebration. She befriended two of the prisoners, visiting them in jail and offering spiritual guidance in their remaining days. The night before the hanging, Nellie got together a crew who went out in the night and tore down the grandstands. Then upon learning that the bodies of the executed men were going to be donated to science, she hired two miners to sit watch at Boot Hill day and night for 10 days to prevent the bodies from being "resurrected". 

Final Years and Legacy:

Nellie left Tombstone in 1886 to move to other parts of the state, taking her sister's children with her as she went looking for the next big strike--continuing to do what needed being done.

You may wonder, as I did, did she ever find love amidst all these men she worked alongside? She was romantically attached to a fellow prospector, Mike Sullivan. Their intentions to marry were even mentioned in the newspaper. But for whatever reason, the couple never made it to the altar.

On the subject of marriage: "I haven't had time for marriage," she told an American reporter. "Men are a nuisance, anyhow, now aren't they? They're just boys grow up."

In 1898 she took off for the Yukon looking for gold. She built a home in the Koyukuk River Basin, Alaska, an isolated community of 200 people of whom only a handful were women. She made the arduous journey back to civilization once a year for provisions. In 1922 the Associated Press documented her journey to Anchorage. Even though she had been tagged as an angel, it was said she was anything but in defense of her property. She could be aggressive and not above bending the law.

Not one to retire quietly, she set a new record with her dog team, covering 750 miles in 17 days. She was in her late 60's or early 70's at the time.

She died of pneumonia in 1925 in one of the hospitals she helped establish more than 50 years earlier.

Legends of the West Series, Postage Stamps

Nellie is gone, but happily she has not been forgotten.
  • In 1994 the United States Post Office gave her a stamp in the series Legends of the West. She is one of three women to get a stamp in this set of twenty along with Annie Oakley and Sacajawea.
  • The Alaska Mining Hall of Fame inducted her posthumously in 2006.
  • In 2007, she was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth.
  • A monument was erected to her in 2014 in Co. Cork, Ireland near her hometown. 
  • Every August Nellie Cashman Day is celebrated in Tombstone, AZ.

* I use the term "reportedly" because as she was a legend even in her own time, tall stories started cropping up.
For instance, on the back of the postage stamp is this inscription: "The Angel of Tombstone, Anti-violence peacemaker who ran a boarding house, raised orphans, campaigned against public hanging, and once saved a man from an angry mob."
The story goes that she once drove her buggy into the middle of a mob who were intent on lynching a man. She rescued and then spirited him away to safety. She could have done. But there isn't much evidence that she did, and this might have been made up.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

‘Beware the ides of March’ - and a treacherous excerpt from THE COMANCHERO’S BRIDE by Kaye Spencer #blogabookscene #westernromance #PrairieRosePubs

Two days from now... Beware the ides of March.

This phrase conjures images of danger, destruction, and death. It is a dire warning that bad things are coming your way.

Where did this dark association with the 15th of March originate?

As with many phrases we use today, we can trace their origins to William Shakespeare. While historically, we know Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44 BCE, it was Shakespeare who immortalized that phrase in his play Julius Caesar in Act 1, Scene 2.

But, poor, poor maligned March 15th. There isn’t anything inherently worrisome, sinister, or foreboding about this date. In fact, every “month has an “ides". It’s simply the 15th of the month.

Referencing a 2017 USA Today article [HERE]—

…the word ‘ides’ is a derivative of the Latin verb iduare/idus, which means “to divide”. The ides denoted the Roman method of signifying the day in the middle of the month. More specifically, the ides related directed to the way lunar phases were calculated at the time. The full moon in any given month typically fell between the 13th and the 15th. Before Caesar was in charge of... [well, just about everything...] and he changed the calendar, the ides of March was the date of the new year and a time for celebration.

La clémence de César, Abel de Pujol, 1808
Abel de Pujol creator QS:P170,Q704494, La clémence de César,
marked as public domain, more details on
Wikimedia Commons

Since the #blogabookscene theme for March is treachery here is an ‘ambition gone wrong’ excerpt from my western historical novel THE COMANCHERO’S BRIDE.


Grayson walked idly around the room as he talked, picking up framed family tintypes and daguerreotypes from the top of a sideboard then replacing them carelessly and moving on to other items with the same disregard. “The irresponsibility you’ve shown in not returning home when you were summoned is disturbing. Considering you gave Edward no choice but to send you here, and then you defied him when he ordered you home...” He paused, glancing at her with a scowl of displeasure.

His disapproving glower had no more impact of putting her in her proper place now than it had any other time he’d threatened her with it. She remained silent in her experience that to comment was wasted effort.

“Needless to say, your behavior is unconscionable, and you should be ashamed at the trouble you’ve put us through.” Grayson ended his stroll directly in front of her.

When he reached to embrace her, she recoiled as if his touch would burn her skin. “How did this become my fault? I wrote and explained quite clearly that I wasn’t returning. It was your choice to come here, not mine. I gave ample warning.”

“Elizabeth, I’ve just checked into what I will loosely refer to as a hotel. There are no carriages or horses available for hire, so I had to walk here. I’m tired, and I have no intention of bandying any more words with you. Pour me a drink. We need to discuss how soon we can leave.”

“No, I won’t pour you a drink, and you’re not welcomed here. I want you to go.” Nothing had changed. He was every bit as boorish and domineering as she remembered.

“Damn it!” he bellowed. “This is nonsense. We’re spending the winter in Denver with your parents. I’ve already arranged several important dinner parties, and we’re on guest lists at the Tabor, Byers, and Evans’ homes during the Christmas season.” His face reddened, and a purple vein throbbed on his temple.

“How awfully nice for you,” she goaded, hoping to fuel his ire. “I’m sure my parents will be delighted to spend the holidays with you.”

In one long, powerful stride, he towered over her, shaking a thick finger in her face. “I have to be accepted into Denver political circles in order to gain some critical support in Ohio. I also have a hunting expedition with Baron Van Doren coming up, and I expect you to do your part with entertaining the right people during our stay. You already have an appointment to attend some silly women’s group holiday tea at the Cooper mansion. You know these activities are vital for my political future. I won’t have it any other way.”

She batted his hand down. “Your political career is only important to you and my parents.” She clenched her fists at her sides, aggravated that she’d allowed herself to be drawn into conversation instead of walking away. It was fully dark and well past time to meet Mingo. “I have a prior commitment.”

Waving her off, he said, “What you have is a duty to your family and to me as my wife, you missed—”

“I am not, nor will I ever be, your wife.”

He pushed right over her interruption. “You missed a gubernatorial inaugural dinner party in Columbus last winter and several other important events since then. I’m tired of making excuses for your absence. I won’t do it any longer.” He leaned forward. “So, congratulations. You’ve made your point. Now, it’s time to come with me and get on with the business of being my wife.”

Fuming, she held her ground. “I’m not going to marry you, and I’m certainly not your political or social plaything. Don’t forget that it was you who convinced my father to banish me here. You sent me away from everything I knew—from all the things I thought I needed to be happy. Then I found out that not only do I not need them, I no longer want them. Listen to what I’m saying, Grayson. You’ve made the trip here for nothing. I’m staying in Laredo.”

“This is ludicrous!” His booming voice bounced off the walls. “Our wedding date is set and invitations have been sent.”

He loomed over her like large tree branches bending toward the ground in the raging onslaught of a violent wind. He was a formidable man when he wasn’t angry, and she’d often seen him use his physical size to intimidate people. Although she’d never once backed down from him, she now fought the urge to turn from his wrath.

She drew herself up with every ounce of her courage. “Then un-announce it. I’m not marrying you. Not now. Not ever…”


also available in the boxed set

Until next time,

Kaye Spencer

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The Royal Geographical Society

By Kristy McCaffrey

Established in 1830, the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) is the United Kingdom’s professional body for geography and the advancement of geographical sciences. It began as a dining club in London, where select members held informal dinner debates on current scientific issues and ideas. It was long associated with the ‘colonial’ exploration of Africa, the Indian subcontinent, the polar regions, and especially central Asia.

The Society was a supporter of many notable explorers. Here are a few.

Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) was a naturalist, geologist and biologist, and is best known for his theories on the science of evolution, specifically that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestors and natural selection.

Richard Francis Burton

Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890) was an explorer, geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer, and diplomat. The RGS contracted him to explore the east coast of Africa, and he was one of the first Europeans to search for the source of the Nile River.

David Livingstone

David Livingstone (1813-1873) was a Scottish physician, Congregationalist, a pioneer Christian missionary, and African explorer. Taking up where Burton left off, he also attempted to locate the source of the Nile, although he too never pinpointed it. His meeting with Henry Morton Stanley was the source of the famous phrase, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

Sir Ernest Shackleton

Sir Ernest Shackleton (1874-1922) was a polar explorer who led three expeditions to the Antarctic. He lost the race to the South Pole to Roald Amundsen, so he focused on a sea-to-sea crossing of Antarctica, which he unfortunately never achieved. He is most famous for a daring ocean crossing in lifeboats after his ship, the Endurance, became trapped in ice.

Percy Fawcett

Percy Fawcett (1867-disappeared 1925) was a geographer, artillery officer, cartographer, archaeologist, and explorer of South America. At the age of 39, he was contracted by the RGS to map a border area of Brazil and Bolivia. After seven expeditions to South America, he became certain that a great city lay lost in the jungle. In 1925, he made his last attempt to find the Lost City of Z, but disappeared, along with his son and a family friend. Theories abound that local Indians killed them or that they died from natural causes.

Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Hillary (1919-2008) was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer, and philanthropist. In 1953, he became the first climber, along with the Nepalese Sherpa Tenzing Norgay, to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Today the Society has over 16,500 members and its work reaches millions of people each year through publications, research groups and lectures.

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