The Enigma (1503)
Oct 25, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
In Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra, Antony said of Cleopatra, “Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale/her infinite variety.” While the Roman general was waxing poetic on the Egyptian queen, his words aptly apply to an Italian woman whose allure has proved timeless. Who was the lady who ended her days in a convent, hung in Napoleon’s bedroom, and was the subject of an international manhunt?
The Looking Glass (1865)
Oct 17, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
“Curioser and curiouser,” Alice cried as she tumbled down the rabbit-hole. Her words summarize the relationship between an Oxford mathematics professor and his child muse.
A Feminist Manifesto (1942)
Oct 10, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
“When Johnny comes marching home again/Hurrah! Hurrah!” The lyrics originated from a Civil War song that welcomed the soldiers returning from the Civil War. During World War II, when the men left for Europe, it led to another “Hurrah!” This time it was for the women who traded aprons for overalls, exchanged frying pans for drills.
Oct 04, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
In 1970, the quintessential hippie, Janis Joplin, crooned, “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz…” In all probability, Joplin did not know the strange story that lay behind the iconic car, that the christening involved an insidious irony.
As Time Goes By
Sep 29, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
In Casablanca Dooley Wilson crooned, “You must remember this/A kiss is just a kiss…” However, in one occasion, a kiss became an iconic image of the 20th century.
Sep 14, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
A window that displays one of the world’s most exclusive views? Check. Broke a ninety-one-year-old celestial ceiling? Check. Is in charge of a masterpiece that millions crane their necks to ogle? Check. Who is this Wonder Woman who wears classy couture rather than spandex shorts?
Sep 07, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
A staple of the nursey is the rhyme, “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” What is not as well-known is its back-story: Sarah Josepha Hale wrote it as a Christian allegory-Mary, the mother of Christ, the lamb, a symbol of Jesus. Behind a popular tongue twister lurks another Mary.
The Bitter and the Sweet
Aug 05, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
“How far that little candle throws its beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world.”
– William Shakespeare The Merchant of Venice
Living under the reign of terror results in the milk of human kindness or acts of brutality. During the dark days of the Holocaust, some individuals sheltered their Jewish neighbors; others turned a blind eye to the hapless. History has enshrined the names of the Righteous of the era when mankind buried its humanity. Raoul Wallenberg of Sweden saved the Jews of Hungary; Irene Sendler of Poland rescued children from the Warsaw Ghetto, Miep Gies of Holland helped the families hiding in the Secret Annex. An unsung hero was a girl who, enmeshed in a spider’s web, proved that in an era where the norm was random acts of madness, there could still exist random acts of kindness.
Jul 27, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
“It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” is a song James Brown recorded in a New York studio in 1966, and, given the era in which he wrote, his words rang true. A map of Manhattan illustrates that men shaped the city and left behind their names as their calling cards.
I am Unworthy
Jul 22, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
The other day I pulled into the drive-through at Starbucks to order my venti latte non-fat milk extra foam, extra hot latte. I was taken aback when, rather than ask for payment, the barista informed me that the person in front of me had paid for my drink. I beamed behind my mask; in the time of the pandemic, kindness still visited. I proceeded to “pay it forward.” The vignette turned my thoughts to the woman who, more than anyone, had dedicated her life adhering to the biblical injunction, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Trixie: A League of Her Own
Jul 17, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
When one contemplates baseball’s greatest hit, most likely the image is of Yankee slugger Babe Ruth hitting the ball until it disappears into the horizon. However, the sport’s greatest hit was made not on the field, not in a stadium. Rather, it originated over a century ago in a New York City subway.
Where the Angels can Tread: Lucretia Mott: (Part One)
Jul 11, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
Founding Father Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Clothes advertise the man.” His argument was that garments, like eyes, provide windows into the soul. Hence, apparel sheds light into pivotal moments in history and the architects behind the events. A top hat with a black band-the latter a tribute to the memory of his son- evokes a presidential assassination; a misshapen shoe recalls a life lost at Auschwitz; a purple robe trimmed with white ermine summons Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, a black leather jacket conjures the image of the Fonz.
Jul 06, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
The pink hat with pussy-cat ears was so iconic during the 2017 Women’s March on Washington that Time Magazine featured the knit head covering on its cover alongside the caption: The Resistance Rises. A century before another women’s movement converged on the capital where a woman in flowing robes appeared astride a white horse. The rider, however, became a forgotten footnote in feminist history.
A Larger Circle
Jun 30, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
Kermit groused, “It ain’t easy being green.” It was also not easy being black, female, and lesbian, with a propensity to psychological breakdowns. However, Pauli Murray prevailed and accomplished historical female firsts.
Santa’s Female Counterpart
Jun 28, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
In 1953, Edmund Hillary stood where heaven meets earth, a feat that made him the first man to scale Mt. Everest. Fifty-four years later, a woman who shared his surname also achieved a historical first, all the more remarkable as she did so in her seventh decade.
Jun 22, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
A rite of passage for new parents is to take a photograph of their newborn thereby forever freezing that magic moment. The framed picture elicits nostalgia as the sands of the hourglass slip away. However, in a nod to irony, a baby picture, if the truth behind it had been discovered, would have proved a death sentence.
Free to Be…
Jun 21, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
Did you ever attend a party and were worried that you were overdressed, underdressed, badly dressed? The anxiety of sticking out like the proverbial thumb because of unseemly attire is far better than feeling like you are forever trapped in the wrong anatomy. In 2018, Aimee Stephens, who suffered from gender dysphoria, sat in her wheelchair, accompanied by transgender activist actress, Laverne Cox, on the marble steps of the Supreme Court. A sea of supporters chanted her name, shouted their love.
A Civilization Gone with the Wind
Jun 19, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
A 1940 photograph captured a pivotal Oscar moment between actresses Fay Bainter and Hattie McDaniel. Today, the black and white image is considered politically incorrect as Fay’s jacket held a fox fur collar, the eyes of the animal reflecting its final agonized moment. However, at the time what was politically incorrect was the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences had broken the color barrier by making Hattie McDaniel the first African American to receive an Academy Award for her role as Mammy in Gone with the Wind. Adorned with white magnolias on her hair and dress, Hattie’s sixty-seven second emotional acceptance speech stated she “hoped to be a credit to her race.”
June 14th is National Flag Day
Jun 11, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
The national anthem is consecrated to it, police arrested Abbie Hoffman for wearing it, Neil Armstrong left one on the moon. But who created the American flag?
June 12th is Loving Day
Jun 10, 2020 by Marlene Wagman-Geller
The Book of Common Prayer admonishes, “What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” Unfortunately, to put asunder was an act the state of Virginia routinely enforced, thereby lending an ironic overtone to its slogan, “Virginia is for lovers.”