State of Missouri v Celia, a Slave (1855)

When asked by a reporter why she had killed her owner, Celia, a 19-year-old Missouri slave replied, “the Devil got into me.”

Celia had been purchased by Robert Newsom when she was 14. For the next five years, he would rape her over and over, keeping her in a tiny cabin near his house for easy access. She gave birth to two children during that time, the second one certainly the son of Newsom.

In the meantime, Celia found love with another slave on the Newsom farm, George. George became tired of…

Women have a long history of supporting religion — mostly to their detriment

The Martyr

Born in northeast Lincolnshire, England, in 1521, Protestant martyr Anne Askew has been referred to as a “proto-feminist” (Gilbert & Gubar). I was thinking about her when writing a recent article about medieval mystics — “The Happy Saint and the Firebrand” — focusing on two medieval women who found a way to empower themselves through religion. I am still not sure whether I see Anne Askew as empowered or victimized.

Forced to take her dead sister’s place in an arranged marriage to Catholic landowner Thomas Kyme at…

Two medieval mystics

In many ways they were opposites. One was a nun and a “religious recluse” who confined herself to a cell and the Church while the other was an “eccentric preacher”* who boldly left her husband and set out on pilgrimages that took her to Italy, Jerusalem, and up and down her home country of England in defiance of the Church. They were both English, in fact, and they had another thing in common: They were medieval mystics who wrote of their visions in books still available to us today.

Meet Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe.

The happy saint


Gerda Lerner (1920–2013)

If you don’t know about historian Gerda Lerner and the impact she had on women’s history, pull up a chair. March is Women’s History Month, and we need to be talking about this woman. Seriously.

First of all, Lerner played no small part in expanding the study of women in history from a marginalized few historians on the raggedy edge to full-fledged MA and doctoral programs. She developed the MA program at Sarah Lawrence with her colleague Joan Kelly and then went on to develop the first PhD program in women’s history at the University of Wisconsin.

I know the…

The humanities have fallen on hard times.

In the words of historian Robert Tracy McKenzie,

“Despite the growing mountain of evidence to the contrary, the majority of Americans are convinced that the serious study of the liberal arts is a waste of time and money, or at least a luxury that we can’t afford.”

Since the economic crisis of 2007–2008, fewer students have been majoring in the humanities, with history and English majors dropping by nearly 50%.

History — it’s not what you think!

The fact is, the decline of humanities and history in particular and the perception that history is not a viable major are based on inaccurate information. People often misunderstand what…

What I found when I lost my way in Scotland

Edinburgh. It was a decades-long dream for this American to be there. And there I was, about halfway between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse on the Royal Mile.


The friend I was traveling with and I had just parted ways for the afternoon. She had other interests. I had to see Holyroodhouse, having read every fictional and nonfictional account of Mary, Queen of Scots, I could find over the years. Having watched every movie or program I could find. Having a general interest in history and specific interests in the British Isles.

Holyroodhouse is special to me…

What are yours?

Are you excited that travel options are opening up again? If you’re like me, you can’t wait to indulge that wanderlust!

As I make my travel plans for the summer, the inevitable question comes up: What to take?

Looking back at my travel experiences over recent years — Victoria, Canada; my dream tour of the UK; business trips within the US; and frequent trips to my parents’ — I realize there are four essential items I can no longer travel without: packing cubes, my elastic grid thingamajigger, my travel adapter, and my faux pashmina scarf.

Packing cubes

…walk up to a bar (but not the kind you think….)

The Frontiero Case

When United States Air Force officer Lt. Frontiero applied for dependent spouse benefits, the Air Force refused her.

Why? After all, spouses routinely received such benefits. How were the Frontieros any different?

Well, it was the early 1970s. Lt. Sharron Frontiero of the U.S. Air Force was a woman. Her husband Joseph was a man. So, yes, while male officers could claim their wives as dependents, female officers had to prove they provided more than 50 percent of their husbands’ support to qualify.

Sharron Frontiero sued the U.S. Secretary…

And how can I tell?

Someone asked me a grammar question recently that I thought would be worth discussing. But first, I have to say I get ridiculously excited when someone asks me a grammar or punctuation question. Seriously, I’m like Commander Data scanning for lifeforms on Star Trek TNG, I’m that tickled.

But on to the question: How do you know when to say something like I feel bad rather than I feel badly?

The main issues here are (a) those pesky linking verbs and (b) knowing when to use adjectives or adverbs.

Quick reminder: adjectives modify or describe…

Scholar, historian, women’s historian, activist, archivist, reformer, wife, mother — all at once

I recently wrote about historian Gerda Lerner’s contributions to women’s history and the debt all historians owe her, followed by an article about Anna Julia Cooper and other pioneering Black women historians.

This time, I want to turn my attention to Mary Ritter Beard — historian, activist for women’s suffrage and labor, author, archivist, and so much more. Unfortunately, many people know her — if they know her at all — as just the wife of historian Charles A. Beard. I remember studying Charles A. Beard’s ideas in graduate school, but I recall no mention of Mary Ritter Beard. …

S. A. Howard

Writing coach, writer, copyeditor, course designer, instructor, mom, cat servant, and managing partner at

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