explore the engrossing “taboo” topics omitted from history
History should never be boring!
Binge-watch Vikings, Turn, or Frontier, and you’ll see people being disemboweled, tortured, and decapitated – but you won’t see anything about menstruation, chamber pots, birth control, breastfeeding, or poopy babies. It’s 2021, but these “unsanitary” subjects still make many people uncomfortable.
The most common reason why people hate history is because they find it boring. So often we’ve heard, “In high school, we just had to memorize facts about dead people.” People pass history tests by parroting thick, biased, obsolete history textbooks. They write predictable essays that follow the perfect five paragraph format. They become regurgitators – not lovers of history.
Our herstory unsanitized presentations explore the engrossing “taboo” topics omitted from history. They’re not about bustles, butlers, spinning wheels, quilting bees, hornbooks, or hoop rolling. Audiences will be alternately chuckling and aghast!
Director, Killingworth Library, CT
Astonishment, flinching, and hilarity ~ it was all present at last night’s presentation of The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife! Many thanks to Velya and Ehris for an entertaining ~ and educational ~ evening. Everyone has been raving about the talk today – so much fun!
Velya and Ehris, you are gems! I attended your Herstory Unsanitized talk at THS and just had to bring my 13 year old daughter with me. If you can impress a 13 year old you can do anything. Kudos to you two!
I am writing to let you know how much I enjoyed your “Goodwife” presentation at Springfield Museum. I have always been interested in learning about the day-to-day lives of our colonial predecessors and have made many trips to Old Deerfield Village. I have learned a lot from these visits, but I have NEVER experienced a presentation as informative and entertaining as yours. At certain points I and the other women in my row were crying from laughing so hard! And needless to say, all the “sad” facts made a lasting impression as well. As you said, with all that these 18th century women had to go through, it is a wonder that we are here at all. I found the Events Calendar on your website and am planning to drive to CT to attend more of your presentations (and will bring my friends)! Thank you again for your wonderful, insightful talk!
Herstory Unsanitized Programs
Suffragettes in Corselettes
For centuries, women have allowed themselves to be squeezed, twisted, and squished to conform to desired shapes. The history of underwear reveals a lot about women’s changing roles in society – how we perceive ourselves, and how we’re viewed by others. The 1910s saw an end to the hourglass figure with a tiny waist. Women were finally able to breathe and move more freely. Did the demise of tightlacing help women gain the right to vote in 1920?
Booby-trapped: the history of the bra
Just as the modern woman has evolved over the last one hundred years, the bra reflects that transformation. Before the bra was invented, corsets lifted breasts to artificial heights—but they pushed from below instead of lifting from above. In 1913, using two pocket handkerchiefs and some pink ribbon, socialite Mary Phelps Jacob created the “backless brassiere,” and became the first patent recipient for the modern bra. From Jacob’s invention, to the bullet shape of the 40s, to modern-day pillow cup push-up plunge bras, our boobs have been cinched, flattened down, and lifted up.
If the broom fits...
Halloween & the History of Witches
Have you ever wondered, especially on Halloween, why witches are depicted as riding on brooms through the nighttime sky? (It's a story you may find difficult explaining to the kids!)
You're never going to look at sweeping the same way again...
How did the benevolent image of a wise woman transform into the malevolent figure of the witch we know today?
Quack or Fact?
The history of colonial medicine is filled with stories of strange tonics, outlandish remedies, and curious “cures.” Toads, snails, mashed potatoes, mandrake, and bear grease were commonly prescribed. While some of these ingredients sound crazy, there’s logic behind many of them! For instance, snake oil hasn’t always been just a euphemism for quack medical treatments. For centuries, oil from the Chinese water snake was an actual treatment used in traditional Chinese medicine to relieve joint pain. Today, we know that snakes are a rich source of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), an omega-3 fatty acid containing anti-inflammatory properties.
The Not-So-Good Life of the Colonial Goodwife
Discover what life was really like for New England’s colonial women – because we’ve always been curious about: menstruation, sex, birth control, childbirth, sickness, and medicine.
For instance: in an era when underwear hadn’t been invented, what did colonial women do when they had their periods? What were early American birth control methods? It was suggested that colonial women try jumping backwards seven times after intercourse to expel sperm, drink water that blacksmiths used to cool metals, or insert a mixture of dried crocodile dung and honey into the vagina.
The Not-So-Golden Life of the Gilded Age Wife
Although Gilded Age women in the upper and lower classes had many differences, they had one similarity. Women, viewed as second best to men, were expected to be content with this role in society.
Topics include: ovariotomies, sedation of menopausal women, free-bleeding, tapeworm larvae, meat masks, mourning, and hidden mother photos.
Pudd'nheads: Childhood in Colonial America
Pilgrim and Puritan colonists had children, and though it would be hard to tell from historical records, so did indigenous families and enslaved Africans.
This program examines the unique aspects of childhood between the late sixteenth and late eighteenth centuries. The presentation explores birthing and childrearing practices, parenting, children’s health and education, naming, gender, play, and rites of passage.
Think about your all-time favorite movies and books…
We all love stories that pull us in and don’t gloss over the excitement. We’re drawn to stories that make us a part of the action, that highlight humanity, that require us to struggle with themes we can relate to – like right and wrong, or good and bad. We want stories that make us wince, laugh, and grimace.
We think of our programs as Stealth (or Sneaky) Learning!
Stealth learning is when a presenter uses clever, disguised ways to introduce learning objectives through non-traditional ways, such as hands-on activites, to encourage participants to have fun and learn. Audiences think they’re merely being entertained, but they’re actually learning. So why use Sneaky Learning? Anytime learning is presented and people don’t realize they’re learning, it’s an unexpected success!
In our Suffragettes in Corselettes women’s history presentation, we mention that tight Victorian corseting exerted 22 pounds of pressure on the internal organs. Ho hum, boring, boring…
However, we prefer to follow that statement up with a “Stealth Learning Mode” activity. We choose a volunteer from the audience. As the agreeable volunteer lies down on a table in the front of the room, we dramatically place 5 pounds bags of potatoes on her stomach until we reach 22 pounds of potatoes! As the prone volunteer groans and gasps for breath, we know our learning objective has been successful.
Interested in booking a program?
Contact Velya and Ehris below!