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Victoria Martinez
Writer & Historical Researcher
Writer & Historical Researcher

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There's an ambiguous and misleading junk history meme that has spread like a nasty virus through social media, so I fixed it.

Princess Fatemeh Khanum “'Esmat al-Dowleh” (1855/6-1905) was a princess of the Persian Qajar dynasty who defied tradition by learning to play the piano and becoming a photographer. One of the most photographed women at her father's court, it has been suggested that the images of 'Esmat and other women at the Nasiri court may have played a role in the development of female revolutionary consciousness in Iran.

For more on the subject, read my blog post, "'Princess Qajar' and the Problem with Junk History Memes" at

This image of 'Esmat al-Dowleh is dated mid/late 19th century and the inscription reads: “Khanum ʻIsmat al-Dawlah daughter of Nasir al-Din Shah, wife of Dust Muhammad Khan Muʻayyir al-Mamlik.” It is part of the collection of the Institute for Iranian Contemporary Historical Studies (ع 3-5216), and has been sourced from Women's Worlds in Qajar Iran (

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Junk history is embodied perfectly in a recent viral meme that portrays a nineteenth-century Persian princess with facial hair alongside the claim that 13 men killed themselves over their unrequited love for her.

Facts and sources be damned, even if it comes from a so-called “educational/history” page. They won’t make it go viral like sensational claims that bank on internalized misogyny and blinkered concepts of beauty.

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For #FemaleFriday, I am featuring Emma Willard (1787-1870), who founded America's first secondary school for women, the Troy Female Seminary, in Troy, New York, in 1821. Renamed the Emma Willard School in 1895, it is still in operation, and anyone who has seen the 1992 film "Scent of a Woman" would recognize it as the fictional Baird School.

A prolific writer, her works included the 1828 textbook, "History of the United States, or Republic of America," and the 1819 pamphlet, "An Address to the Public; Particularly to the Members of the Legislature of New-York, Proposing a Plan for Improving Female Education."

Public domain image of Emma Willard from the 1873 book, "The Life of Emma Willard," by John Lord ($1i)

Further reading:
A collection of materials on Emma from the Harvard University Library -
Info on Emma and the school from the National Park Service's "Places Where Women Made History" -
The website of the Emma Willard School -
Free download of her "History of the United States" textbook -
Free download of her "Plan for Improving Female Education" -

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This is the story of Boss Tweed and the diamonds of Tammany Hall.

In an episode that predated the Watergate break-in by 100 years, thieves broke into the New York City Comptroller’s office on September 10, 1871, and stole records that threatened to end the corrupt reign of Boss Tweed over the Tammany Hall political…

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In 1795, English writer Mary Wollstonecraft, internationally known for her defense of women’s rights, went on a journey to Scandinavia that helped her pull herself from the depths of despair and produce one of her finest works.

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"It's one of the challenges we face as immigrants: how do we keep our own culture and traditions alive for ourselves and our children while also opening ourselves up fully to the culture and traditions of our adopted country?"

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"In what we like to think is a more enlightened age, we fail these women when we lap up anodyne histories without subjecting them to critical analysis. When we let the puff of wind inspire us for a second or two, then move on without wondering how and why such historical 'victories' haven’t led to a society of gender equality where the story of a woman warrior is an everyday occurrence."

Read more in my latest post on my A Bit of History blog.

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Louisa Van Velsor Whitman (1795-1873), mother of American poet Walt Whitman. Mother and son were very close, and he wrote that his great work, "Leaves of Grass," was "...the flower of her temperament active in me." She influenced him in a variety of important ways. According to Sherry Ceniza:

"In addition to contributing to the formation of her son's style, Louisa's effect on her son can be seen in Whitman's representation of gender. Louisa's own strength contributed to Walt's sense of gender fluidity. Accordingly, in one of his notebooks, Whitman wrote: 'Could we imagine such a thing—let us suggest that before a manchild or womanchild was born it should be suggested that a human being could be born' (Uncollected 2:76)." Source:

Image: "Louisa Van Velsor Whitman, head-and-shoulders portrait of a woman, facing slightly left," between 1851 to 1860; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (

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Swedish writer Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) became the first woman to receive The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1909. An activist for women's suffrage in Sweden, she was featured on the Swedish 20 kronor bill between 1991 and 2016.

The original manuscript of her most famous work, "Gösta Berlings Saga" ("The Saga of Gösta Berling"), which has been translated into more than 50 languages, can be seen in digitized format at:

More information about Lagerlöf can be found at:

Photograph of Selma Lagerlöf by Henry B. Goodwin, circa 1917-1920; courtesy Kungliga biblioteket.

#NobelPrize #Herstory #dayofthegirl

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In what was once "darkest" Sweden, a silver medal has shined like a beacon for over a century.

Tucked away in the church cemetery of a southern Swedish village is the gravestone of a civil servant who died in 1902. It would go unnoticed as the average grave of an ordinary man were it not for one remarkable feature: the shining silver medal embedded…
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