Recent Articles & Podcasts

Some of the magazines I write for also post my articles on their on-line versions. Help yourself!

Brandermill Book Snags Local Publicity

A Richmond magazine devoted a long article with many photos to my Brandermill book.

Click here to see the online version.

DAR Headquarters Presentation: Women’s History Myths

In May I was invited to give a lecture at the DAR museum and headquarters in Washington, D.C., on history myths that pertain to women. The DAR records most of its visiting lecturers and posts the presentation online for those who couldn’t make it to the event. It’s about 35 minutes long. If you’d like to listen in, click on the word “lecture” above. 

Downton Abbey Exhibit: Virginia Historical Society lecture

Downtown-image2_mediumI recently gave a talk at the Virginia Historical Society as part of their Downton Abbey exhibit, “Dressing Downton: Changing Fashions for Changing Times.” My talk was titled Weird-but-True Things Most People Don’t Know about the Roaring Twenties. It was a light, but serious, presentation which lasted 40 minutes (plus Q&A). In it, I shared some of the surprising things I learned during my research for my Roaring Twenties mystery series, things I have incorporated into my novels. 

What is Thanksgiving?

Autumn-Journal-Cover-for-Web“When President John F. Kennedy issued his Thanksgiving proclamation of 1962, he gave sole credit for creation of the holiday to the Pilgrims of Massachusetts. Virginia’s state Sen. John J. Wicker, Jr., took exception. Wicker offered the President substantial documentary evidence that Virginia settlers formally offered thanks at Berkeley Plantation in 1619–two years before the Pilgrim’s feast. This, Wicker argued, was more likely America’s “original” Thanksgiving–a recognition for which he had already been campaigning in the press for several years . . .”
Read more at, under Publications tab, Current Issue, page 43. (no longer online)

African-Americans during the Williamsburg Restoration

Restoration2The leading local promoter of the restoration of Williams-burg to its eighteenth-century aspect, the Reverend Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin, summoned townspeople to a meeting June 12, 1928, to put his plan to a vote. A College of William and Mary fund-raiser and professor, as well as rector of Bruton Parish Church, he had negotiated the details with the city and county governments. They had surveyed public properties, drafted contracts, and secured the assent of Goodwin’s once-anonymous backer . . . The ballots tallied one hundred-fifty to four in favor, but not everyone with an interest in the outcome got to cast one, as pro forma as these may have been. In those years, seven hundred of the town’s 2,500 residents were African Americans. None attended the gathering. In Jim Crow’s Virginia, they could not enter the whites-only school. Williamsburg’s black citizens heard secondhand the official word that the town would become a museum, and that white Williamsburg had voted its approval.   

Read more and see slide show. (no longer online)

Some Women in the Twenties Roared Quietly

“She Was Not One to Toot Her Own Horn”

If Williamsburg’s Restoration were a movie, its co-stars would be the Reverend Dr. W. A. R. Goodwin, who provided the vision, and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., who provided the funds to bring the colonial capital back to life. Just as movies have supporting actors, the early Restoration did, too. Among the most significant was Elizabeth Hayes, secretary to Goodwin. Today we would call her an executive assistant, a senior administrative assistant, or a chief operations officer, but in the 1920s, the job title for almost every woman who worked in an office was “secretary.” 

Getting Rid of Stuff: Military Officer Magazine

“Lighten Your Load” 

September2013MOMTime to downsize? If you’re wondering how to get rid of all the stuff you’ve accumulated over time, look no further.

If you’re considering a move to a smaller house, an age-restricted community, or a continuing care retirement community, you’ll need to make choices about what to keep and what to sell, donate, or toss. Knowing what you have and what it’s worth will guide your decisions. None of us wants to “sell stupid,” like that sad person who sold a Picasso print at a yard sale for $2.”   Keep reading . . . go to page 54 


Short Article on John Edwards–No, not THAT John Edwards!

“Uncommon and Expensive”

herbals17There may be no better guide to the plants that grew in eighteenth-century gardens than The British Herbal, a rare collection of botanicals by artist John Edwards, published in 1770. “It’s one of the most valuable books we have,” said Wesley Greene, garden historian in Colonial Williamsburg’s historic trades department. “It lets us document the sort of plants that were available in the colonial era.” Edwards referenced Linnaeus for every plant, allowing Greene and others to identify species precisely.    Keep reading . . . and see more pretty pictures! (no longer online)

More Murder She Wrote

“Murder by Namesake: The Poisoning of the Eminent George Wythe”

Murder2Chancellor George Wythe ate strawberries and milk for supper May 24, 1806. The next morning, an hour after his usual light breakfast with coffee, he doubled up with stomach pain and vomiting. The following day and the day after, Wythe’s cook, the freedwoman Lydia Broadnax, and the freed lad Michael Brown fell violently ill. Within days, suspicion fell on the fourth member of the household, teenager George Wythe Swinney.   Keep reading . . .  (no longer online)

Hot off the Press!

“Thomas Jefferson and the Maple Sugar Scheme”

Thomas Jefferson came late to the maple sugar scheme. He was an ocean away in Paris, serving as the United States’ minister to France, when a group of Quakers and Dr. Benjamin Rush collaborated in Philadelphia to promote maple sugar over cane sugar. The advantages of maple sugar were many, Rush wrote, but the clincher was its moral superiority: Cane sugar was grown by slaves, maple sugar by free Americans. His goal was “to lessen or destroy the consumption of West Indian sugar, and thus indirectly to destroy negro slavery.”