10. Kate Warne. The first female detective in the United States worked for the Pinkerton private detective agency. She worked on a number of important cases, which included espionage and embezzlement, and managed the Pinkerton D.C. office during the Civil War. Can you imagine the great stories she could share?
9. John Milton. Today he’s considered one of the most important writers in English history, but during his lifetime he endured imprisonment, blindness, poverty, and widespread ridicule for his four tracts advocating divorce if the partners are incompatible. After losing his sight, he dictated his entire masterpiece, Paradise Lost, to others. There’d be no shortage of dinnertime topics with him around!
8. Olive Adele. My great-grandmother was a world-renowned fortune teller whose clients came from all over the globe. She left my great-grandfather, a Puerto Rican tobacco merchant, after she discovered his multiple affairs and went into business for herself. I’d love to have the chance for Olive to do my star chart and to learn more about her incredible life.
7. Jean Moulin. This civil servant is now legendary for his work with the French Resistance during World War Two. Moulin helped to develop the National Council of the Resistance, which coordinated many resistance groups throughout France. He endured horrific torture from the Nazis—and he died without revealing a single piece of information to them. One of my heroes.
6. Boadicea. This queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe was publicly beaten and her daughters raped by occupying forces of the Roman Empire. Instead of submitting to the Romans, Boadicea led an uprising. This warrior would definitely have amazing stories to tell at the dinner table.
5. Saladin. This famous military leader oversaw Islamic forces during the Crusades. His victory in the Battle of Hattin in 1187 brought Jerusalem back under Muslim control, after it had been in Christian hands for nine decades. When his soldiers entered the city, he forbade them from killing and looting. I’d love to listen to this magnanimous victor share his war stories.
4. Galileo. This mathematician and scientist got into serious trouble with the Holy Catholic Church when his discoveries contradicted their teachings. Galileo’s sunspot theories proved that the earth revolved around the sun—a big no-no, according to the Church in Rome. The Italian Inquisition found Galileo guilty of heresy and sentenced him to house arrest for the remainder of his life. He still managed to keep experimenting and writing....while going blind. I can only begin to imagine the amazing tales he could tell about his experiences.
3. Vashti. In the Tanakh, Vashti was the first wife of Persian King Ahasuerus. When he commanded her to parade in front his friends wearing only her crown, she refused. She was promptly banished and never appears again in the Book of Esther. Although Esther is traditionally seen as the heroine for saving her people from annihilation, I’m fascinated by Vashti, a before-her-time feminist.
2. Sappho. Although this Greek lyric poet died some two thousand five years ago and the majority of her poetry has been lost, her reputation endures. Her poetry focuses on love and passion for men and women. Little is known about her life, and I’d love to hear about her years growing up on the isle of Lesbos.
|Eleanor of Aquitane|
1. Eleanor of Aquitaine. While married to her first husband, Louis VII of France, she accompanied him on the Second Crusade. After they started having marital problems, they secured an annulment from the pope and she married Henry II of England. Eleanor and Henry had eight children together. After her sons were grown up, she helped them plan a revolt against their father. It failed, and Henry had Eleanor imprisoned for a decade. Eleanor outlived him, though, and his death brought her release. Although she was an old woman by then, she remained active in politics. When her son Richard I, aka the Lionheart, was captured after fighting in the Crusades, she collected his ransom and personally brought him back to England. She was over eighty when she died, which was practically unheard of in medieval Europe. I love a woman who can be smart, tough, and successful in a time when she was expected to be a glittering ornament.
It’s a good thing my parents just gave us a new dining room table, which is big enough for us to fit all these guests. Can you imagine the incredible conversations we’d have with this guest list?
Thanks so much for having me, Hannah!
Six years have passed since England’s King Charles II returned from exile to reclaim the throne, ushering in a new era of stability for his subjects.
Except for Elizabeth Milton. The daughter of notorious poet John Milton, Elizabeth has never known her place in this shifting world—except by her father’s side. By day she helps transcribe his latest masterpiece, the epic poem Paradise Lost, and by night she learns languages and sword fighting. Although she does not dare object, she suspects that he’s training her for a mission whose purpose she cannot fathom.
Until one night the reason becomes clear: the king’s man arrive at her family’s country home to arrest her father. Determined to save him, Elizabeth follows his one cryptic clue and journeys to Oxford, accompanied by her father’s mysterious young houseguest, Antonio Vivani, a darkly handsome Italian scientist who surprises her at every turn. Funny, brilliant, and passionate, Antonio seems just as determined to protect her father as she is—but can she trust him with her heart?
When the two discover that Milton has planted an explosive secret in the half-finished Paradise Lost—a secret the king and his aristocratic supporters are desperate to conceal—Elizabeth is faced with a devastating choice: cling to the shelter of her old life or risk cracking the code, unleashing a secret that could save her father…and tear apart the very fabric of society.
Anne Blankman may have been meant to be a writer because her parents named her for Anne of Green Gables. She grew up in an old house with gables (gray, unfortunately) in upstate New York. When she wasn't writing or reading, she was rowing on the crew team, taking ballet lessons, fencing and swimming. She graduated from Union College with degrees in English and history, which comes in handy when she writes historical fiction.
After earning a master's degree in information science, Anne began working as a youth services librarian. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her family. When she's not writing young adult fiction, she's playing with her daughter, training for races with her husband, working at her amazing library branch, learning to knit (badly), and reading.
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