Makeup History It Happened Once

The history of eyelash extensions is actually so scary

Okay, the thing is I have never really been in love with my eyelashes and have envied people who don’t need eyelash extensions for years. It is just unfair! My eyelashes are short, they point in all different directions, and they make putting on mascara difficult sometimes. Now, I bet you think that I wear fake eyelashes daily because of this. Well, I don’t! For some reason, I have never been into wearing fake eyelashes. I tried them once and failed, so I never tried again.

Since my failed attempt with fake eyelashes many years ago, my eyelashes are something that I have learned to accept and love. But occasionally, I still want to live out my lifelong dream of having lashes that are so long that it looks like I am about to take flight. Therefore, when I heard about eyelash extensions, I thought it would be perfect! They last for almost a month, and I would not have to worry about trying to glue them on every day.

I know there are many people out there who want to try lash extensions like me. There are probably even more people who wear false lashes and eyelash extensions daily, but have you ever wondered how long people have been getting fake lashes and eyelash extensions?

People’s obsession with long lashes may seem like a rising trend to some, but it turns out that people have been wanting long lashes for centuries. Different techniques for applying fake lashes, attaching eyelash extensions, and making eyelashes appear longer has been around for quite some time.

Let’s go back a couple of centuries to Ancient Rome, where long lashes were fashionable and had a specific meaning. Eyelashes were seen as symbols for youth, morality, and virginity.

The Ancient Roman author Pliny the Elder claimed that long eyelashes were a representation of chastity because the author believed women’s eyelashes fell out during sex. So apparently if you had short eyelashes, that meant that you had a lot of sex. I don’t really know how I feel about his hypothesis, but either way, it did influence Roman women to try to use eyeliner to make their eyelashes appear longer and worked hard to achieve the long-lashed look.

Moving forward to the 1400s, there was a shockingly brief period during medieval times and middle ages where foreheads were more fashionable than eyelashes and even eyebrows. The church had linked women having hair to eroticism. Yes, just having hair at all was erotic. Therefore, women would pluck out their eyelashes and eyebrows to showcase their forehead.

Fortunately, this trend ended because our eyelashes actually protect our eyes from things like dust and debris. They even shield our eyes from the sun a little.  By the 1800s, long lashes were desired once again! However, people took their yearning for long eyelashes a little too far.

Here is where it gets a little scary.

In the late 1800s, a dangerous procedure to achieve long eyelashes was introduced to the public. While some women were gluing human hair to their eyelids, other women were looking for a more permanent route. The process involved taking strains of hair from your head and sewing the hair into their eyelids. Scary, I know! Apparently, they even attempted to use a rubbing solution of cocaine to numb the area before the procedure, but I have a feeling that it was still painful.

I’d take mascara over that any day. Thankfully, in the 1900s, artificial lashes were patented by Karl Nessler, a famous hairdresser from England. By the 2000s, modern eyelash extensions became a growing beauty service. Now anyone who wants to try out having longer lashes has great temporary and, most importantly, safe options to try.

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History Historical Badasses

Meet Queen Mọ́remí, today’s leaders could learn a thing or two from her

For those unaware of the Yorùbá ethnic group, let me give you a quick rundown. We are one of the largest ethnic groups in Nigeria and we have the most popping diaspora – I don’t make the rules. With over 47 million Yorùbás living in Nigeria and countless of us scattered around the world from the UK, the US, Brazil, Ireland, Canada, and Latin America – we are practically everywhere. But, there’s more to us than our vibrant culture or our diaspora, we have a vast history that people remain unaware of.

I believe as a royal, you are accountable to your people. By no means was Queen Mọ́remí an exception to the rule. Her dedication to her people was so strong that she sacrificed even the important thing to her. Because of this, I believe Queen Mọ́remí is the epitome of royalty. Now, I know that ever since Meghan Markle married into the British Royal Family, the American media wouldn’t stop talking about the British Crown, but let’s get into African royals. Other than Cleopatra and Nefertiti, who were Egyptian, most African royals are often excluded from the narrative. But it’s not surprising when we were taught that Egyptian royals were white (or in some cases mixed-race) in Hellenistic times.

[Image description: A collage of images and artwork of Queen Mọ́remí]. Via Facebook (The Wall of Great Africans)
Let’s travel to Ilé-Ifẹ̀ – now in Osun State, Nigeria and the birthplace of Yorùbá civilization. Queen Mọ́remí lived around the 12th century and was very beautiful and loved by the people of Ilé-Ifẹ̀. During the reign of Ọ̀raǹmíyaǹ (Great Prince of Ifẹ̀, King of the Yorùbá), her husband, the people of Ifẹ̀ encountered numerous raids and many were captured and enslaved by Ìgbò warriors.

But it’s important to note that because this was the 12th century – there was no concept of having nations or countries until the colonizers came and forcefully amalgamated hundreds of ethnic groups into what we now know as Nigeria today. 

However, the people of Ifẹ̀ thought that these warriors were aliens and out of this world. So, they believed that their gods had been sent down for these ‘aliens’ because of their evil acts.

I should also point out that this was pre-Abrahamic religions and that Yorùbá people at the time never worshipped Allah or God as we know today. Islam reached the Yorùbá people in the 14th century in the midst of the Mali Empire whereas Christianity reached the Yorùbá people by Europeans in the mid 19th century. Despite this, it is strongly believed that the Yorùbá people still worshipped God through their deities but, this changed once mainstream religions were brought into Yorùbáland. After the multiple raids – the people of Ifẹ̀ decided to offer sacrifices as a means of appeasing the gods yet this didn’t work.

Mọ́remí didn’t sit back and watch her people go through their hardship but instead tried to find a solution to the problem. This is the energy all leaders need to exhibit.

With her kindred spirit, Mọ́remí sought assistance from the river deity Esimirin and vowed to sacrifice everything she had for the sake of her people. Mọ́remí did a courageous thing – not sure if our modern-day royals could ever but still – she allowed herself to be captured by the Ìgbò raiders in hopes of learning more about them and their tactics. I mean, if you can’t beat them (spoiler, she did), why not join them? 

After being captured by Ìgbò warriors, their king is said to have fallen in love with her because of her beauty. Classic – even in the 12th century, history still shows us that men are the weakest link. But her beauty should not be the focus of her story – or any woman at that matter – it should be how she saved her people. So of course he didn’t want her to be a bed slave and instead took her as his wife. Perhaps Mọ́remí was the originator of pretty privilege and used this to her advantage, garnering substantial information and understood how these warriors were able to capture and continue to wreak terror upon the people of Ifẹ̀.

Due to her newfound knowledge and how she gained the trust of the Ìgbò king, she escaped back to Ilé-Ifẹ̀ and helped free her people from the terror of the Ìgbòs. By arming herself with knowledge of their warfare tactics, the people of Ifẹ̀ were freed by burning the Ìgbòs, who were scared of fire, during the next raid

Remember when she made her sacrifice to the river deity? Yeah, she had to pull through with that too. So, the river demanded she sacrifice her son Olúòrògbó and of course this must have been incredibly hard for her. I doubt that any mother would want to sacrifice their child, Mọ́remí was no exception. But she had no choice and did what she had to do. The entire kingdom of Ifẹ̀ was in grief because of this. Instead, they promised to be her eternal children because of her sacrifice.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much history recorded after her sacrifice but she is memorialized in Nigeria through a number of books, plays, traditional songs and the annual Edi Festival. I think it is a testament to how the actions of women in history are often ignored or inaccurately depicted. It’s important for us to reflect on the stories we are told about women in history and delve deeper. We should make it our mission they are not forgotten.

As a modern honor of Queen Mọ́remí, a statue was erected in 2016 in line with the Edi Festival. The statue is Nigeria’s tallest and one of the tallest in Africa. Today, we see in the city of modern Ilé-Ifẹ̀ how her sacrifices are celebrated with the annual Edi festival. 

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History Lost in History Historical Badasses

WASPs: the women who flew ahead of their time

Imagine this: It is the 1940s. You’re an American, serving the US military during World War II. You’re a trained pilot and your job is to fly military planes from factories to air bases around the country. You also test these planes, a dangerous job that has caused the death of many colleagues. But it’s necessary for the war effort as the country faces a shortage of pilots. The catch? You’re a woman.

Rosie the Riveter was not the only working woman. The Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs), also known as “Avenger Girls,” served the military during World War II from within the US. Over a thousand women served, but they did not receive official military status until almost 30 years later. 

The WASPs were an elite task force, only accepting 1,879 out of the 25,000 women who applied. By the end of the training, only 1,074 graduated with silver wings. This program, led by Nancy Harkness Love and Jacqueline Cochran, was made of two groups: the Women’s Auxiliary Ferrying Squadron and the Women’s Flying Training Detachment.

The primary role of the WASPs was to ferry planes across the country. But these planes were often refurbished, badly maintained, or simply broken, making these trips risky and dangerous. In an interview with historian Katherine Landdeck, ferrying pilot Teresa James described one of her “short trips” as full of bad weather, snakes, and scorpions. And yet, by the end of the war, the WASPs ferried over 12,000 planes, flying all 77 US Army Air Force planes, and logging over 60 million miles. They also conducted flight tests, screening out which planes could not be sent overseas. Over the course of the program, 38 women died.

Despite their service, there was no attempt to accommodate the women in any way. As they were not officially militarized, the women had to pay for their own colleagues’ funerals out of pocket and provide their own flying gear. When Margaret Phelan Taylor’s plane started smoking mid-trip, she was forced to keep flying—aware that she had no exit as the plane’s parachutes were too large for women. One woman, Dorothy Britt, had to use pillows in order to prop herself up and reach the pedals. But the hardest blow was when Cochran’s push for militarization was denied in 1944. Eventually, the program was disbanded due to fear that the WASPs would take jobs from returning male pilots. 

According to Landdeck in an NPR interview, “It was a very controversial time for women flying aircraft. […] It was unacceptable to have women replacing men. They could release men for duty — that was patriotic — but they couldn’t replace men.”

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the US Air Force began accepting women as pilots again. The US military, forgetting the WASPs, claimed that it would be the first time women would be flying aircraft for the military. But the women were ready to call them out and remind the country who they were.

By the end of the 1970s, the WASPs were finally granted veteran status. However, they faced pushback from Veterans Affairs Chief Benefits Director Dorothy Starbuck and were unceremoniously ignored by the military and media. It wasn’t until 2009 that the women of the WASPs were invited to Washington D.C. and awarded Congressional Gold Medals by President Barack Obama. Sadly, 65 years after disbandment, less than 300 women were still alive to receive the award themselves.

Still, the most enduring part of the WASP legacy is the horizon they cleared for women after. Years after the war, Cochran became the first woman to break the sound barrier. In fact, NASA’s first female pilot Eileen Collins referred to the WASPs as her inspiration. As of 2019, over 65,000 women serve in the US Air Force as pilots. The women’s long fight for recognition reclaims the history of the original fly girls and reminds us that there has long been a place for women in the skies.  

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History Ancient Practices

How the Pope stole Halloween 1200 years ago

In the spirit for more spooky stories? Check out our Halloween series!

Halloween – what a weird word. There’s nothing quite like it phonetically in the English language. Except for “hello”, and “sweets”. Man, if only it really did mean just that. But the term’s real history is less on-the-nose.

At school we learn that the word is just a simple contraction of “all Hallows’ eve” and that is true. But before it was called any of these things, it was originally known as Samhain or Sauin.

Samhain is where most of Halloween today stems from

Pronounced ‘Sow-Win’ (kinda sounds like Gretchen Wieners is trying to coin a term for success; “omg that’s like, so win”) this pagan ritual was an ancient Gaelic celebration where the Celtic people marked the end of their calendar year and prepared for the dark, cold winter.

Because this “dark half of the year” was a time often associated with human death, Celts believed that on Samhain, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead disappeared, presenting a one-night-only connection to the supernatural. People would dress up in costume and present food offerings outside their homes to ward off any unruly ghosts, as well as attempt to get their fortunes read around the bonfire. This is where the elements of spooky, dress up, and trick-or-treating first came from, as well. 

Samhain was Christianized into All Souls’ Day

But being a pagan ritual, Samhain was eventually Christianized and reframed as All Hallow’s Eve. All Hallow’s Day was one of the three days Roman Christians would honor and pray for the ‘hallows’ to reach heaven; hallow [v.] being an archaic term for a holy person. These days already held similar rituals to Samhain, like parades and dressing up as angels and devils. So allegedly, in the ninth century AD, Pope Gregory III switched the original date of All Hallow’s Day which fell on 13 May to instead fall on November 1st, attempting to overwrite the non-religious occasion. I suppose it does make sense to commemorate the dead when it’s darkest, so can we really blame him? 

But the true Samhain still reigns supreme

Once Halloween had itself a new Christian dogma, the world said “so long” to the word ‘So-Win’. But while the celebration was intended to turn holy, the original pagan myths, beliefs and rituals were never quite done away with. Of course, over time these rituals morphed and spread,  blowing up even more with the mass Irish migration to America into the Halloween we know and love today. So while Halloween may have undergone a name change, it’s still pretty much ye olde festival from 2000 years ago.

Except now we have heaters and eat too much candy.

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Historical Badasses Gender Politics Inequality

Let’s look at female Presidential leadership in the United States vs everywhere else in the world

I remember it was a hot Texan summer morning during my semester abroad in 2016. The possibility of the infamous and impenetrable “Presidential glass ceiling” finally breaking was the talk of the town. In the progressive air of pre-Trump America, I sat as an international student in a political science class. A fervent discussion broke out; with a student saying “Hillary Clinton’s journey has been an unprecedented milestone in history. She has managed to do what no woman has ever been able to do.” “Well, no woman ever in the United States,” I thought to myself. Except, I was wrong. I later learned that the first female Presidential candidate was actually Shirley Chisholm, an African American who ran for election in 1972. But how conveniently does history leave out people of color? 

Anyway, fun history facts aside, the mention of no female President in American history was a shocking revelation. 

You see, hailing from a region where most public spheres are male-dominated, my country has already seen the tenure of a female Prime Minister. And if you think it was rare, check again. Research conducted by PEW shows that around 70 countries around the world have already had female political leaders. With Elizabeth Warren dropping out of the 2020 Presidential elections, the United States will now be lagging behind AT LEAST 65 years in political equality at the presidential level. 

So, are the electoral results a manifestation of the internalized misogyny? If so, how is it that so-called developing countries where the economic and health gender gap is greater, have still had female political leadership?

Let’s scroll through to see which inspiring women have rebelled against norms and convention to be trailblazers in such countries.

  1. Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Sri Lanka  

[Image Description: Sirimavo Bandaranaike 1960.] via The famous people
Sirimavo Bandaranaike was the first female Prime Minister of the World. When she first resumed office in 1960, the London Evening News wrote: “There will be a need for a new word. Presumably, we shall have to call her a stateswoman.” With her husband assassinated just a year before, she quickly transitioned from homemaker to politician to Prime Minister. Her opponents mocked her saying she will be running a “kitchen cabinet”. But her resilient legacy saw her serve three terms between 1960 and 2000.

2. Indira Gandhi, India 

[Image Description: Indira Gandhi during a visit to the US.] via the Bettman Archive, The Hindustan Times
Assuming office in 1980, her tempestuous personal life was often under public scrutiny. But how are you supposed to balance the personal and the professional when your very existence is political? She was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister. She was born, bred, and raised into politics. She was immersed in the struggle for independence from an early age, shadowing her father. After several ups and downs of power, she was assassinated by her own bodyguards. Last year, Time Magazine included her in the list of 100 of the most powerful women of the past century. 

3. Maria Corazon Aquino, Philippines 

[Image Description: Corazon Aquino at her inauguration in 1986.] via Women’s
Envision this. The year is 1986 and the Philippines has been under a dictatorship for the past 20 years. The constitution has been suspended by the leader of the country. And through nothing but sheer resilience and peaceful persistence, Aquino, brings the history of martial law to an end. 

She has been immortalized as the Mother of Democracy by the international diplomatic community. But I believe it is important to humanize her legacy. Her journey from an introverted law student to a “plain housewife” to the first female President-elect was not an easy one. After her husband’s assassination just a year before, she became a widow at the age of 50. And it was in that very moment of vulnerability, she led the country and the People Power’s revolution to victory. 

4. Benazir Bhutto, Pakistan

[Image Description: Benazir Bhutto waves to the crowd during an election campaign meeting in Larkana, 23 December 2007]  via Asif Hasan, Newsweek
A military coup, her father’s execution, and exile – Bhutto experienced most trials a political figure can imagine. Elected as the Prime Minister in 1988, Bhutto shared her father’s penchant for charisma. When she spoke to crowds of people, she left them mesmerized. Years later, her slogan of “bread, clothes and shelter” for the masses continues to echo through people. And thirteen years after her assassination, she is still known as a martyr in the name of democracy.

5. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia 

[Image Description: Ellen Johnson Sirleaf] via BBC
When Sirleaf assumed office in 2006, she became the first elected head of state in all of Africa. Her achievement was unprecedented. But so were her challenges. When she assumed office, the social fabric of her country was ravaged by war and the economy crippled with debt. In her 8 years of Presidency, she was congratulated for incorporating women into the peacekeeping process and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011

This history has been one of incredible resilience, some painstaking loss, and extraordinary courage in the face of social convention. Many of these women were products of political dynasties. But sexism can be unforgiving. Even to political insiders. Public skepticism for female leaders is pretty consistent. Yet these women from the past century showed us how the glass ceiling was broken in their countries.

And if it can be broken, then, it can certainly be broken now and again.


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History History of Fashion

Historically accurate Halloween costumes to wow any Zoom party this year

In the spirit for more spooky stories? Check out our Halloween series!

We all know the biggest issue with Halloween costumes, the historical inaccuracy (as well as the insensitivity). 

How many times have you looked at a sexy scientist taking jello shots and thought “That looks nothing like Marie Curie!” If the answer is more than five, this article is for you. There needs to be more historical accuracy in Halloween costumes. We can keep the magic of the season alive as well as our 7th-grade history textbook.

So let’s go through the five best historically accurate Halloween costumes for this Halloweekend. 

1. Nurse / plague doctor

Sexy nurse in a red and white dress next to a pandemic doctor in a full robe and beak
Sexy nurse vs. equally sexy plague doctor on Amazon & Wikipedia

Sexy nurses are SO overdone, and not even historically accurate! Where are the masks? Gloves? Very long pointed beak? Throughout multiple pandemics, nurses have had to work tireless hours in unsafe and dangerous conditions. To honor that, please wear this functional plague doctor costume instead.

This look is SUCH a conversation starter for talking to the guy who dressed up like Big Bird. This plague doctor will prevent you from spreading covid due to the large beak shaped helmet. It will also keep people at least 6 feet away from you, mostly due to your terrifying appearance.

You can get a great plague costume here. If you’re into DYI costumes, all you need for this look is: black jeans, black boots, black shirt, black cape, black top hat, and a beaked mask, which you can get here. Most, if not all, of these things should be in your closet or available at the nearest Khols.

2. Lifeguard/Lotte Baierl Hass

Lotte Hass looking into the distance with her hair blowing
The very beautiful Lotte Hass via Diving Almanac

Lifeguard costumes provide no real protection from underwater terrors. Anyone can just wear one of those without getting certified. Very scary. And the costume materials are not exactly breathable, not optimal for saving the lives of drowning party goers. Instead of an impractical lifeguard let’s turn out attention to “The first lady of diving” Lotte Baierl Hass.

Hass was an underwater photographer, underwater model, diver, and all-around very cool water lady. She went on to become a producer and help her husband Hans Hass create underwater documentaries. This costume is easy, just be an incredibly beautiful Austrian woman who is very good at diving.

3. 1970s cop / 1970s crisis worker

Police officer with thick mustache and glasses
Very full mustached police officer via

Do you know what’s historically not sexy? Dressing like a cop, specifically cops in 1970s movies. They did not read Miranda Rights to the accused in any of those. It does not matter that the mustache looks cool, or that the blue matches your eyes. Stop it! There’s a love of the 1970s cop with the blue uniform and big, bushy mustache. Let’s shift that love to a less appreciated audience. The 1970s crisis worker.

What hotter than a mental health professional using de-escalation training to get someone the assistance they need? Literally nothing. Getting someone addiction treatment is so much sexier than locking them up for their substance use disorder.

The crisis workers of the 1970s were generally social workers, due to underdeveloped further resources. To complete this look you need some very light wash bellbottoms, a tie-dye sweater, clogs, and a critical lack of funding.

4. Witch / 17th-century 20-year-old widow

female witch it white dress floating
Very spooky widow via Aishwarya Sadasivan on Giphy

Sexy witch costumes are a Halloween staple. But they don’t REALLY show who witches were. A Witch was, in general, just a normal lady who did something that men didn’t like. Sometimes they just did not have men constantly around them. Here are just a few things that led men to call women witches:

  • Getting divorced
  • Being widowed 
  • Being a spinster 
  • Having female friends
  • Having too many kids
  • Not having enough kids
  • Having sex
  • Giving off weird vibes 

With so many things that would historically get you called a witch, you have a lot of costume options. May I suggest the 17th-century 20-year-old widow? For this costume just dress like a regular woman but go around telling people “My husband no longer controls me or my land because he is dead.” You’ll be charged with witchcraft by November 1st for sure.

5. Cowgirl / Calamity Jane

Calamity Jane wearing a cowboy hat and a large jacket
Smizing Calamity Jane on Wikipedia

Everyone enjoys a good rodeo, but typical cowgirl costumes are often coated in racism wrapped in faux fur. So this Halloween we should remember some bad-ass women while we look cute as hell. And for this task, we turn to Calamity Jane.

Calamity Jane was a frontierswoman sharpshooter who knew how to rock some male pantaloons. She was a cowboy with the best of them. She would drink copious amounts of whiskey and lie about her adventures, much like a frat boy during a typical Halloween party. For this costume, you mostly just need the attitude that you own the place. I would recommend reading some of Carrie Bradshaw’s blog posts from Sex and the City.

Now that you have plenty of costume ideas I can’t imagine it’ll be difficult deciding what to be this year.

Just because you can’t leave your house doesn’t mean you can’t be historically accurate.

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History Historical Badasses

Remembering Mary Shelley, the goth icon of the Romantic era

Check out more spooky stories!

Imagine you’ve gotten an AirBnB with your boyfriend and some friends. You were all planning to go on a hike, but it’s started to downpour rain because someone failed to check the weather. Instead, the guys decide to get high and set up a ghostwriting contest, inspired by the whole dark-and-stormy-night vibes. But at this point, you’re a bit fed up with your boyfriend, who might be hooking up with your sister behind your back. So what do you do? 

Well, if you are Mary Shelley, you crush the competition and win the writing contest. But this is an old story. We already know Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein and inventor of the science-fiction genre at 19 years old—right? Actually, there is more to the woman than the monster she wrote.

Born as Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, she was the daughter of William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft—two famous political philosophers. Both of her parents’ writings were central in the Revolution controversy, a discourse that broke out in response to the French Revolution. Futhermore, Wollstonecraft’s essay, A Vindication on the Rights of Woman, established her as “the mother of feminism in the English language.” 

However, Wollstonecraft died shortly after childbirth and, in true gothic fashion, Mary grew up learning to read and studying her mother’s work in the cemetery. At 16 years old, Mary met Percy Bysshe Shelley, five years her senior. Percy was already a known poet and a fanboy of her father’s political writings. According to biographer Martin Garrett, Percy would often visit Mary who was usually hanging out in the cemetery—the same place where they would eventually hook up. Garrett writes, “Her mother’s grave: the setting seems an unusually grim, even ghoulish locale for reading, writing, or love-making.” 

As a young couple believing in “free love,” Mary and Percy eloped in 1814, despite Percy already having a pregnant wife. The scandal broke both of the families. Mary’s stepmother and half-sisters were devastated, and Harriet Shelley—Percy’s first wife—was heartbroken. In 1816, after the suicide of Harriet and Mary’s half-sister Fanny, the couple finally married. Despite these grim beginnings, Mary and Percy were a literary power couple, traveling and writing amidst their contemporaries, other authors and poets of the Romantic era. This included Lord Byron, Leigh Hunt, John Keats, and William Wordsworth. 

But Mary was plagued with misfortune. Already haunted by the death of her mother and sister, Mary also suffered the loss of two children and a near-deadly miscarriage. Eventually, Percy drowned in a sailing accident, widowing Mary at 24 years old. In her mourning, Mary wrote The Last Man, a novel about a dystopian universe where a pandemic sweeps across the earth, spreading through globalization and panic. The disease shakes the foundation of countries, stoking revolution and fear around the world. Sounds familiar, right? 

Other than its eerie prediction of today’s world, The Last Man also reflected Shelley’s status as one of the last Romantic writers of her time. After the death of her husband, Mary kept what she believed was his calcified heart as a paperweight on her desk until she died. 

Mary’s life didn’t end after Percy. American John Howard Payne (songwriter of “Home, Sweet Home!”) also pursued and proposed to her as well. In response, Mary stated that having been married to one genius she wasn’t going to settle for anyone less. She remained friends with Payne, but he wasn’t her only admirer after Percy’s death. In fact, Mary was believed to have also had relationships with women, specifically Jane Williams with whom Percy had an affair before his death. However, Williams eventually spread rumors about Mary, ruining that relationship. Despite being burned by love herself, Mary upheld her status as a feminist, bisexual icon by helping another lesbian couple run away to Paris. Others, such as the French writer Prosper Merimee and her old friend Edmund Trelawney, also proposed marriage, with Mary turning them all down. She wrote in one of her letters, “Mary Shelley shall be written on my tomb, and why? I cannot tell, except that it is so pretty a name that though I were to preach to myself for years, I never should have the heart to get rid of it.”

True to her word, Mary remained a widow until she died at 53 years old. She’d spend the rest of her life promoting her husband’s work and writing several more novels including Valperga, Lodore, Falkner: A Novel, The Fortunes of Perkin Warbeck, Mathilde, and History of a Six Weeks’ Tour. She was also a devoted mother to her only remaining child, Percy Florence Shelley.

As the daughter of a revolutionary feminist and one of the last Romantic writers of her time, Mary’s work remains relevant and almost prophetic through its ability to be a constant mirror to society. In discussions around Silicon Valley, revolution, Christianity, and now, the COVID-19 pandemic, we find ourselves coming back to this woman who was surrounded by death and fearlessly wrote about life.

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History Ancient Practices

Do you know how pumpkins became the jack-o-lanterns we know and love?

In the spirit for more spooky stories? Check out our Halloween series!

Pumpkin season is officially in full swing. Tons of pumpkin-themed products and pumpkin-flavored goods hit the market as Halloween and Thanksgiving approach. You have the beloved Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks and pumpkin-scented candles popping up everywhere. There are even an array of pumpkin-based goods at your local grocery store. But one of the most important parts of the fall season is pumpkin carving for Halloween in October!

Jack-o-lanterns are a fun Halloween activity that is enjoyed by many, but the tradition of making jack-o-lanterns did not originally begin with the pumpkin and was not necessarily made for just decorative purposes.

Okay, before we jump into talking about jack-o-lanterns, let’s talk a little bit about the history of pumpkin first! Technically, no one is one-hundred percent sure when and where pumpkins originated. However, it is believed that pumpkins originated in Central America more than 7,000 years ago. Oaxaca Highlands in Mexico is where the oldest domesticated pumpkin seeds were found. The earliest domesticated pumpkins were not large and bright orange, but actually small and bitter. During this time pumpkins were not grown just for eating. They were instead hollowed out, and their thick flesh provided protection for certain items like food during colder months and times of scarcity.

In addition to using the rind, pumpkins seeds were eaten as snacks in ancient civilizations. Along with their presence in ancient civilizations in Central and South America, there has been additional evidence of early pumpkin domestication in Missouri and Mississippi. Before colonial settlements in North America, Indigenous cultures were known to harvest, utilize, and eat pumpkins too. For example, they dried pumpkin flesh and wove them into mats. In the Americas, the sap and pulp of pumpkins were used for burns and other medicinal purposes.

At the beginning of the era of colonial expansion in the Americas, pumpkins were one of the first grown crops. John Josselyn included one of the first American pumpkin recipes in a book that was published in the early 1670s. Colonists in Northern America derived the word pumpkins from the Greek word “pepon,” which means large melon. Along with making pumpkin pies and other pumpkin recipes, Irish colonists began using pumpkins to carve jack-o-lanterns in the Americas.

The tradition of jack-o-lanterns originated in Ireland with the myth of “Stingy Jack.” In the myth, Stingy Jack has a drink with the Devil and tricks him into turning into a silver coin, so he does not have to pay for his drink. The Devil became trapped in the form of a silver coin in Stingy Jack’s pocket. To be released, the Devil had to promise not to bother Jack for the entire year and not to collect his soul when he died. The next year, he tricked the Devil again by having the Devil climb a tree to pick some fruit.  Once he had climbed the tree, Stingy Jack drew a cross on the tree so the Devil could not come down until he promised Stingy Jack that he would leave him alone for another ten years. 

When Stingy Jack died, God would not allow him into heaven because of the tricks that he played on the Devil and his seedy character. Since the Devil could not collect his soul and bring it to hell, he sent Stingy Jack into the night with a single piece of burning coal. According to the myth, Stingy Jack put the coal into a carved turnip and still roams the Earth. In Ireland, they referred to his ghostly soul as the “Jack of Lanterns.” In Ireland and Scotland, they would carve potato and turnip lanterns to ward off tortured souls, wandering spirits, and frighten “Stingy Jack” away.

While pumpkins were originally used for storing food, its versatility allowed it to become a staple for the fall season and be the perfect crop to carve into jack-o-lanterns in the Americas. It also allowed a small flame to fit inside. So, make sure you go out and find a nice pumpkin to carve if you can this Halloween to ward off the Jack-o-Lanterns!

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History Lost in History Historical Badasses

Nur Jahan, the twentieth wife: the Empress who stole her husband’s thunder

Everybody knows about Mumtaz Mahal, wife of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan, in whose name the Taj Mahal was built. But what about her predecessor, Nur Jahan? Nur Jahan did not have a historic monument built to her name. But much of the Mughal architecture that we see today could be accredited to her. In fact, the Taj Mahal was itself inspired by a tomb that Nur Jahan commissioned for her father, Mirza Ghias Baig. 

[Image Description: The tomb of Nur Jahan’s father, Itimad-ud-Daula, in Agra. It is made out of marble and features a long pathway.] via ThinkStock images
In a world dominated by bloodlines and lineage, Nur Jahan was not of royal birth herself. Yet, she ruled the empire in her husband, Jehangir’s name for fifteen years. And this empire was far more diverse than that of Queen Elizabeth I even though they lived through the same century. 

In a time where women were confined to the walls of the harem, Nur Jahan took charge of the imperial seal and enacted legislation. She minted coins in her name and was the only woman in Mughal history to do so. She was a patron of the arts and architecture, commissioning several forts and buildings. Unlike others, she did not need a man to build her a monument, she could pretty much just do it herself. 

[Image Description: A silver coin bearing the names of Nur Jahan (right) and Jehangir (left).] via BBC
Is she beginning to sound like a real-life version of Daenarys Targaryen? Well, she was not too far from it. She had incredible military tact and was skilled in warfare. An incident from Jehangir’s memoirs describes her shooting four tigers with six arrows. 

She boasted significant clout. The indelible marks that she left on the Indian landscape are still tangible today. Be it the historical heritage of India or the peshwaz silhouette in fashion were all her signature style. She was a prolific garden designer and a diplomat.

Her intelligence was piercing, and her wit unmatched. She was multilingual and a composer in Persian. She went wherever life allowed, breaking away from convention. Where it did not allow, she mended the rules to her own accord. She wrote poetry. And in a society that did not allow female poets, she wrote under a pseudonym, Makhfi.

Here is an excerpt of her words from Maulvi Zakaullah Dehlvi’s book, Tahreekh-e-Hindustan:

“A nightingale would leave the flower if it laid eyes on me in the garden. A Brahmin would give up worshipping idols if he beheld me. Like fragrance in the flower, I am veiled in my poetry. He who desires to lay eyes on me should see me in my poetry.”

But how does a woman this unconventional lead a conventionally happy married life? What effects did her excellence and Jehangir’s lack thereof have on their relationship? 

Well, she was his twentieth wife. And he was her second husband. She was a 35-year-old widow of a Mughal government official, Sher Afghan, when she married Jehangir. In many mythical renditions, Jehangir saw Nur Jahan in Meena Bazar for the first time. In others, he saw her at the court whilst she was still married to Sher Afghan. And apparently, he was so besotted by her that he had her husband killed.

Jehangir and Nur Jahan’s love story is perhaps more firmly rooted in folklore than in history. It is the space where fact and fiction meet. It is the space where reality and fabrications merge to form a narrative of their own. So, one can never fully know what exactly happened. All one can say with confidence is that it was love at first sight.

[Image Description: Nur Jahan with a portrait of the Emperor Jehangir done with opaque watercolor and gold on paper
c. 1627, Mughal court. The flared dress that she is wearing is  a peshwaz.] via Cleveland Museum of Art, Universal Compendium
In an era where the only contribution a queen could make to a kingdom was to produce several heirs, Nur Jahan did not birth any royal babies. Her identity today remains her own, not as the mother of a king. 

She was a true revolutionary. Jehangir was relatively passive as a result of his dependence on opium and wine. This stark contrast, of his indulgence and her shrewdness, caused a lot of speculation about their personal dynamics. Many earlier historians were unable to accept that any man, much less a king would allow his wife to overwrite his popularity. And so they made claims: that it was she who dulled his senses by drugging him so much so that he remained nothing but a puppet ruler- only a soft symbol of power. 

But what can historians say about a woman who does not fit into the rigid gender roles of history? Because they were unable to fathom her, they cast her as a scheming and manipulative temptress. 

Yet, it is commonly known that even through his sickness, Jehangir turned only to her. She covered up for his political incompetence by crushing revolts and consolidating power. She saved him metaphorically and literally. When Jehangir was taken hostage by an enemy, she joined the military battle to release him and won. Theirs was an unconventional, yet memorable romance. 

[Image Description: A painting of Nur Jehan (left) and Jehangir (right) taking a moonlit stroll through the palace.] via Good Times
Though her husband was named Emperor, she was the real power behind the throne. He first brought her to court. He named her from Mehrunissa to Nur Mahal (Light of the Palace) and eventually to Nur Jahan (Light of the World).

But today, his name is commemorated because of her. 

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Makeup Skin Care History Ancient Practices Beauty

Did women in Ancient Greece have a skincare routine?

Throughout quarantine, I have become mildly obsessed with skincare and taking care of my skin. And by mildly, I mean I have completely changed my skincare routine about 20 times in the past few months. I’ve learned a lot about skincare over the summer, and used that information to alter my routine accordingly. And unfortunately, I cannot even tell you how many hours I have spent watching YouTube videos on skincare and reading the endless amounts of beauty reviews on Sephora’s website.

My newfound love for skincare made me curious about what skincare and beauty ingredients have been used throughout history. So, as a lover of skincare and Greek mythology, I thought I would take a look at the beauty and skincare beliefs, practices, and techniques used in Ancient Greece. And most importantly, try to figure out how to make my skin glow like a Greek goddess!

Skincare has been important in many different cultures and each culture has its own unique techniques to keep their skin glowing and healthy. Cosmetics and physical beauty were especially important in Ancient Greek culture, so having clear, smooth, and soft skin was a must. Clear and smooth skin is something that I definitely strive for at all times.  I’m not always successful, but I give it my best try.

Unfortunately, not all the tips and tricks I found were super helpful. Ancient Greek societies did have some unsafe practices. For example, they used harmful chalks and lead to whiten their skin due to their society’s beauty standards that idolized light skin.  With that exception, a majority of the ingredients that they used are still found in plenty of products today.

Women in high society in Ancient Greece culture wore makeup daily. Their cosmetic products used different flowers, herbs, pigments, and natural resources. To make eyeliner, they would use olive oil and charcoal. They even used olive oil and charcoal to fill in their brows. For their lips, they would mix beeswax and red iron oxide for a shiny lip balm. Iron oxides are still used in cosmetics products today,  but, thankfully, are now made in a lab for safety! Naturally produced iron oxide in uncontrolled settings typically contain heavy metals. Beeswax is still a popular ingredient in lip moisturizing compounds and products today. The Mayo Clinic reported that it is one of the best ingredients to lock in moisture and even helps block the sun.

In terms of taking care of the skin, Ancient Greek women certainly had impressive DIY skills. Olive oil was an essential ingredient in Greek skincare. In products today, olive oil is still used to moisturize and renew skin cells. Herbs, flowers, vegetables, and fruits indigenous to Greece were used in addition to olive oil. The rose was considered to be the “queen of flowers.” Rose oil and rose water were used in a lot of products to soothe, cleanse, and nourish dry skin. Additional benefits of rose oil and rose water include anti-aging, hydration, repairing skin cells, and balancing pH levels.

Along with beeswax, honey was another beneficial and well-used ingredient in their skincare products. It was used in their face masks and body scrubs. Honey has anti-inflammatory properties and helps with the removal of dead skin cells. Lastly, milk and yogurt were considered to be luxury ingredients in Ancient Greece because of their skin-softening properties. Milk was often mixed with honey in many products, while yogurt was viewed as a special ingredient that soothed sunburns and helped remove dead skin cells.

With the help of modern technology and sciences, skincare and cosmetics brands have found their own ways to incorporate the key ingredients of  Ancient Greek skincare into their products. In actuality, the basics of skincare in Ancient Greece and today are not that different, which means I’m basically already a Greek goddess. There are plenty of rose water toners, olive oil lotions, and milk and honey scrubs out on the market for us to try. At this point, I’ve probably tried about half of them, but cannot wait to try more!

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History Historical Badasses

Remembering Patsy Mink, a trailblazer in Asian American politics

Today, women hold a significant role in US politics. One hundred and twenty-seven are serving in both the House of Representatives and the Senatealmost a quarter of Congress. This is a record number, with 48 women of color. Among them is Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA), the first woman of color to be nominated for vice president by a major party. But looking back from where we are today, there is another important woman to remember: Patsy Takemoto Mink, the first woman of color in the U.S. Congress.

For most of her career, Mink served as a representative for the 2nd district of Hawaii. She also briefly served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State. Mink’s legacy is marked by her outspoken support for education, women’s rights, and her anti-war stance. But while many women choose to pursue politics as a career from the beginning, politics was not Mink’s first or second choice of career, but it was a necessary one. 

As a Japanese American, Mink was born in Hawaii in 1927. She graduated from the University of Hawaii with a degree in chemistry and zoology. But despite her qualifications, she was rejected from several medical schools as a woman. Eventually, she attended the University of Chicago Law School, as one of two women in her class. But again, Mink struggled to get employment. As a wife in an interracial marriage and a mother, she was turned down from law firms. It wasn’t until 1959 that she began campaigning for a seat in Congress. Although she lost her first campaign, she won in 1964 to take the seat that she would serve for the majority of her career. 

According to the Honolulu Advertiser, Mink said, “‘I didn’t start off wanting to be in politics—I wanted to be a learned professional, serving the community. But they weren’t hiring women just then. Not being able to get a job from anybody changed things.’’ 

When Mink entered Congress, she was the first woman of color and the first Asian American woman in the House of Representatives. As a result, she was called an “Oriental doll,” “Patsy Pink,” and “diminutive” by opponents and the press. But her work was not to be minimized. Mink served on the Committee of Education and Labor where she introduced the Early Childhood Education Act. It would assist the first child-care bill, student loans, bilingual education, and more.

Still, the foundation of Mink’s work was women’s rights and she was unapologetic about her determination. “If to believe in freedom and equality is to be a radical, then I am a radical,” Mink said in her 1960 speech at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles.

In 1991, Mink supported Anita Hill’s right to testify against then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas and joined marches to protest when Hill was initially denied. Mink also marshaled support for the Equal Rights Amendment, to end gender discrimination in government laws. But her most significant contribution to women’s rights is Title IX. In 1972, Mink co-authored the law with Representative Edith Green to mandate equal treatment for women and men in education.

Since then, Title IX has had lasting effects. The number of college-educated women has outpaced men since 2007. Where Mink was only one of two women in law school and previously turned away from medical school, women have now overtaken men in enrollment for both law and medicine. Title IX has also become drastically important for women in athletics, protection against sexual harassment and violence, and discrimination in financial aid. 

Although she candidly spoke about her career in politics as not her first choice, Mink’s work has allowed other women to study and pursue politics as their own first choice. In the 2008 PBS documentary, Patsy Mink: Ahead of the Majority, Mink said, “Life doesn’t have to be this unfair, it can be better. Maybe not for me, I can’t change the past. But I can certainly help somebody else in the future so they don’t have to go through what I did.”

Although Mink passed away in 2002, her work reminds us that when we talk about representation today, it’s not just another buzzword or platitude; it shapes who the future looks like.

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History History of Fashion Ancient Practices

The evolution of Halloween costumes: how did we go from eerie spirits to Wonder Woman?

In the spirit for more spooky stories? Check out our Halloween series here!

Thinking of ideas for who you want to impersonate this Halloween? Or, thinking of how much you want to spend on a costume for a night out, a parade or a party? Think $87 dollars. Well, that is the amount The National Retail Federation estimated each American was willing to spend per outfit last year. That makes up for a whopping $3.2 billion on Halloween costumes in total. So where did this creepy appeal of Halloween originate from? The festive occasion finds its roots in some sinister antiquity. And this is how an ancient pagan festival transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry.

The purpose of Halloween costumes was not originally to channel your inner Catwoman or sexy nurse

The festival could be traced back to the pre-Christian era. Halloween, then known as Hallow’s eve, was a Celtic tradition of the Samhain which lived on earth about 2000 years ago. It was the eve demarcating summer from winter. And the arrival of the “darker months” was said to begin with spirits and ghosts visiting the earth. It was the eve when the paranormal and the mortal realms overlapped. With these two worlds colliding, it was important for humans to camouflage as supernatural beings. 

Hence, the first Halloween costume ever worn was not for decorative or festive purposes, but was actually for protection. So, the Samhain wore animal heads and skin on their own to disguise themselves. They painted their faces and wore blurry silhouettes. It was thought that this would also give them a chance to connect with their lost ancestors. 

Angels and Demons. Fairies and Witches.  

[Image Description: Photo taken in 1905 of a person wearing a ghost costume in a rural schoolhouse. Credit: Historic Photo Archive/Getty Images.] via CNN
With the advent of Christianity, there was a need to erase Pagan rites and rituals. But old traditions die hard. Eventually, the influx of Christian values merged with existing Pagan traditions. 

So the costumes were now eschewed by Biblical terms. Animal heads and skin paved the path for people dressing up in all forms of Biblical binaries: angels and demons, saints, and the devil.

So basically Halloween became a religious event. Even what we know as trick or treat today had a religious connotation to it. People would go door to door chanting verses in exchange for baked goodies. 

Americanizing Halloween costumes 

The infamous Irish potato famine in the 18th century resulted in the diaspora of the Irish community to the New World. With this, came the import of Irish traditions. They brought with them superstitions, myths, and of course, costumes. And Americans, especially the rural population, loved it. And who wouldn’t? Finally enjoying anonymity through costumes along with leisure and pleasure after decades of Puritanical domination must have been liberating.

But still, one thing remained consistent: though the purpose of costumes was now ornamental, the look remained the same – scary and frightening. The masquerades and town events held in the 19th century still revolved around the same theme: death masks, white sheets, and an obsession with the grotesque and gory. The costumes, of course, were still homemade. 

Hollywood, pop culture and fandom

[Image Description: Elvis Presley (left) opts for a subtle Halloween costume, wearing only a mask to a party in 1957.] via Getty Images
Through the 19th century, the costumes detached even more from the original context. The festival was secularized. Capitalism took over. And, the Industrial Revolution allowed for the costumes to be commercially produced. An entire industry for costumes now began to emerge. 

Enter Hollywood. Many pop-culture figures were now fair game to dress up as. And this allowed people a chance to express their fandom. Thanks to horror movie marketing, there were more and more pop culture horror icons such as Frankenstein and Scream which became popular costume choices. But as the case with mass-produced products always is, there were fewer DIY costumes. 

With the sexual revolution of the 1970s, sensual costumes were all the rage. And this gave birth to the sultry witches, the Wonder Woman, and the Medusa, an all-new Halloween aesthetic. 

This was also around the time when the queer community was facing vulnerability due to homophobic violence and Halloween proved to be one occasion which allowed fluidity: of gender, sexuality, and costumes. It was then that Halloween became an explosion of booze, glitter, music, and dynamically experimental costumes, particularly in San Francisco. This was true only for America, where Halloween costumes became the physical space where gender politics could be negotiated. In many other parts of the world, Halloween costumes remain predominantly spooky to this day.

[Image Description: A woman wearing a black costume for Halloween. She is holding a skull which is acting as an accessory.] via Unsplash
Over time, the (all-American) frivolity of Halloween also resulted in some problematic transgressions. This obsession with dressing up as something you consider “exotic” could be a form of cultural appropriation. Remember Justin Trudeau’s blackface moment? Well, such stereotypical representations have often come up. In the past years, Caitlyn Jenner costumes have popped up at several retailers along with some native American headgear. Considering these transphobic and racist costumes, just shows how exploitative the industry can sometimes be. 

So this Halloween make sure your costume does not offend anyone. 

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