Off With Her Head! The Queen of Hearts And Why History Of Women Is Changing
A bit of a story to tell you why there's change in the air.
When Lewis Carroll published Alice In Wonderland, people thought the Queen of Hearts was making fun of Queen Victoria. The scrawny little King running behind her didn’t help. Yup. Queen Victoria and Albert, they whispered.
Mocking the royals in words written for children was a thing. That’s what most nursery rhymes were. (If you’re interested in that, let me know!)
He finally had to fess up.
When Alice in Wonderland made its theatrical debut two years later, he announced that the Queen of Hearts was not Queen Victoria.
He said it was "the concentrated essence of all governesses."
Truth was, the original illustrations looked an awful lot like little Alice Liddell’s governess, Mary Prickett. In the early editions of the first two books, the Queen of Hearts is called “thorny,” a reference to her last name.
The Hollering “Queen of Hearts” wasn’t the only character inspired by a real person.
Normally, I’d lean towards telling you Mary’s story. Because this publication “is” called History of Women.
I could tell you why she might have been mocked in the book. And it’s not the reason you might think. And if you read any history online, it’s not the nonsense people say about maybe Lewis Carroll dated her. Pfft. That’s nonsense. God, I wish people would do the research if they’re writing stories under the guise of history.
I can tell the story if you’re interested. (Let me know in comments)
She’s not the only character inspired by a real person.
You know the Mad Hatter? That was real, too.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, hatmakers used mercury nitrate to make felt for hats. Problem was, mercury made them crazy. Literally. Insane.
Prolonged exposure to mercury causes tremors, speech problems, emotional instability and hallucinations. We didn’t know that until the 1940s and then it was promptly banned. Oops.
In the book, Lewis Carroll never called him the “mad” hatter. He didn’t need to. He just called him The Hatter. The “mad” part was common knowledge. Hatters went mad. Everyone knew that.
Someone, possibly Disney, renamed him the “Mad” Hatter because hatters going crazy wasn’t common knowledge after the 1940s.
And the mad tea party? That was real, too.
In the Victorian era, tea parties were considered a therapeutic activity for inmates at insane asylums. Lewis Carroll knew that because his uncle Robert Wilfred Lutwidge was in charge of organizing tea parties at an actual asylum.
Can you just imagine the stories his uncle could have told?
One more! You know the Dodo?
That was him.
Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who had a terrible stutter. His last name always came out as Do-do-dodgson.
So he put that in the story.
When my kiddo was little, I once ordered her a personalized book. She was the main character. It also featured her kitty and a couple of her friends. Kids love stuff like that. And that’s how Lewis Carroll wrote Alice in Wonderland.
It was for his boss’s kids. So he filled it will characters and places they would recognize. I could even explain the Cheshire Cat, and it’s not drugs. lol.
If you want to know that story, too, let me know in comments!
Normally, I wouldn’t write about all the other characters. Because this publication is called History of Women. So I’d feel compelled to tell the story of one of the women and maybe squeeze a few little anecdotes in.
That’s beginning to feel really limiting.
History isn’t made of just women...
It is entirely true that history has erased a lot of women. And I will continue to tell their stories. One of my top stories here is the real woman who inspired Margaret Atwood to write The Handmaid’s Tale. They called her a witch.
But I don’t want to feel limited to womens’ stories. There are so many other stories I’d love to tell, too.
Like, when Hans Christian Andersen was asked to write a memoir he wrote The Ugly Duckling. It was his story. Mocked, unwanted, called ugly and chased away. Want to know what made him feel like a beautiful swan? Let me know. I’ll write the story.
Or the story of Antoine de St. Exupery, who wrote a charming little children’s story about a man who got in an airplane and disappeared. And then he got in an airplane and disappeared. Never to be seen again. True story.
I even want to tell you about the idiot who stole Einstein’s brain, hid it in a beer cooler in the basement and gave away pieces of it as gifts.
A lot of the stories that draw me are the odd little stories you didn’t know about people and books you do know. History, in a way. But not battles and generals and dates to remember. That’s not the kind of history I like writing.
I am drawn to the strange little stories that touch our hearts in some way and make people from the past as real as you and me. Those are the stories I love telling.
If you’re only interested in Women’s Stories, those will still live in my Medium publication, History of Women. They will appear here, too. But I don’t want to only tell women’s stories. Because there are so many more stories I want to tell.
So that’s where I’m going with this publication.
The name will have to change. To what, I don’t know yet. lol. If you have ideas please feel welcome to share and suggest in the comments.
Just wanted you to know change is in the air.
❤️❤️ If you’re enjoying this publication, please scroll down and click the heart to let me know. I use hearts an an indicator of what you’re enjoying And thanks! ❤️ ❤️
“Begin at the beginning," the King said, very gravely,
"and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
I'm filled with anticipation for a new publication from you. How about "Stories Behind the Stories"? And yes, that could include nursery rhymes as well. Given that you have a "day job", I'm amazed at the level of productivity you have achieved here.
"History of People?" Or "History of People You Never Heard Of Before"?