Holy Hellion.




Holy Crazy Story Batman.

This is Saint Quiteria.

According to Portuguese history- Quiteria was a nontuplet. Yup. That’s what it says- her and her nine sisters were born all at the same time in the 5th century. They were: Eumelia, Liberata, Gema, Genebra, Germana, Basilissa, Marina, Vitoria, and Quiteria. Their mother was so repulsed that she had given birth to nine babies, like some sort of farm animal, that she ordered her maid to drown them in the river. Their father, an important Roman military official was unaware of their birth. ok.

The maid did not drown the sisters, but brought them to a village to be raised together. When they grew up, the sisters opposed the worship of the Roman Gods and started a sort of warrior gang. Supposedly… their father recognized them as adults and ordered them to marry Roman officers, when they refused, the girls were imprisoned. The girl-gang escaped and waged a guerilla war against the Roman Empire.

Quiteria was captured and beheaded and along with two of her sisters, Marina and Liberata, was canonized as a Saint. Her feastday is May 22.

Another legend claims that she was thrown into the sea and emerged from the water with her head in her hands. She is not considered one of the Cephalophores (greek for “head-carrier”- a saint who is generally depicted carrying his or her own head) because there is no written record of this. Her patronage against rabies stems from the legend that says she held two rabid dogs at bay with the power of her saintly voice.

Interesting. I took some liberties with this portrait of Quiteria- mainly I chose to paint her head where it belongs.


Byzantine Bosslady.





I have a LOT more reading to do on this woman- but here’s a quick summary.

Empress Irene (752-803)- Irene Sarantapechaina was born an orphan in Athens, Greece. She married in 769 (by being chosen at a bride-show), became empress in 775 and in 760 served as regent for her young son after her husband’s death. Known to be extremely ambitious and strong-willed, she restored icon veneration- the act of honoring a saint of a person who has been identified as having a high degree of sanctity or holiness (I had to look that up.)

When her son Constantine IV came of age, he seized power from his mother in 790 but eventually made her co-ruler in 797. Mom conspired against her own son, had him blinded, and took it all back. She was the first woman to be the sole ruler of the Byzantine Empire. Fascinating. I will definitely do more research and report back.

where is the wiki page?


Elizabeth Lyska (1878-1896) was a Russian teenager that measured over seven feet. When her father died, she made money to support her family by touring as a human oddity. so sad. She began growing rapidly at the age of 4 and by nineteen measured 7’2″. There is very little information about her- except to say she toured for a few years and died at home when she was 19. There are plenty of sensationalized newspaper headlines from the time period she was on tour:

“She looked shy and awkward, the giant child, as she talked about the room, divesting herself of her coat and hat and somewhat nervously twisting a red silk handkerchief between her great shapely hands” (New York Times)

“A Youthful Giantess- very finely proportioned with wavy brown hair and large dark eyes- she is likely to grow at the rate of an inch every two months” (The Citizen)

” With an open-handed cuff over the ear, she once knocked a young man who teased her senseless to the ground. For breakfast she took several cups of coffee, seven or eight thick slices of black bread, almost a pint of honey, and half a dozen pieces of the fruit in season”        (South London Palace)

We do know that her real name was Elisaveta Philipovna and she was born in the Danube Valley of Russia. She most likely died of a heart attack. Poor girl- the photos of her portray what looks like a very beautiful and sweet girl. You can see these and the newspaper articles here: http://www.thetallestman.com/elizabethlyska.htm

She doesn’t even have a wiki page. what the hell?

Plimoth Plantation


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I just submitted this illustrated map to a fun competition on They Draw and Travel. “It’s a creative and curious world.”

Of course I had to do a history-related illustration, so I chose Plimoth Plantation. And before you say “you spelled that wrong.” You should know that PLIMOTH was the most common spelling as used by Governor William Bradford. There weren’t many rules for spelling in the 17th century- so each writer wrote it as they wanted.

The Plantation is a living museum in Plymouth, MA. Workers at the colony are trained to act, talk, cook, hunt, work, and function just as the original settlers did in 1620. It is a marvelous place. My childhood trips to tour the museum are what developed my love of history. Also on the property is a Wampanoag village. Modern Wampanoag people dress in custom clothing to explain and demonstrate how their ancestors lived.

I highly recommend a trip.

Forty Elephants

Alice Diamond “Diamond Annie” was the leader of an all-female gang in London that specialized in shoplifting (with a dash of blackmail). The gang spanned generations and operated from the late 1700s up through the 1950s. Annie ruled this successful enterprise sometime during the 1920s and 30s. Beautiful and deadly, she wore diamond rings as weapons and had specially made waistcoats chock full of secret pockets perfect for her career.

This gang was pretty impressive (also called the Forty Thieves.) There were a few men involved, but they had a very subservient role in the hierarchy. The well dressed women raided high-end stores in the West End and eluded the police for decades. They operated in groups of 2 or 3 and ran multiple sprees carefully conducted at the same time. Strategic! When a panic ensued throughout the city, the girls simply branched out to smaller towns.

Second in command was Maggie “Babyface” Hughes (who dropped her married name and went back to Maggie Hill). She was the sister of notorious gangster Billy Hill, an organized crime boss known for extreme violence. He ran a scam that defrauded London’s high society of millions of dollars through card games at the Clermont Club. Anyway- so Maggie had a long arrest record. She was once arrested after running out of a jewelers shop with 34 diamond rings. In 1938 she landed a heavier sentence for stabbing a policeman in the eye with a hatpin.

Brian McDonald, author of a  book “Gangs of London” wrote: “On the plus side, they threw the liveliest of parties and spent lavishly at pubs, clubs and restaurants. Their lifestyles were in pursuit of those of glamorous movie stars, combined with the decadent living of 1920s aristocratic flapper society. They read of the outrageous behavior of rich, bright young things and wanted to emulate them.”



Greece Lightning.

Laskarina Bouboulina (1771-1825) was a true hero of the Greek War of Independence in 1821.

IMG_0001She was born in a prison in Constantinople- her father, a naval captain, had been imprisoned for his role in the Orlaf Revolution (a failed coup). After their release, her and her mother lived in Hydra and then later on- Spetses.

Her second husband was a wealthy shipowner. When he was killed in a battle with the Algerian pirates, Laskarina used his fortune and trading business to build four of her own ships- including one of the largest war ships ever built- The Agememnon.

She joined an underground movement that was preparing for the revolution- she was the only woman to do so. Bouboulina also organized her own troops and used most of her fortune to provide food and ammunition for the sailors under her command.

Laskarina died in May of 1825 from a single gunshot wound to the head during a family fight- the family of a local boy came looking for Laskarina’s daughter after it was discovered they eloped.

She was awarded the rank of general posthumously and is hailed as a true heroine who fought alongside men and fought for her country’s independence.


The Dying Swan.


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“I always wanted to dance; from my youngest years… Thus I built castles in the air out of my hopes and dreams” -Anna Pavlova.

Anna was born on February 12, 1881 in St. Petersburg, Russia. Her mother was a washerwoman and her stepfather was a reserve soldier. She claimed that her biological father was named Pavel, but historians cannot seem to find anything out about this mystery man.


They were very poor, but somehow managed to see a performance of The Sleeping Beauty at the Mariinsky Theatre when Anna was 8 years old. With the support of her mother, Anna decided she would become a ballerina.

She was a natural and was recognized for her talents at the Imperial Ballet School. She graduated in 1899 at the age of 18 and because she had graduated a coryphée (a lead dancer) she was able to bypass the usual paths of becoming a dancer and go straight to performing in small groups. Her debut was in the Mariinsky Theatre (how cool is that?)

She went on to a very successful career as a Prima Ballerina, formed her own ballet company and even choreographed her own roles. She toured with her company for two years, and was welcomed all over the world.

She died of double pneumonia at the age of 50. She is one of the most celebrated and influential dancers of her time.

the fire within.

mirabai1Mirabai (1498-1557) was a great saint and devotee of Sri Krishna. She is the most famous of the women bhakta poets of North India. She was the only daughter of Cheif Ratan Singh in the city of Merta. Her mother died when she was about 7 and was raised by her grandfather.

She had an arranged marriage to Bhoja Raj- an heir to the throne of the famous warrior Rana Sanga of the House of Sisodiya. They had no children. She had very little interest in her husband as she considered herself married to Krishna. When her husband died in battle, her family became very hostile towards her detached demeanor and her obligations to her in-laws (who had significantly raised her social status.) Her brother-in-law went as far as to lock her in a room, put iron nails in her bed and even poison her.

Her male relatives had wanted her to commit sati- a practice in which widows light themselves on fire for the purposes of martyrdom after the death of a husband- but Mirabai refused.

After this- she is said to have danced her way from one village to the next on a religious pilgrimage. She spent the remainder of her life devoted to her religious beliefs, writing poems, dancing and singing. She wrote over 1300 sacred songs known as bhajans.

“I am mad with love

and no one understands my plight.

Only the wounded

Understand the agonies of the wounded

when the fire rages in the heart”

events and info

Hello Everyone-

A few fun things to report.

1. History’s Witches, Kindle version, is available for $0.99 this week on Amazon. http://www.amazon.com/Historys-Witches-Lisa-Graves-ebook/dp/B00EA3L2UA/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=8-1&qid=1393873261

2. Big lecture coming up!! I’ll be discussing some interesting women in history at The House of the Seven Gables on March 19th. I’m really looking forward to it! For tickets and info:



3. My second book “Trail Blazers: An Illustrated Guide to Women Who Explored the World” will be released June 9th. We’ll be having a release party May 30th in Easton, MA. More details coming soon.

Enjoy your week and thank you for supporting this blog.

- Lisa


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