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The History Chicks: Women of the West

The History Chicks is a podcast about famous women throughout history. The hosts are Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenweider. They provide a rapid fire biography of each woman that they discuss followed by an analysis of what is the truth and what is a myth. Graham and Vollenweider have good senses of humor and they will keep you entertained for each episode. History Chicks is an excellent podcast to listen to for celebrating Women's History Month.  

The episode that I listened to is titled Women of the Wild West. The hosts examine the lives of Calamity Jane, Belle Starr, and Annie Chambers. They refute myths and tell their true stories, which they back-up with research.

Graham and Vollenweider first discuss Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Cannary). Though in shows, such as Deadwood, she is romantically involved with Will Bill Hickok, there is no evidence of this occurring. She did ride with him in a carriage on the way to Deadwood but other than her interactions with him were minimal. Though Calamity Jane told people she earned her name through an act of bravery, it was most likely given to her because of the difficult upbringing that she had. There is no dispute, however, over her ruggedness or resiliency. 

Another rugged woman was Belle Starr (Myra Maybelle Shirley). Growing up, she enjoyed haunting, horseback riding and tracking. She set up an establishment called Junger’s Bend that was a haven for outlaws including members of the Junger Gang and Jesse James. Starr was not a woman to be trifled with-she once made a man kiss a horse’s rear end at gunpoint. She was killed under mysterious circumstances, which the hosts speculate was committed by her son.

 Annie Chambers was a savvy businesswoman. She worked as a prostitute before becoming an entrepreneur in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She opened up an upscale establishment in the Red Light District of Kansas City that made her wealthy. At the peak of her career, she earned around a hundred dollars per week, which was substantial income for that time.

The History Chicks is an entertaining and educational podcast. The hosts tell interesting stories about historical figures and they both have good senses of humor. The research that they do in preparation for the show is thorough and the facts they present are fascinating. I highly recommend this podcast to anyone who wants to learn about women legends of the West.

Michael Walsh is an Adult Services Librarian at the Grinton I. Will Library. He is currently reading The Women by Kristin Hannah.


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