American History · biography · history

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera: Activists

This month I wanted to write an article about two figures who made such an impact, yet have been forgotten through time. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera were icons of the LGBT and transgender movement during the 1960s and 1970s.

Forsaken transgender pioneers recognized 50 years after Stonewall

In the mid-20th century, it was still difficult for homosexuals to be open in the world. It was even more difficult for transgender individuals. Those in the LGBT community were ostracized from society. Society still did not want to acknowledge their existence. Most employers excluded and denied opportunities for those of the community. Some were sent to mental institutions to go through shock therapy to “cure” any “unnatural” thoughts. Many had no where to go and were unable to obtain employment. They ended up on the streets after running away or being abandoned by their own families.

This is the world that Marsha P. Johnson entered after graduating high school with $15 dollars to her name. She immediately left her home in New Jersey to move to New York City in 1963. In her hometown, Johnson was not accepted as a transgender female. She experienced harassment by males and in a 1992 interview she stated that she was a victim of sexual assault. She moved to Greenwich Village in 1966 and found a community of people who accepted her. She became a part of the transgender community and participated in drag.

As an open transgender individual, it was nearly impossible to find work. Johnson was living on the street. She would sleep at the movie theaters and even under the tables of the flower vendors. Yet, despite the hardship she lived, she became known as St. Marsha to the people of the transgender community. She was a very brave person. People remembered her for always having a positive attitude and a kind and generous spirit. She would give away her last dollar for someone in need, she would give away clothing and jewelry, and, most importantly, she would provide encouragement and happiness to those who were down on their luck.

Marsha P. Johnson - Stonewall, Quotes & Death - Biography
Marsha P. Johnson

Johnson was very creative with the little means she had. She would use flowers to create floral arrangements to wear on her head, created drag outfits out of thrift store finds and donated clothes, and eventually she would become an entertainer.

Sylvia Rivera was another important figure in New York City. Rivera was born in New York City and was of Puerto Rican descent. She was an orphan living on the streets but found a home in the transgender community. At a young age, she joined the Gay Activists Alliance and fought not only for gay rights but for the inclusion of transgender individuals in the movement. Rivera and Johnson met in Greenwich village and formed a strong friendship.

Throughout their lives in Greenwich Village, both Rivera and Johnson were harassed by law enforcement. They were often arrested and locked up. They lived on the street and sometimes worked as sex workers. Harassment by law enforcement was common for many people of the transgender and LGBT community. There was a bias against them that prevented them from being who they truly were.

In June 1969, The Stonewall Inn, which was known as a popular gay bar, was raided by police. Bars like the Stonewall Inn were important to LGBT individuals as they were places they could be themselves and be accepted by those who were like them. The Stonewall was also one of the few gay bars that allowed drag queens to enter. The Stonewall was often raided. The lights would go out and everyone present had to show identification. Those in drag or without identification were arrested immediately. They were arrested if they were not wearing the required to wear three pieces of “proper gender” clothing. Kissing, dancing, and holding hands with someone of the same sex was also still illegal.

Stonewall riots - Wikipedia

Yet, on this particular night, enough was enough. It is said that Marsha P. Johnson was the one who started the rebellion. Supposedly, throughout the bustle of the raid, Marsha threw a shot glass into a mirror and shouted, ” I got my civil rights!”.  With this inspiration and resistance against the police, other patrons began to follow. They were tired of being treated terribly and manhandled. The crowd began to throw items at police and eventually barricaded themselves in the bar.  After the police dispersed this crowd, for the next few days riots would continue to flare up in in the area. These riots opened the way for many LGBT movements to begin and on its anniversary, the first gay pride parade was held. The story of Johnson’s involvement may have been exaggerated over time, but it is important to the impact of the Stonewall Riots.

Johnson and Rivera would go on to found STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) in 1970. This was a way to assist transgender youth who were homeless and  living dangerous lives on the streets. Both of these women knew the hardship that young LGBT people felt and the violence they experienced from intolerant people and police.  They also noticed that the current gay liberation movement turning a blind eye to assisting the transgender youth.  Sylvia and Marsha created this organization to provide housing and food for those who needed it and gave them a safe haven. Despite having so little, the two found ways to pay the rent to support their STAR home.

Unfortunately, STAR did not last quite as long as the two envisioned due to economic issues and rent increases, but it was influential to the movement and the first LGBT youth shelter in the United States. The organization and its founders would serve as inspiration for future activists.

Stonewall at 50: Transgender activists Marsha P. Johnson and ...

STAR had its own manifesto when it founded in 1970. Below is a copy of what it said which was pulled from Stephan Cohen’s book, The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: ‘an Army of Lovers Cannot Fail’ :

The oppression against Transvestites of either sex arises from sexist values and this oppression is manifested by heterosexuals and homosexuals of both sexes in the form of exploitation, ridicule, harassment, beatings, rapes, murders.

Because of this oppression the majority of transvestites are forced into the street and we have formed a strong alliance with our gay sisters and brothers of the street. Who we are a part of and represent we are; a part of the REVOLUTIONARIES armies fighting against the system.

    1. We want the right to self-determination over the use of our bodies; the right to be gay, anytime, anyplace; the right to free physiological change and modification of sex on demand; the right to free dress and adornment.
      2. The end to all job discrimination against transvestites of both sexes and gay street people because of attire.
      3. The immediate end of all police harassment and arrest of transvestites and gay street people, and the release of transvestites and gay street people from all prisons and all other political prisoners.
      4. The end to all exploitive practices of doctors and psychiatrists who work in the field of transvestism.
      5. Transvestites who live as members of the opposite gender should be able to obtain identification of the opposite gender.
      6. Transvestites and gay street people and all oppressed people should have free education, health care, clothing, food, transportation, and housing.
      7. Transvestites and gay street people should be granted full and equal rights on all levels of society, and full voice in the struggle for liberation of all oppressed people.
      8. An end to exploitation and discrimination against transvestites within the homosexual world.
      9. We want a revolutionary peoples’ government, where transvestites, street people, women, homosexuals, Puerto Ricans, Indians, and all oppressed people are free, and not fucked over by this government who treat us like the scum of the earth and kills us off like flies, one by one, and throws us into jail to rot. This government who spends millions of dollars to go to the moon, and lets the poor Americans starve to death.

S. T. A. R.

Rivera and Johnson continued to be activists in their community. They often organized and participated in protests for gay rights despite the hostility against transwomen from others in the movement. At Pride March in 1973, Rivera was blocked from speaking. She stole the microphone away and, to a chorus of boos, she shouted, “If it wasn’t for the drag queen, there would be no gay liberation movement. We’re the front-liners.”

Marsha P. Johnson would perform at a drag revue called Hot Peaches. The artist, Andy Warhol, took notice of Marsha and included her in a silk-screen portrait as part of his “Ladies and Gentlemen” series. Johnson was also very active in fundraising and assisting those who were suffering from AIDs in the 1980s. Marsha herself had the disease.

In 1992, Marsha’s body was found in the Hudson River. Her death was officially declared a suicide by the authorities with very minimal  investigation. Many of her followers and family believed that her death was not a suicide, but a possible homicide. There are reports of her being followed and she had been the victim of violent attacks prior to her death. Her case was reopened in 2012 and is still being investigated.

LGBTQ pioneers Sylvia Rivera, Marsha P. Johnson to be honored
Sylvia Rivera

Sylvia Rivera continued the fight until her death in 2002. She supported the Transy House which was founded in 1995 by two transwomen (Rusty Mae Moore and Chelsea Goodwin). A descendant of STAR, it provided a safe place for transgender individuals who were homeless or had been kicked out of their homes. It continued until 2008. Rivera continued to push for more trans individuals to become involved in the LGBT movement and continued to give speeches at Pride events around the world. She helped in the fright for the New York City Transgender Rights Bill (gender identity and gender expression is a human right) and the New York State Sexual Orientation Non Discrimination Act (prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing, education, public accommodations, etc.).

In 2019, it was announced that Marsh P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera will have a monument built in their honor in Greenwich Village. This was during the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. This monument will be to honor their work in the early LGBT movement.

I greatly admire both of these individuals and the work they did. They went through so much hardship, yet continued to fight for a cause they believed in and continued to help others before themselves. They were so influential to the LGBT movement, yet I never learned about them in school.  I hope this post will bring their work to the attention of others and I encourage further research into their lives.




Frameline Voices-Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson (This documentary features one of the last interviews by Johnson and interviews from friends/those who knew her)


The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson which was directed by David France and screenplay by David France and Mark Blane. This documentary can be found on Netflix.


The Gay Liberation Youth Movement in New York: ‘An Army of Lovers Cannot Fail’ by Stephan Cohen, 2007.


Transy House

The Unsung Heroines of Stonewall: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

biography · english history · history · Scottish History

Battle of Bannockburn and Robert the Bruce (Part 3)

Part One ( The Great Cause (Part 1) )

Part Two ( William Wallace’s Rebellion (Part 2) )

In 1297, the Robert the Bruce was 22 years old. In part 1 of this series, his grandfather (also named Robert Bruce) was one of the contenders for the Scottish throne but lost to John Balliol. The Bruce family was still one of the most powerful Scottish families and were determined to see their claim to the throne fulfilled. They sided with Edward I when the first rebellions broke out.  This was because they refused to back their rival John Balliol and hoped others would support their claim. Now, the young Robert Bruce, against the wishes of his father, decided to join the Wallace’s rebellion in 1297. In 1298, Bruce was named Guardian of Scotland. His rival, John Comyn (the nephew of John Balliol), was also named co-Guardian. The men disliked each other and again were beginning to split into factions, just like their previous relations. Yet, despite these factions, in 1302 Edward received oaths of allegiance from all parties. Was young Robert the Bruce going to honor this oath?

Robert the Bruce (

In February 1306, Robert the Bruce stabbed and murdered John Comyn in a Franciscan church in Dumfries. The murder was sudden and a shock to everyone, including Edward I. It was shocking not just because one of the Guardians of Scotland had murdered the other, but because it was committed on sacred ground. Comyn was murdered in front of the altar inside a church. Yet this shocking event did not seem to have been planned. After this attack, Bruce’s plot had been revealed. For two years, it seems that Bruce had been forming alliances and support for his retaking of the throne, which would be viewed as an act of treason by Edward I. It seems that in this secret meeting at Dumfries, John Comyn, refused to collaborate in this conspiracy. In a fit of rage, Robert Bruce destroyed his rival.

Robert the Bruce moved swiftly after this event, for now his plot was exposed. He had to begin his war now before Edward I could register what happened. Bruce and his supporters quickly began to take back castles in south-west Scotland and then moved to Glasgow. The city’s bishop, Robert Wishart, had absolved Robert Bruce for his sins at Dumfries (though the pope still excommunicated Bruce) and provided him with a banner with the Scottish royal arms and vestments fit for a king. It seems that these had been secreted away before the English could confiscate them. By the end of March, Bruce had quickly arrived at Scone Abbey (the traditional place for Scottish coronations) and was crowned as King Robert of Scotland. This was witnessed by many Scottish nobles and churchmen which revealed their approval of Robert Bruce’s rebellion. Scotland was declared a kingdom once again.

Edward I was in shock and furious. Robert the Bruce’s swift treason and coronation had come at a complete surprise to the English King. His wrath was so terrible that it affected Edward’s physical health. By this time, Edward was 67 years old and was not as strong as he had once been earlier in his reign. It was difficult for him to give up control of his armies to others, but he was now being carried by a litter. His son, future Edward II of England, was knighted and took up most of the command.

Edward of Caernarfon set out immediately for Scotland with a military force. His father followed at a laborious pace behind, due to the physical pain he was in. After eight years of conflict with the Scots, his latest success had been overthrown quickly. Yet, Bruce was also out of luck.

Robert Bruce was defeated at Methven in June by the forces of King Edward. Bruce had escaped and was now forced into hiding. The support that he had been attempted to obtain with his coronation was fading fast. His brother, Neil Bruce, was captured and executed.  Bruce’s wife, Isabella countess of Buchan, and his sisters were captured and imprisoned in cages that hung off the towers of the castles at Roxburgh and Berwick. They were hung there to send a message to any other rebels that still lurked.

Robert Bruce was on the run from the English. His coronation was only months ago. Was his reign really to end this way? This was likely a distressing and humiliating position for Bruce to be in. He was also worried about his loved ones who had been captured by the English. We know the history now, but at this time Robert the Bruce likely thought he was finished.

Robert the Bruce gained inspiration from a spider. | Ancient Pages
Robert the Bruce and the Spider (

There is a legend about Robert the Bruce that is still told today. According to the story, a disheartened King Robert sought refuge in a dark cave during his period of exile. For a long time, he watched a spider who was trying to make a web across the cave wall. The spider would fall again and again, but always get back up to try to spin its web. Finally, after a long period of work, the spider was able to attach a strand of web to the wall and began to spin a beautiful web. The moral of this story is the cliché phrase, “if at first you don’t succeed…try, try again.” Robert the Bruce took inspiration from this spider to stand up again and face the English. He was not going to give up that easily. If not from the spider, Bruce found his courage somewhere and began a guerrilla warfare campaign against the English in the north of Scotland.

In 1307, Robert Bruce began to crack through English defenses and emerge from hiding as the “redeemer”.  With these small victories, Bruce was destroying the myth of the English invincibility. The exile king began to obtain the confidence of his people again and they began to follow him. Meanwhile, on the English side, Edward I was now 68 years old and his health was in bad shape. There were worries throughout the kingdom that Edward I would not live, which would doom the Scottish campaign. There was, rightly so, a lack of confidence in his heir (Edward of Caernarfon) who was much weaker than his father and less experienced. When Bruce began his attack, Edward of Caernarfon was summoned back north to return to the war, but it seems he decided to take his time in the south with his favorite, Piers Gaveston.

Edward I was, again, extremely unhappy with the turn of events which led to another decline in health. Yet, in response, he left his litter and again mounted his war horse and rode out to take on the Scots. He did not make it. He died on July 7, 1307 in Cumberland, England on the way to war. The loss of such a powerful king was such a blow to the English that his death remained a secret until the heir could arrive. The death of Edward I at this moment was an advantage to Robert the Bruce. A strong leader was replaced by a weaker one.

Edward II had a difficult legacy to follow and could not have been more different than his formidable father. His devotion to his favorites allowed him to be easily controlled and swayed. Edward II was very attached to his male favorites (more likely his lovers), but his taste in men was not very good. Prior to his fathers death, he had become devoted to a knight called Piers Gaveston. His father had banished Gaveston due to how much Gaveston influenced his son. The first act of Edward II’s reign was to recall this favorite to his side.

Edward II.
Edward II of England

Edward II began to gift his favorite coveted earldoms which angered the English nobles. They believed that this “low-born” Gaveston did not deserve the titles that they were entitled too. They demanded the banishment of Gaveston and a restriction to the King’s role in appointments/finances. This eventually led to the nobles capturing and murdering Piers Gaveston. Later in his reign, Edward II found some new favorites in Hugh le Despenser and his son, the young Hugh le Despenser (also likely the kings lover). The Despenser’s took advantage of the weak Edward II and their greed ran rampant. Edward II allowed the Despensers to run wild and put too much reliance in them for the affairs of the kingdom. In the end, Edward II’s own wife, Isabella of France, and her lover Roger Mortimer invaded England and forced Edward II to abdicate in favor of his son, Edward III, in 1326. The Despenser’s were quickly executed.

Though this happens all in the future, it is helpful to see how Edward II differed from his father. His reliance on others, blindness to corruption among his favorites, and his weakness during his abdication shows that Robert the Bruce had a new advantage. Bruce began to chip away at the English strongholds one by one and took back the Scottish castles.

Edinburgh Castle | History, Treasures, & Facts | Britannica
Edinburgh Castle (

Edinburgh Castle is the most besieged castle in British history. There have been 23 attempts to capture the castle throughout its existence. One of these instances was in 1314, by Robert the Bruce and Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray. Randolph was the nephew King Robert and was personally granted the earldom of Moray by his uncle.  In early 1314, Randolph devised the plan to take back Edinburgh Castle from the English. Like Stirling, Edinburgh castle is also built upon an outcropping of volcanic rock and overlooks the city. It is in a great defensive position that would be difficult for armies to reach. Randolph met with a William Francis who knew of a secret way to climb the rocks and enter the stronghold in secret. Apparently, Francis had used the secret way to meet with a lover that lived in town. According to John Barbour’s poem, The Brus, Randolph and 30 men climbed up the rocky cliff under the cover of darkness. It really is an amazing feat when looking at images of the cliff side. One slip would mean a fall to your death. After climbing the wall, Randolph and his men surprised the garrison that was stationed there and seized control of the castle from the inside.

By 1314, Robert the Bruce and his troops controlled almost all of Scotland and began to raid the villages of northern England. The Scots had taken back their castles and were finally united with the same goal. Edward II raised another large army to confront Bruce (which was estimated to be about 15,000-20,000 men). As usual, the Scots were outnumbered with only 6,000 men. Yet, the Scottish army was now experienced after years of raids and guerrilla warfare under the command of Robert Bruce. Bruce, his brother Edward, and Sir Thomas Randolph led the three divisions. These divisions were arranged in the schiltroms formations (as discussed in part 2).

Day 1 of Battle of Bannockburn (

The armies met on June 23, 1314 just south of Stirling castle. The Battle of Bannockburn was a long battle (by medieval standards) as it lasted two days. Edward II’s army found that the road to Stirling had been blocked by the Scots army and was surrounded by boggy terrain.  The English division, led by Sir Henry de Bohun, began to charge when they saw King Robert and his troops emerge. Henry de Bohun had hopes of killing the Scottish King himself to gain the fame and valor. Bruce and de Bohun met in single combat which ended with Bruce splitting the knight’s head with an axe. This legendary contest boosted the morale of the Scottish troops. When the Scots rushed the troops, the English cavalry had to withdraw. The English divisions led by Robert Clifford and Henry de Beaumont moved forward to try and outflank the Scots but failed when the schiltrons (led by Thomas Randolph) emerged from their hiding place in the woods. They took the cavalry by surprise. The English cavalry could not break through the mighty spearmen despite attempting to throw their swords and maces at the Scots. The Scottish army had won the first day and gained strong morale, while the English were humiliated.

Day 2 of Battle of Bannockburn (

On June 24, 1314, Bruce’s divisions of schiltrons advanced against the English forces. In this battle, Bruce did not only use the schiltrons as a defensive position, but as an offensive one as well. They advanced slowly and kept the tight formations that would protect them from the cavalry of the English. The Scottish archers were sent out to bait the English longbowmen to shoot at them and distract those archers as the schiltrons advanced. The English bowmen fell for the ruse. The English also had some infighting between their commanders, Clifford and Gloucester, as to who should lead the charge. The English were unorganized.

As the English cavalry ran into the schiltrons, the arguing commanders and their men were destroyed. The Scottish formations held and continued to push their enemies back. Edward Bruce’s schiltrons pushed the English forces all the way to Bannockburn stream. Their goal was to trap the forces between two streams, the Bannockburn and Pelstream. The Scots revealed their strong discipline to hold these positions and how their training during these years had paid off. By this point, the English longbowmen were useless as the Scots were too close and they archers would risk hurting their own forces. Some of the English archers broke out but were quickly stopped by Sir Robert Keith’s Scottish cavalry. As the hand to hand combat took place between the English and the Scots, Robert the Bruce brought in his own division and with their attack the English were broken. The English fled and Robert the Bruce had just won one of the most legendary battles of his career and of Scottish history.

(I thought this video was very good at illustrating the Battle of Bannockburn, much better than I can explain )

Edward II and the English presence in Scotland was finished. He would never recover from this defeat. The Scots did not stop at Bannockburn and continued to raid into the open lands of Northern England. King Robert the Bruce of Scotland was finally ruler of a united and a free Scotland.

Declaration of Arbroath - Wikipedia
Declaration of Arbroath 1320

In 1320, The Declaration of Arbroath was created. It was a letter written to the pope by the people of Scotland requesting him to recognize their independence and Robert the Bruce as their king. In 1324, the Pope officially recognized Bruce as the legitimate King. In 1328, Edward III (ruler after Edward II was forced to abdicate) was made to sign the Treaty of Edinburgh-Northhampton. In this treaty the English king recognized Scottish independence and renounced the English claims of overlordship. They sealed this with a marriage between Bruce’s son, David, and Edward’s sister.

Reconstructed face of Robert the Bruce before leprosy (left) and after.
2016 facial reconstruction of Robert the Bruce by historians at the University of Glasgow and LJMU (

King Robert the Bruce had finally achieved what so many Scottish kings, nobles, and military had been struggling for years to do. He received recognition that Scotland was independent and defeated the English. Therefore, he is still remembered today as one of the most famous figures in Scottish history. He died in his fifties on June 7, 1329 and was succeeded by his son David II (who would go on to rule Scotland for over 40 years).

I hope this was an enjoyable series and I hope one day I will be able to see all the places mentioned in person!



Bower, Walter and D E R Watt, ed. A History Book for Scots: Selections from the Scotichronicon. Mercat Press: Edinburgh, 1998.

Captivating History. Wars of Scottish Independence: A Captivating Guide to the Battles Between the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England, Including the Impact Made by King Robert the Bruce. Captivating History, 2018.

Hourly History. Wars of Scottish Independence: A History from Beginning to End. Hourly History, 2019.

Morris, Marc. A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain. New York. Pegasus Books, 2008. -“Battle of Bannockburn, 1314 First War of Scottish Independence” HistoryMarche

Goldstein, R. James (1991) “The Women of the Wars of Independence in Literature and History,” Studies in Scottish Literature: Vol. 26: Iss. 1. Available at:

biography · english history · european history · history · Scottish History

William Wallace’s Rebellion (Part 2)

In part one of this series (The Great Cause (Part 1)), Edward I had forced the Scottish nobles and their King to swear an oath of allegiance to him as their “overlord”. As he believed he had finally subjugated Scotland, the English king attended to affairs in other parts of his kingdom. After the betrayal of John Balliol and a failed rebellion, Edward I completely occupied Scotland. He sent soldiers to ensure his rule would continue. The people of Scotland were taken advantage of and abused under this military occupation. Scotland needed a new champion to take up their cause for freedom. Their nobles had failed them with their infighting and military defeats, so it was time for one of their own to pick up his sword.

William Wallace’s background is hazy and was thought to be the son of a minor feudal lord in Renfrewshire or Ayrshire. He seems to have grown up with military training which contributed to his later success. He was a very tall man . He was over six feet when the average male height was about 5’6” (though this physical characteristic was highly exaggerated in legends). Walter Bower (author of  the Scotichronicon) describes him as having “a certain good humour, had so blessed his words and deeds with a certain heavenly gift, that…he won over to himself the grace and favour of the hearts of all loyal Scots.” Bower also described him as “fair in his judgments”, compassionate, patient, and a skilled orator. Yet, English sources would describe him as “a vagrant and a fugitive”, a “bloody man”, and “a chief of brigands” (Morris, pg 303).

Continue reading “William Wallace’s Rebellion (Part 2)”

english history · european history · history · Scottish History

The Great Cause (Part 1)

This month I was supposed to be travelling to Scotland with one of my best friends. Scotland has been a dream trip of mine for a while, but it seems 2020 had other plans for me and so many others in similar situations. I hope to re-schedule, but, in the meantime, I would love to share some Scottish history in a new three-part series. This series will focus on the First Scottish War of Independence (1296-1328). This was a time that was filled with fascinating characters, intriguing military battles, and cunning tactics. On the English side, we have Edward I, “The Hammer of the Scots”. Edward was one of the strongest monarchs in English history, but also has a reputation of being a tyrant. Later, his weaker son, Edward II, will struggle to carry on his father’s legacy. There are some familiar names on the Scottish side such as: William Wallace and the legendary King Robert the Bruce. Along the way there will be a sprinkling of minor characters, including a brilliant sneaky re-capture of Edinburgh by Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray. I am greatly looking forward to this series and I hope it will provide an interesting read!

The Lothians - East, West & Midlothian | VisitScotland
A photo of Edinburgh, which was our travel destination (

In 1286, Alexander III of Scotland died and ended what had been considered a golden age of the Scottish kingdom. At 45 years old, King Alexander decided to risk it all and take a dangerous ride through a stormy night in order to spend the night with his new young bride of twenty-two years old. The next morning, he was found dead at the rocks at the bottom of a cliff. It was a disaster for Scotland as Alexander III had survived all his children and his new young wife had not yet produced an heir. With the throne up for grabs, powerful factions began to form which threatened the stability that had been a constant in the prior Kings reign. The main players were John de Balliol and Robert Bruce (senior, his grandson will become the more famous Bruce). Rebellion and civil war threatened Scotland due to the succession crisis and infighting between the two factions.

Continue reading “The Great Cause (Part 1)”

Ancient History · english history · european history · history

Origins of Quarantine

Our world has changed drastically over the course of just a few weeks due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 virus. I haven’t been to the office in weeks, trips have been cancelled and I have seen very few people for the month of March.  We depend on so much, but don’t realize it until it is gone. Yet, it has this time has given me more time to focus on other hobbies, including writing more for this blog. Across the world we are all going a bit stir crazy in quarantine, but this is not the first-time humans had to isolate themselves in order to protect others.

Continue reading “Origins of Quarantine”

American History · Detroit/Michigan · history

100 Years: Detroit and Prohibition


2020 marks 100 years since prohibition became law in the United States on Jan 17, 1920. The 18th amendment prohibited the manufacture, transportation and sale of alcohol. In the 1820s-30s, a temperance movement gained traction and quickly began to grow. This movement started with religious organizations, but over time other groups of citizens were drawn to it.

Women and those of the suffrage movement were a big part of the temperance movement. To women of the era, alcohol was one of the main reasons their families became disrupted and they believed it tied into the high poverty rates. They believed it corrupted one morally and split families apart. Some men, who were the breadwinners at the time, would drink away their regular paycheck which left the household wanting. Women also felt abuse at the hands of husbands who came home worse for drink and felt it was time to take their stand against this behavior.

“Woman’s Holy War” Library of Congress

The Temperance movement was also a way for women to enter the political sphere and have their voice be heard. Temperance became the largest political movement by women in the 19th century. It wasn’t just women and religious groups though; factory workers also saw the advantage of prohibition as it would lessen work-related accidents and create a safer environment. Yet, prohibition ending up creating more problems than it solved. Continue reading “100 Years: Detroit and Prohibition”

Ancient History · Asian History · biography · european history · history

The Trung Sisters and the use of Morality Laws in Empire      

Throughout history, morality laws have been used by empires to place restrictions on society in order to create a specific image and enforce power. Many times, these laws would especially affect a specific group within the population. The post this month will compare two different ancient cultures and reveal how ancient morality laws were used to place controls on women. It will explore how these restrictions were to help create the ideal society that the leaders envisioned. In the process, some amazing heroines, The Trung sisters of Vietnam, will be highlighted. Even in the current era, morality laws can still be found. In the past decade there have been many debates which affect marriage rights, healthcare, and the choices of particular groups in our society. Many of the ancient laws that are discussed here will seem outdated, but it is interesting to compare to the discussions happening in our world today.

Continue reading “The Trung Sisters and the use of Morality Laws in Empire      “

American History · Detroit/Michigan · history

New Decade, New Goals, and Anniversaries

2020! We have entered into a new decade and it feels like a clean slate. What will happen in the next ten years? How will we change in the next ten years and what will we accomplish? I find it interesting to ponder these questions.

In 2019, I am most proud of the amount of traveling I did. I traveled overseas to Europe for the first time and was able to experience much of the history I read about first hand. I traveled to the west coast of the United States for the first time as well. I already have booked a trip to Scotland with a friend for 2020 and hope to explore even more! The cover photo is a picture of me taken in Zurich, Switzerland.

Returning to the present, I am proud of the work I did on the historynavigator blog in 2019. My goal was to become more consistent and create a post every month. Though I missed two months (one of those months was consumed with my travels to Europe and the other was just laziness), I was still more consistent than 2018. This year I hope to do better and make all 12 months. It is definitely difficult to find the time to do the research and even just figure out topics with work, life, and changes happening. This year, I want to make time to think of these things in advance and start my reading in advance. Is there any topics that you would be interested in me researching ?

Continue reading “New Decade, New Goals, and Anniversaries”

American History · biography · Detroit/Michigan · history

The Italian Hall Disaster and the Copper Strike of 1913

In this post I want to bring attention to the Christmas Eve Italian Hall Disaster. This event is a forgotten piece of history to those outside of the local area. This story takes place in the early 1900s during a time where big corporations were booming and there were essentially no restrictions on how an employer could choose to treat their work force. It begins with local workers who became fed up with the way they were being treated and realized that they should be worth more to their employers. With great sacrifice to many union families, a strike begins. Unfortunately, it will end in a Christmas tragedy, but there will be a legacy that these families left behind. It should not be forgotten.

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art history · biography · european history · history

The Creation of a City of Ladies: Christine de Pizan and her Legacy


Image result for city of ladies manuscript

The female sex has been left defenseless for a long time now, like an orchard without a wall and bereft of a champion to take up arms in order to protect it…

                                                          –The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan, 1405

Feminism in the 15th century? This is considered a rare concept during the medieval period. This was an era of serfs/lords, arranged marriages, and a time when women were viewed as little more than property. This period lacked champions to stand up to the patriarchy that dominated society. Well, such a champion did exist, though many may not have been familiar with her. She is considered France’s (even Europe’s) first profession female writer and was popular internationally. Her name was Christine de Pizan.

Christine is considered one of the first feminist figures as, through her work, she directly addresses many of the injustices her sex had been subjected to. She calls out the injustice of their treatment in a very progressive manner. This is evident in two of her most famous books, The Book of the City of Ladies and The Book of the Three Virtues. Christine’s version of feminism in the 15th century is still not like it is today (as she was still a woman of her time), but it was extremely radical for the period she lived through. I first learned about this amazing woman in an art history course in college and she has been a figure that I have wanted to highlight for a long time now. Continue reading “The Creation of a City of Ladies: Christine de Pizan and her Legacy”