The First Female Olympic Champion to Strike Gold

The first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens, Greece, April 6–15, 1896. Women athletes could not participate for ninety-four years. Hélène de Pourtalès of Switzerland became the first female athlete to compete at the Olympic Games and the first female Olympic Champion to strike gold. About Hélène Hélène de Pourtalès (pronounced El-én day Por-tá-lay) was born in New York, New York on April 28, 1868 to Henry Barbe and Mary Lorillard Barbey.They named her Helen Barbey.  Her father was an affluent financier. Her mother came from a family whose wealth came from a tobacco empire. Helen inherited her passion for horses and love of sailing. Her uncle, Pierre Lorillard IV, lived in Newport, Rhode Island and helped make it a yachting center. He was also a Thoroughbred racehorse owner. On April 25, 1891, Helen married Hermon Alexander, Count von Pourtalès, (1847–1904). He was a captain of the Cuirassiers of the Guard, a heavy cavalry regiment of the Royal Prussian Army. She became known as Hélène de Pourtalès. Hélène had dual citizenship, Swiss and American. Her husband had dual Swiss-German nationality. They had three daughters. In 1896 Europe’s most prominent families had personal flotillas. Among them were members of the […]

Wife, Mother, Patriot, and Revolutionary War Spy

She was a wife, mother, patriot, and Revolutionary War spy. The only female in George Washington’s Culper Spy Ring (aka Setauket Spy Ring), Anna Smith Strong, had an ingenious way to send messages under the noses of the British… her laundry. The British Take New York City The American Revolutionary War had been raging for six months. In late August 1776 under General William Howe, a force of 30,000 British Regulars, 10 ships of line, 20 frigates, and 170 transports engaged George Washington’s troops at the Battle of Brooklyn.   The British outflanked George Washington’s Continental Army. But General Howe did not storm the redoubts at Brooklyn Heights. That allowed Washington and his troops to retreat to Manhattan by boat. The Americans suffered 1,000 casualties to the British loss of only 400 men. On September 15th, the British occupied New York City. This gave the British control of the Hudson River. The river split the rebellious colonies in half geographically.  Shortly after that British authorities caught Nathan Hale. They caught Hale on his way back to his regiment after gathering information behind the British lines. They hanged Hale in New York City, a warning for all spies. The Continental Army’s […]

Unconventional Women of History No One Taught You About

It takes a strong woman to face a world that doesn’t value her gender. Some are strong enough to make the world see her, to value her. Historical labels for those who were born one gender but identified as another included monstrous, perverse, or insane. We may never know their truth. Only the tip of hidden history, this is an introduction to unconventional women of history no one taught you about. Eleanor Rykener  December 1394 court records documented the arrest of Eleanor Rykener (also known as John Rykener) London during December 1394 for a sex act with a man while dressed as a woman. She wore women’s clothing and worked as an embroideress, prostitute, or barmaid. Records are incomplete. But to many Rykener was a trans-woman. Wikipedia has a short and fascinating article on Eleanor. Moll Cutpurse Mary Frith or Moll Cutpurse (c. 1584–1659), royalist, pick pocket, fence, and pimp, had a “boisterous and masculine spirit.” She wore britches, smoked a pipe, carried a sword, and drank in taverns. Learn about Moll. The Chevalier d’Eon  Declared a boy at birth, Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont (1728-1810) was the son of a minor aristocrat. His family secured him a position in civil […]