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Sunday, May 6, 2012

Women Through The Centuries

“Thank you, gentlemen, for attending this board meeting on such short notice,”stressed Beatrice Smyth. She continued, “As the board knows, we are on the edge of possibly losing our cornerstone account, the Jeep account.I don’t have to tell you how important this account is to our firm; it’s everything we have prided ourselves on in this agency. The Jeep account can take our agency where we need to go to position ourselves in the year 2100.The competing advertising agency is tough, but we can go one better. Because today, ladies and gentlemen of the board, I personally am going to visit the Jeep marketing team and ask the burning question, “Does Jeep want the lowest cost agency work, or do they want a partner?”Beatrice has such conviction!“Board Members, I tell you we will have our largest account back by 4pm today,” Beatrice promises.
Later that day, about 4:35pm, Beatrice phoned her secretary, “Brian, chill the Dom Perignon Champagnes, I am on my way back to the office with the signed Jeep contract!” Beatrice screams, “YES”. She struts into her lavish office, while top management is waiting to toast THE sales closer, Beatrice. “Tell us Beatrice”, asks a top sales executive, “What is the secret you possess to always close the biggest deals?” As Beatrice sips her champagne, her eyes beam, her smile looks rather defiant, she delivers, “It’s a gift”.
She dashes off from the office in her Mercedes CLK550, checks her answering machine from her cell phone.She finds she has one message from her maid asking her not to forget she scheduled a home massage, manicure, pedicure, and facial at 8pm. The maid elaborated that she baked fresh chicken tortellini and that bank phoned and left a message.The bank asked if Beatrice could stop by on her way home and pick up her safety deposit box contents, as the branch is moving locations.The bank manager would wait at the bank for Beatrice’s arrival.After Beatrice retrieved this message, she made a quick detour tuned and headed up the Pacific Costal Highway towards Laguna Beach Trust Bank.She pulled into the lot, knocked on the bank door and the branch manager, good ‘ole Harold, opened the door and let Bea in. “Well hello, Bea”, Harold continues, “I hope this is not an inconvenience of you to pick up your safety deposit box contents, but we really much have them cleared out by the owners for the move.I can follow you home and make sure everything is ok, Bea.” “No thanks, Harold, I am sure I am quite sale, but thank you anyway.”Bea replied in a condescending manner.Harold got the safety deport box and proceeds to help Bea put the contents into her briefcase. Beatrice forgot what all she had in her deposit box, she especially forgot about me.
What am I you might ask? I am a shiny gold piece from the sixteenth century.
What a pleasure to have Beatrice’s eyes stare at me again with their trancelike power.Not to mention how happy I was to get out of that box in the bank vault.Somehow I knew destiny would get me out of there and back into Beatrice’s life again, and the bank move was the perfect way.“I forgot all about my gold piece,” Beatrice informs Harold. “It sure is a beauty,” Harold comments.“Well, Harold, I’m off.I have some celebrating to do tonight,” Bea informs him.“Your ad agency sure is a terrific success,” Harold blurts out.“Blood, sweat, and tears, Harold,” Bea sharply interjects.“Now that you have made it, Bea, maybe you should think about settling down”, Harold advises. “Why on earth would I want to do that, Harold? I have all the best life has to offer.” On that note, Bea exits.
Bea carries her briefcase into her newly built custom home.She proceeds to the dinner table, drinks more champagne, giggles for a while, and then she waits for the masseuse to arrive at her home for her spa treatments. After a miraculous massage, a marvelous manicure, a perfect pedicure, and fabulous facial, Bea runs her bath water with detoxification bath salts. Bea strolls into the bathroom.“What a great coin, Bea tells me, “If only could could talk, little coin, I am sure you could tell some marvelous stories,” Bea says to me.Bea sets me down on the vanity, relaxes in the whirlpool, and drinks off to a light sleep.In her dream, she goes back in time, back to the seventeenth century.
In her dream, Bea asks me, “Where have you been little gold coin, and what stories do you wish to share with me?” So Bea and I began to travel, we started off in the seventeenth century, in the Jamestown colony…
“I would like to thank you from the bottom of my hears, Pocahontas, for saving my life,” beamed Captain John Smith (military leader of the months-old Jamestown settlement). “I thought sure the Indians would have my hide, and you actually flung yourself over me as the Indians were about to club my head.Then as if you hadn’t already stuck your neck out for me, you pleaded for my release and return.I shall never forget you for this, Pocahontas.What can I possibly do for you in return?” cried Captain Smith. Pocahontas replied, “I want nothing in return; I want all of us to become united; to live in peace and harmony.” Captain Smith continued, “I really must give you something to show my gratitude to you….will you accept this token gold coin to always remember how important you are to me?” Captain Smith reaches in his pants pocket and pulls me out.
Naturally I am glad to be traded to a hero like Pocahontas. I just have this feeling she is going to accept me.I can tell by the way she is looking at Captain Smith. Yes, she holds out her courageous hand and I am clutched in her grip.Little does she know what greater tasks will wait the gentile Pocahontas. She put me in a little leather pouch which she always wears around her neck.We travelled together everywhere. We were frequent visitors in the settlement at Jamestown. We bore many gifts of food to relieve the hard-pressed settlers. She was so playful, everyone loved Pocahontas. Her friendship was instrumental in helping to preserve peace between the settlers and the Indians. Many nights we sat around a campfire and sang songs and told tales. The most exciting part was when someone would ask Pocahontas about saving Captain Smith’s life. She would get all excited and then open the pouch and show me off to all the settlers. Oh how shiny and beautiful I am! Everyone wants to hold me and look at me.It is rather exhausting being tossed around and heated up so hot by all the settlers’ hands. Yes, we had many a tale to tell, many a song to sin, and much excitement.
After Captain Smith returned to England, however, relations between the Indians and the settlers gradually deteriorated.Pocahontas and I seemed to have been abandoned by our English friends.Then Captain Argail took Pocahontas and me prisoners from the Indians and attempted to exchange us for some English prisoners held by the Indians.We were treated well, though, in our captive state.Captain Argall made sure we were quite comfortable and treated us with great courtesy. We were later converted to Christianity, although I was always a Christian.Pocahontas was christened Rebecca, and in 1614, with the approval of both Governor Sir Thomas Dale and Powhatan, she married John Rolfe, a settler who had experimentally introduced the tobacco culture to Virginia. In the spring of 1616, we all sailed with Governor Dale to England, where Mrs. Rolfe and I were presented at the court of James I.
We had quite a time of it in England. Oh, it was truly great to be home. I missed all the tea times and the prim and properness of England as compared to the life in the wilderness in the colonies. Life was easier in England, not full of hardship and fear like in the colonies. Pocahontas’ life was a very fulfilled one at that.We spent many years together. She always treasured me until one day in 1616, we parted ways. A servant was cleaning one of our rooms and saw me lying on the dresser. She snatched me up, put me in her pocket, and carried me off to her small apartment. Later, she was accused of this crime and many others and imprisoned for the rest of her life. No one found out.I was well hidden in the attic of a friend’s house.The servant left me in a trunk full of her ‘findings’.I was ignored for one hundred years. Finally, a child found me while playing in the attic of this old, decrypted house.The little Italian girl and her parents were visiting some friends in England. She pinched me and stared hypnotically at me.She wondered how much money I must be worth. We would play up in the attic for hours. She and her playmates would dress-up in all the old ball gowns that were stored in a trunk. They would laugh and giggle, but I especially noticed how the little Italian girl would light up as she gazed in the mirror while she was dressed up. She would look older, talk older, prance around, and giggle constantly. But she never showed me to anyone else.
The little Italian stayed in England with her family. They lived a very humble life. However, that was not what this little girl had in mind. She grew up and became one of the most notorious procurers in England. Her taste in gowns flourished. She became Madame Cornelys. The Madame ran a salon that attracted the wealthy and the noble. Her Carlisle House in Soho, London opened with great ‘pomp’ and offered gentlemen sophisticated balls and masquerades at which Madame Cornelys provided scores of great, beautiful women of the evening at equally great prices. Many women worked for the Madame, longing for a chance to eat good food, dance with wealthy noblemen, and wear lavish gowns. The little Italian girl from Tyrol herself had been the mistress of the great Casanova, giving him a son. Madame Cornelys’ place was the most talked-about salon in Europe. Horace Walpole wrote that she catered to “both the righteous and ungodly” customers. Royalty and members of parliament attended her masquerade balls regularly. Churchmen, however, begged the novelist and magistrate Sir John Fielding to close down this glorified house of prostitution. Fielding charged Ms. Cornelys with presenting dramatic performances without a license. This would enable them to open an investigation into her real activities as a brothel owner.A grand jury indictment later charged that “she does keep and maintain a common disorderly house, and does permit loose and idle persons, as well as men and women, to be and remain during the whole night, rioting and otherwise misbehaving themselves.”
Madame Cornelys was ruined.She sold off the lavish furnishings of the Carlisle House to support herself. Money was tight in England and I thought she would sell me outright. Heaven knows I had enough excitement, in the Madame’s possession. But she never sold me. We moved to Knightsbridge where the Madame opened another bordello, however, this one failed. Her notoriety prevented the wealthy from openly patronizing her. Madame Cornelys fell so low that she was sent to debtor’s prison in 1772 and died there seven years later. I, however, was briefly passed around hand-to-hand and once again found myself back in the Americas.
Once again, I was being traded, to a very powerful women and former slave named Harriet Tubman. The year was 1855; Harriet had successfully completed another journey across the Mason-Dixon Line. From 1855 to 1860, Harriet and I freed many Black slaves, thousands in fact.These ‘crossings’ on the five hundred miles of the underground railway to Canada, were dangerous, but at the same time so rewarding! Harriet never lost a passenger. It was as if a guardian angel was always present with us on our emancipation crusades. Tubman would sing to warn of her arrival guided at night by the North Star. Armed with a gun, she also made it clear that all would move on, or die. A reward of $40,000 was issued for Harriet. But that never stopped her. Tubman also sang and danced to old Maryland songs at rallies to raise money for the Anti-Slavery Society. Furthermore, during the Civil War, she dressed in the dark blue union uniform and in 1863, armed with a rifle; she and Colonel Montgomery led three hundred soldiers on a raid to free more than seven hundred slaves on the banks of the Combakee River. Thousands of Black slaves owed their freedom to Harriet, but I did a lot of praying for all of us. I have very fond memories of Harriet. In 1865, an ungrateful former slave stole me from Harriet. He sold me to a pawn shop and I sat on a shelf collecting dust, until a very adventurous journalist named Elizabeth Cochrane purchased me. The sales clerk recognized her a Nellie Bly (her pen name). I liked Nellie right away and knew we would have a lot of fun travelling together. Nellie became world famous when in 1890, she and I went around the world by boat, train, and horse in just over seventy-two days. This beat the fictional record set by Pileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s, “Around the World in Eighty Days”.
Throughout our travels together, Nellie covered social questions such as divorce, slum life, and conditions in Mexico for the various newspapers she wrote for. In 1887, she wrote for “New York World”, for which she exposed the conditions in which the insane lived by pretending to be mad and getting herself committed to the asylum on Blackwell’s Island. She took me with her. Talk about a bunch of crazies! I really got around with Nellie. I learned so much about the social conditions and cultures around the world.
Nellie was a very striking woman and certainly independent, but when she met Robert Seaman, a millionaire, she preferred to retire. Retirement for me was not as fun as travelling around the world. Robert and Nellie were very happy, considering he was fifty years her senior. Strangely enough though, Robert died in 1919 and Nellie died shortly after in 1922. I was sold off in the estate sale.
Little did I know my next owner would be one of the most fun women of all! I was purchased at the estate sale by the great Mae West. Mae was misunderstood by many. I, however, would like to think I knew the “inner” Mae. Probably the most fun we had together was in 1928, when she starred in the title role in the play, Diamond Lil, a character which later became her alter ego. Mae always took me with her for her good luck charm. Her public side became a fixture; she was a wisecracking, ironic brazen woman, sure of her fatal attraction to men and not embarrassed by it. Mae was what women needed in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Men were so used to dominating women, making them insecure of their own sexuality. Mae tried to show women that it was just fine to enjoy sex. In fact, Mae used her sexuality to level the playing field between men and women. In her own way, she tried to set women free. What used to enslave a woman to men, Mae was trying to show them could set them free.
Mae and I parted ways in the 1940’s when she passed me on to her faithful companion and maid, Betsy. Betsy worked for Mae for years. Betsy had a family of her own and gave me to her first grandchild, Megan Malone. Megan was a beautiful little child. She was fascinated with my shiny gold color.
Megan was an excellent swimmer. She used me for a good luck charm as well. We won many swimming meets. In fact, Megan won a scholarship to UCLA for swimming. We had a great college campus life. Then Megan met Alex. Alex was summa cum laude at UCLA, a graduating senior, being heavily recruited by top Fortune 500 companies. Alex was handsome, to say the least, a top athlete, and generally the most sought after bachelor at UCLA. Megan and Alex fell deeply in love. Alex’s career skyrocketed soon after graduation and Megan was still swimming and attending UCLA. A decision would have to be made; Alex was being transferred to San Francisco. Alex proposed marriage, Megan accepted. At the urging of her friends, she quit UCLA and competitive swimming and became Alex’s wife. They were the perfect couple. Alex did not want Megan to have a career; someone had to coordinate the building of their new home in San Francisco. Megan was very busy being the perfect corporate wife. As time went by, Alex and Megan had three wonderful children. Megan had a very happy home life. Even though their marriage was a very fulfilling one, Megan always wondered what it would have been like if she continued swimming and graduated from college. She often used to stare at me and say, “Would I have won the gold medal, would I have had a successful career, would I have owned my own company?” Even though she never let on to anyone else of her regrets, I knew how she felt. I knew there was a constant internal conflict of living in Alex’s shadow. In fact, one night she picked me up and said ”Oh, if I could only do it over again, I love my family, but I would have become the successful person that I always wanted to be.”…
“That’s the end of our little journey, Beatrice,” I told her. “You will wake up from this dream and remember all of its contents. It is no coincidence, Bea, that you are so strong, experienced, and determined to be successful. You see, it is your destiny to lead. Today, like in the past, you will do what you have to do to win and to make things happen. Your failures in the past have made you stronger. Concentrate on this Bea,” I lectured. “How do you seem to know about my past? “Bea asks me. “We just visited your past, Bea,” I told her.
Beatrice tossed and turned and woke up in a cold sweat! She leaped up out of the whirlpool, grabbed a towel and ran to the dresser. She picked me up and looked at me, then looked in the mirror and said, “Was I really there, or was it just a dream?”

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