WYSK: Scotland’s Botanical Babe, Elizabeth Blackwell.

Elizabeth Blackwell

In this WYSK, let me introduce you to one hella determined Scottish artist. Her story is inspiring and wild, and her hard work as a successful illustrator in the 1700’s is definitely worth the read. This is the story of Elizabeth Blackwell, Scotland’s botanical babe.

Elizabeth Blachrie was born some time in the early 1700s, in Aberdeen, Scotland. Her father was a successful merchant, and she lived a relatively comfortable life; she was trained as an artist, and had a real talent for creating beautiful illustrations.

There’s not much written about Elizabeth’s early life, but her story picks up when she secretly marries her second cousin, Alexander Blackwell. Blackwell was an educated man, who ran a medical practice in Aberdeen, where he worked as a doctor – despite having no medical training. The couple stayed in Aberdeen while this questionable business was operating, but when Alexander’s qualifications were challenged, he and Elizabeth packed their things and moved over 500 miles away, to London.

Arriving in London, Alexander became associated with a publishing firm, and the couple began a new life together; enjoying luxuries, becoming parents to a son and daughter, William and Ann, and experiencing family life in the capital. Things seemed pretty good for the Blackwell’s.

With a little experience gained in the publishers, Alexander decided to set up his own business – neglecting the fact publishers had to have four years training and belong to a guild before they could trade. He was heavily fined by local authorities for flouting the rules, and between the penalties and his lavish spending, the Blackwell’s found themselves heavily in debt. The publishing business was closed down, and Alexander was sent to a debtor’s prison.

Desperate and essentially destitute, with her two children to take care of, Elizabeth found herself in dire straits. By a stroke of fate, she came across a physician’s book, which described and depicted plants from the New World and their medicinal properties. She had an idea, so crazy it just might work.

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There Will Be Blood: Ancient Warrior Queens of Vietnam

A traditional Vietnamese Dong Ho painting on Dzo paper, depicting the Trưng Sisters riding into battle; shared by the VN Women’s Museum.

Let this little Haggis take you back to a time long, long ago; to a place far from the reach of the ancient Roman Empire, but very much in the grasp of the next best (see: worst?) thing – Han China.

In 40AD Nanyue, or Nam Viet, a revolution was stirring, and two sisters atop the backs of elephants were about to lead the charge against their Chinese overlords. The daughters of a provincial sheriff, highly educated in literature and martial arts – among other things like war strategy and handling dangerous weapons –  were a hurricane; a force to be reckoned with.

For over 150 years before these heroines were born, Han China had used what is presently modern day Vietnam as a vassal state, “a foreign servant”, and heavily taxed the locals, exploited and abused them, and imposed a patriarchal Confucian ideology upon the once matriarchal society. When Trưng Trắc and Trưng Nhị were in their 20s, this colonialism was still in force, and they sought to topple it, along with their oppressive governor, To Dinh.

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Love Is In the Eye of the Beholder: A love-letter to a beautiful Georgian Era trend.

Have you ever been stumped on a gift for your significant other? What to get for a loved one who has everything already? How about something more intimate than a pair of new socks? Something that discreetly says “I love you, I’m yours” better than any Ferrero Roche and a box set of Game of Thrones can…

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La Loba, Inside All of Us; Sunday reading recommendations.

It’s Sunday! My favourite day of the week to relax in my PJs and read a book in bed. Since it’s my favourite day, I thought I’d share an excerpt from one of my favourite books, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It’s a collection of myths and legends from around the world, focusing on women, wilderness and nature, and how a parallel exists between them. An essential piece of literature for anyone interested in folklore and feminism, this book made an impact on my life several years ago, and to this day I often think about how we can all live our lives a little bit more like a Wolf Woman. If you enjoy the excerpt, you can find a PDF copy here, or you can buy the book (ebook and hardback) on Amazon and Kobo, linked below. Happy Sunday Haggis Friends!

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A moment in Hair-Story: The Guillotine Haircut

Introducing the macabre OG pixie cut, and a ticket to the most exclusive ball in town. The Guillotine Haircut was fashionable among men and women whose relatives had been escorted up creaky wooden steps to the guillotine. Before their loved ones were dispatched, their hair was roughly cut by the executioner – using a comb called a cadenette – to avoid any interference with the smooth cut of the blade.

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Tattooed ladies: Victorian society’s quiet love affair with body art.

Tattoo culture is so mainstream now, that it’s a bit of a task to find someone who doesn’t have one – men or women. Once seen as something predominantly masculine, today we regularly see women (myself included) with ink – but this isn’t something exclusively 90’s-2000’s. In fact, tattoos were relatively popular in the upper echelons of Victorian Society’s ladies, who used body art to become “more fascinating”.

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“Hello Clarice…” – A Brief History of Face Masks

Face masks are an obsession for me… When I’m shopping at the super market or passing the cosmetics shop on my way to work, I just have to buy a few more to add to the ever-growing collection in my fridge. With Vietnamese air pollution and my skin showing how tired I am from kindergartners climbing me like a tree on the regular, these babies are my go-to when I need a boost! But where did these things start out?

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