DiscoverThe Exploress Podcast
The Exploress Podcast
Claim Ownership

The Exploress Podcast

Author: Kate J. Armstrong

Subscribed: 221Played: 6,813


Join us as we time travel back through history, exploring the lives and stories of ladies of the past, from the everyday to the extraordinary, imagining what it might have been like to be them.
39 Episodes
Time traveling through women's history, one era at a time.
Mid-19th century America was a pretty buttoned-up place. Or was it? For women, marriage and family was their destiny, their lives confined to a small and private sphere. They could toil, but they couldn’t vote; they could work their land, but often couldn’t own it. They were laced into corsets, surrounded by a piece of clothing called a cage. The whole thing sounds pretty...constricting. But women in this era did plenty of fascinating things, both within the boundaries of polite society and well outside of them. That was especially true when the Civil War broke out in 1861. War has as way of rewriting the rules of engagement. In a divided country, many women found themselves driven, and inspired, to become more than they were told they were supposed to be. Let's step into a day in the life of an upper- to middle-class, city-dwelling lady and discover what it might be like to walk in her shoes. We will explore a wide range of topics, from what underwear you might be wearing, how you might go about washing your hair, and what exactly a crinoline cage is to courtship rituals, women's suffrage, the potential absurdity of your wedding night, and having children in 19th-century America. We'll also talk about how the Civil War changed things for women: how it complicated their lives, but also opened doors to a whole new world.
The soldiers called them angels, but they were warriors: They battled bullets, disease, terrible medical knowledge, and the belief that they didn't belong out in the public sphere. Join us as we explore the life, trials, and triumphs of a Civil War nurse.
She was many things: A celebrated teacher, a pioneering civil servant, a battlefield nurse, a public speaker, and a leader of many initiatives, including the American Red Cross. In a time when single, middle-class women didn't have all that many career options, Clara Barton went ahead and had, oh, let's call it five different careers. This dynamo was a woman of many contradictions: she was incredibly shy, but also brazen in her pursuit of her goals; she was anxious and insecure, but also sure and steady. This "Angel of the Battlefield" was a whole lot more dynamic, and more complicated, than you think. Let's reexamine the life of this fascinating character.
Look for the word 'prostitute' in 19th-century America and you'll find it everywhere. But it went far beyond a job description: It was a line in the sand, a punishment for women who dared to step across and act out of line in the public sphere. Let's step behind the velvet curtain of sex in the Victorian era and look at how 19th-century ladies related to it, their bodies, and themselves as sexual beings. We'll explore the lives of prostitutes as well as your everyday lady, from how to find mail-order contraception to steamy pieces of correspondence, and what happens to women's sex lives - for better and worse - during the war. Let's go traveling.
When we think of a Civil War soldier, it's a man we see. But there were women out there on the battlefield, too - hundreds of them - fighting and dying for their cause. Let's travel back into the life of a secret lady soldier to find out why they joined, how they hid their identities, what they faced out in the field, how they were caught and what happened when they were. We'll explore their legacy and impact in their era and how they were almost completely written out of our history books.
Franklin Thompson did it all as a Civil War soldier: spied, rode, nursed, and fought. And during his service, almost no one knew his secret: that he was really Sarah Emma Edmonds in disguise. Emma left home in Canada at 17 to escape a life she didn't want, living as a man so she could make her own way in the world. When the American Civil War came, she felt called to join up and fight for the Union. She had many adventures as a soldier and spy, then went on to write a best-selling book about it all. Twenty years later, she fought another kind of battle: one for a soldier's pension, becoming one of the first women to be granted one. Let's explore the life and adventurous times of this fascinating unsung hero.
19th-century women aren't supposed to be devious - and that's what made them such effective spies. Hundreds of women tied gun parts to their crinolines, baked quinine into bread loaves, hid generals in their attics, and made daring midnight rides for their cause. In this episode, we follow four of them: Union ladies Elizabeth Van Lew and Mary Jane Bowser and Confederate dames Rose O'Neal Greenhow and Bell Boyd. They flirted, tricked, and cajoled the men around them, using their prejudice about a woman's place to achieve outrageous feats of courage and ingenuity. You won't believe what they did, and what they risked, to do their part for the conflict raging all around them.
Victorian America was a very haunted place, and by mid-century the Spiritualist movement was sweeping through it. People went in droves to see mediums - who were mostly women - to try and reach the spirits of their loved ones just beyond the veil. They made tables levitate, answered philosophical questions in front of huge crowds, and found a kind of fame and attention that suffragists would have killed for.
I'm bringing one of my bonus episodes out of the Patreon vault and sharing it with everyone! Back by popular demand, this bonus gives a more in-depth glimpse into sex in 19th-century: specifically the fascinating lives and times of two very prominent madames. One was Washington's most renowned brothel owner, who opened up a gilded bawdy house just a stone's throw from the Capitol building. The other made quite a scandalous splash as the East Coast's most infamous lady doctor/abortionist. Let's talk about sex, scandal, contraception and abortion - about the lives of women of the evening, and the lengths 19th century women went to in order to find a little help in the realm of family planning. If you like this episode, go to, become a patron, and dive right into 2+ hours of bonus content (and counting). I'd love to see you there!
Elizabeth Keckley and Harriet Tubman spent decades in bondage, suffering everything the "peculiar institution" promised before finding very different paths to freedom. What they did with that freedom is nothing short of extraordinary. In weaving together the lives of these two incredible women, a picture emerges: a window into what it might have been like to be an enslaved woman in 19th-century America. In Part 1 of this two-part episode, we'll dive into the world they were born into and their childhood struggles, exploring the trials of their lives in chains...and how they ultimately escaped them.
Harriet Tubman and Elizabeth Keckley took different paths to freedom, and navigating their new world. One because a famous conductor on the Underground Railroad, spending a decade liberating family and strangers alike. The other became a successful dressmaker in the nation's capitol, dressing the leading political ladies of the day. Both showed an incredible work ethic, a hunger for success, and a deep commitment to themselves and to helping others. Let's hear the rest of their incredible stories!
The 19th century's best-selling novel was an incendiary story about the evils of slavery, written by a northern woman who wanted to change the world. Meet Harriet Beecher Stowe, the authoress who refused to sit down and be silent about the peculiar institution. In this bonus episode, let's find out how (and why) she wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, and what about it lit mid-19th century America on fire. We'll also explore what it took to be a lady writer in a time when "working mother" wasn't a thing genteel society wanted you to be. For more bonus episodes, become a patron of the show! Just go to 
America's Wild West evokes images of grizzled men in fringed chaps, but women were also there to help shape the frontier: the pioneer women who fought through many hardships to carve out a life on the dusty plains and the Mexican and Native American women who were already there, trying to hold on to their way of life. What was life like for these women as they traveled by wagon train and set up houses on the prairie? How did women already living there deal with the threat pioneers posed? And what about the cowgirls and lady gunslingers of legend: were they real? Let's find out if the Wild West was a place of freedom for women or if the same Victorian-era rules still applied. Get ready for rough rides, loud bawdy houses, extreme weather, hard work and many, many snakes.
Of all the civilizations in the ancient world, Egypt was perhaps the most prone to the miraculous. They invented many wonders: the 365-day calendar, breath mints, paper, the ramp and lever. And then there’s this particular wonder: ancient Egyptian women had more freedom and power than anywhere else in the ancient world. Why was Egypt such an exception to the ancient rule? What did their lives really look like? Grab a linen sheath, your dangliest earrings, and a whole lotta sunscreen. Let’s go traveling. Music from this episode includes: “Hathor,” “Nefertiti,” and “Lost Tombs” from the album Ancient Egypt by Derek and Brandon Fiechter. “Journey of the Nile, “Festival Dance,” and “Jewel of the Desert” from the album Children of the Nile by Keith Zizza. To support the show and get access to exclusive content, become a Patron.  If you're keen to check out the map and timeline I created just for Season 2, plus a list of my sources and an episode transcript, head over to my website.
Let's continue our day as an everyday lady in ancient Egypt's New Kingdom during the 18th Dynasty. We'll talk about what we're doing for both work and pleasure, go to a feast, and explore medicine, contraception, mummification and the afterlife. Put on your best jewels and let's go traveling. For show notes, head over to my website. While you're there, become a patron of the show and receive bonus goodies by clicking on Become a Patron. (Most) music by Keith Zizza and Derek & Brandon Fiechter.  
In ancient Egyptian, the word "pharaoh" doesn’t mean king; it means “great house”. They had no word for queen at all. All royal women were defined by their relationship to that house: with titles like Great Royal Wife, Great Royal Daughter, Great Royal Mother. They were there to support, not to rule. And yet, in an ancient world where men ruled the day, Egypt saw a slew of influential females stalking the gilded royal halls. Some were royal wives and mothers, whispering in their pharaoh brother-husband’s ear, and some stepped in to rule for him when he was too young to do it himself. But then, others were pharaohs in their own right, beating the odds to rule alone. Who were these women? How and why did they get to be pharaohs, when so many of the ancient world’s major empires never suffered a woman to rule? What was life for a woman on top? And what did they have to do to stay there? Let's start with three amazing ladies: Merneith, Neferusobek (Sobekneferu), and Hatshepsut. For show notes, head over to my website. While you're there, become a patron of the show and receive bonus goodies by clicking on Become a Patron. (Most) music by Keith Zizza and Derek & Brandon Fiechter.
Let's continue exploring the lives of ancient Egypt's female pharaohs. We'll start by talking about Hatshepsut's rise to fame and glory: how she stayed on top and what she did while she was there. Then we'll dive into the stories of Nefertiti, a savvy beauty queen with a fanatical boyfriend, and Tawosret, who wasn't afraid to get blood on her hands on her path to power. We'll travel through several eras, looking at the Egyptian language of power and what these women had to do to prove they were more than capable of ruling their world.  For show notes, head over to my website. While you're there, become a patron of the show and receive bonus goodies by clicking on Become a Patron. (Most) music by Keith Zizza and Derek & Brandon Fiechter.  
For millennia, brewing was overwhelmingly a woman’s game. You can’t research beer’s history without stumbling across female brewers. So why, when we conjure up an image of a brewer, is it a dude we always picture? How did beer, both the brewing and the drinking, become overwhelmingly a “man’s drink”? To find out, we’ll explore how beer was made in the ancient world, then hop forward through time up to the present, following a particular story through history: the relationship between women and beer. Their connection to one of the world’s oldest beverages will probably surprise you; it may even change your relationship with that IPA currently sitting in your fridge. Episode includes an interview with modern-day lady brewer Flora Ghisoni of Colonial Brewing Co. Selected music by Kevin Macleod and Keith Zizza. To become a patron of the show, check this out.
Ancient Greece is notorious for keeping women silent, veiled, and firmly fixed beside the loom. But was life for the ladies in places like Athens really so restrictive? What did they get up to behind those veils and shaded screens? Let's time travel back to the Classical period to find out what it was like to be them. To check out the show notes, go here. If you'd like to give a one-off donation or become a patron of the show, check out my Patreon page. Music composed on replicated lyres of antiquity (cool!) by Michael Levy, licensed through AKM Productions. Show theme song by Paul Gablonski. Featuring the voiceover stylings of Katy and Nathan at Queens Podcast, Genn and Jenny from Ancient History Fangirl, and Shawn at Stories of Yore and Yours.
Comments (5)

Desiree Plumley

This is exactly what I was looking for and needing desperately. Thank you!

Oct 23rd
Reply (2)

Amanda Hughes

Loving this new podcast, its a great addition to my lineup. When can we expect a new episode?

Oct 10th
Reply (1)
Download from Google Play
Download from App Store