9/30/2008

Woman of the week - Matilda of Flanders

Name: Matilda (sometimes also known as Maud)
Born: c. 1031
Dead: 2 November 1083
Married to: William, duke of Normandy, later king of England
Children:
About 11
Occupation: Duchess of Normandy, queen of England

Like many other medieval figure it is sometimes hard to discern what is legend and what is the actual historical truth about Matilda. Much is of course due to the fact that the sources do not say that much and when there is a lack of sources the imagination can run more freely, filling in the gaps.

We do not even really know what she looked like since no contemporary portrait of her survived - she is not portrayed on the Bayeux tapestry, like her husband was. This statue was made in 1850 by the artist Carle Elshoecht (and can be found in Paris).

But if we try to discern history from later legends a good outline of her life can be drawn. She was the daughter of count Baldwin V of Flanders and Adèle, a daughter of the French king - which made her descendant also to the English king Alfred the Great. She married William, duke of Normandy, in c. 1053. He had yet to conquer the English throne and he was a bastard son which would make her more noble - but the duchy of Normandy was a very strong province only loosely attached to the French throne so the difference of birth should not be stretched too far.

By all accounts it was a happy marriage, William was a faithful husband (!) and they had about eleven children in 14 years. They had four sons, but the exact number of daughters is a bit unsure. They were probably somewhere between five to seven. Two of her sons would live to be kings of England, but not her oldest who was made duke of Normandy but rebelled against his father and therefore lost his place in the succession - this was a time when first-born did not automatically meant you was first in line to the crown.

Matilda was a capable ruler, not just a pretty plaything for a king. She took care of things in Normandy when her husband went to England to rule over there - though he spent quite a lot of time in Normandy too. It was long believed that it was Matilda that was behind the Bayeux tapestry, that tells the story of the conquest of England (and in France it is still known as 'La tapisserie de la reine Mathilde' [Queen Matilda's tapestry]), but know it is generally believed it was commissioned by William's half-brother, bishop Odo.

Matilda died when she was about 52 years old, and she was buried in L'abbeyae aux dames in Caen, France - one of the two churches she and her husband founded as a penance when the pope opposed the marriage, the two were related by blood.

9/26/2008

Fashion of the week - Evening wear of 1913


These two evening-dresses from the French magazine Journal des demoiselles (the issue of December 1st, 1913) is a great example of the fashion of the Belle Époque, the time of beauty and soft lines, not altogether natural shapes of the women wearing and a general excess of everything - the time that would come to a grinding halt with the First World War. This is from the year before and to most people it was a time to act like nothing would change in this world - especially if you were a member of the upper classes, the classes that could afford dresses like this.

The blue dress is both more daring and artistic with it's irregular shape and form, the adding of the fur trim and the deep neckline that must have revealed quite a lot of the bosom of it's wearer. The yellow dress is more girly with it's flounces all along the skirt and even around the neckline - both in back and front (as can be seen in the little drawing next to the big version of the dress). The dress does not reveal as much skin as the other does either.

Both women have obviously long hair, but pinned up and it gives both women a rather flat coiffure, in spite of the curls and waves. The blue-dressed lady has her hair-do topped by some feathers while the other one has left her hair unadorned. On the other hand doesn't the lady on the left wear any jewellery, while the yellow-clad one shows a long string of pearls - a type of necklace that would be very popular indeed in the time after the great war.

9/24/2008

Pop-culture woman of the week - Tifa Lockhart

Name: Tifa Lockhart (ティファ・ロックハート)
First appearance: Final Fantasy VII
Creator: Tetsuya Nomura
Weapon/ability: Martial arts (and a glove)
Race: Human
Age: 20

Tifa is the childhood acquaintance of the video game Final Fantasy's main protagonist Cloud Strife. They both grew up in the small town of Nibelheim and though they lived next door they were not really close - especially not since the time when the two of them were involved in an accident which gave Tifa a concussion and she remained unconscious for some time and her father blamed Cloud. Cloud then decided to leave Nibelheim to become an elite soldier, before he leaves she asks of him to come and rescue her if she ever would get into trouble.

But Tifa is not a sweet girl just sitting around at home, doing nothing. She learns martial arts from the expert Zangan and acts as a guide in the mountains. All is going well for her until the main villain of the game, Sephiroth completely loses it and decides to burn down Nibelheim. He succeeded and many of the inhabitants, Tifa's father included, is murdered. Tifa is enraged by this and tries to take Sephiroth down herself - and is nearly killed herself in the process. Cloud is there and saves her - but this she doesn't remember herself.

Having lost both home and family (Tifa's mother died when she was little) she moves to the big city of Midgar and opens a bar there, 7th heaven, with an underground resistance-group in the vicinity too, the Avalanche. It is after this she was more meets Cloud, who apparently has left his elite force after becoming one of the first ranked. He is somewhat disoriented and confused and Tifa is worried about him and persuades him to join Avalanche. This is the beginning of their adventure to safe the world - though they are not aware of this to start with.

Tifa appears in several of the follow-up games to the massive hit Final Fantasy VII. This includes the movie Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children, set two years after the game - in which Tifa once more has a bar, but also takes care of children orphaned after the near-destruction of the world.

Tifa was designed by Tetsuya Nomura with concept art by Yoshitaka Amano - as can be seen here. She was not included in the first drafts of the game, but was later added as a key-figure and a contrast to the other main female character, Aerith. This is shown both in clothing (Tifa has a short skirt, initially there was a debate if she was to have a skirt or shorts, and Aerith a long dress) and their personality - Tifa has a lot of emotions too, but she spends most of her time hiding them and is rather shy.

9/23/2008

Photo of the week - Augusta Schack

Date: 1870's
Photographer: Chr. Neuhaus
Sitter: Louise Augusta Schack, nee Olivarius
Provenience: Copenhagen

The sitter of this photo is Augusta Olivarius who in 1876, on June 7th 1876 married the vicar Albert Schack. She was herself the daughter of another vicar, C.A. Olivarius, from Aagerup-Kirkerup, Denmark. By the time of their marriage he was working in Raklev and the following year he took a position in Bredstrup. That is to say that even though the photo is taken in Copenhagen, they never lived there - not as a couple and it is doubtful that she did before. The photo is not dated, but it is likely that it is from the time of the marriage, or thereabout.

She is dressed according to the latest fashion, both in dess and hair, she wears a band as a necklace around her neck and her hair is carefully curled. It is impossible to discern from this picture if she is yet married, or even engaged, but it is at least obvious that looking fashionable was not thought as unsuitable for the daughter of a country vicar.

The couple had at least two sons, Tage (born 1892) and Egede (born 1895) - who both became vicars.

Augusta died in 1922. Her named is scribbled at the back of the photo.

9/22/2008

Hair-do of the week - Fashion of 1849


This is from a magazine from 1849 showing the 'Jenny Lind-cap' and a suitable coiffure to go with it.

Jenny Lind was a singer from Sweden who made an international career in 1840's and was widely popular (and a suitable topic of 'woman of the week', stay tuned for that one). Exactly what this cap had to do with the singer is open for debate. Probably nothing. It was very popular at the time to name patterns after famous women - living or dead, real or fictive (this was after all the time when magazines also could include patterns for the coats 'Desdemona' and 'Ophelia').

But having a little cap on your head was popular - and much of a must if you were married. To show yourself without something on your head, if only at your own breakfast-table was really bad. It did not have to cover the hair or resemble a veil (like it had in earlier times) but it had to be there.

The hair-do is typical of the time. The hair is flat and straight and though it is long it has to be under total control and not allowed to hang loose. This was mostly achieved by braiding - like in this example. It was often gathered at the ears in some form, suitable for both wearing little caps and the bonnets that were popular when going outside. The rest of the hair was gathered in the back in a very straight bun. Even though it is partially braided and twined it looks very strict, almost restricted. It is typical of the hair-dos of the 1840's and 1850's.

9/19/2008

Portrait of the week - Mona Lisa

Painting done by Leonardo da Vinci, also known as La Gioconda - with the formal name of Portrait of Lisa Gheradini, wife of Francesco del Giocondo. It was painted about 1503-1506 - though it was never completed then nor handed over to the Giocondo-family and followed Leonardo to France when he went there. It is believed that he finished it some time before he died, in 1519. The painting was bought after Leonardo's death by the French king and has always remained in French hands since then. It is currently exhibited at the Louvre.

The most well-known name of the painting Mona Lisa actually refers to the formal title of the picture too. 'Mona' is short for the Italian Madonna, meaning Mt Lady (and though it often refers to the Virgin Mary, it doesn't always do so). So the title actually means 'My lady Lisa'.

The sitter's identity had long been a matter of debate, although the painting had it's title several different ladies were thought to be motif. But in 2005 the lady was formally identified as the Lisa in question.

This Florentine lady was born as Lisa di Antonio Maria Gheradini, born in 1479. Her family was aristocratic, but far from influential and by now lived on the income from farms they rented. Lisa went the way most women, who did not become nuns, did at this time - she married at a young age, she was 15 and married a much older merchant who had lost his first wife. She did not bring much of a dowry, another sign of how the once important Gherardini-family had fallen. Her husband, Francesco di Bartolomeo di Zanobi del Gicondo, lived a rather comfortable middle-class life; he might not have had as noble blood as his wife (which means he probably gained some glory though not money by marrying her) but he could offer her a life that lacked nothing from what she was used to. It is even likely they had it more comfortable than she was used to from her childhood. Francesco's first wife had been the sister of Lisa's stepmother and now she raised her son together with the five children she herself had with Francesco - a not too uncommon scenario in a city where child-birth was a real hazard both for mother and child. The painting of Lisa was commissioned by Francesco after the birth of their second child in 1503.

The family had a rather typical life of the time (and place). Their two daughters were placed in convents and Francesco did a good official career - maybe because he had ties with the Medici-family. The city of Florence certainly believed that to be the case and he was fined and imprisoned when there was a fear of the Medici returning to the city. They did just that - and Francesco was released. They both caught the plague that came to Florence in 1538 and Francesco died of it. Lisa was taken to the convent of Sant'Orsola where she had one of her daughters as a nun. It is generally believed that she died there about four years later, which would make her about 63 years old.

9/15/2008

Goddess of the week - Neith

Name: Neith
Sphere of influence: War, among others
Location: Egypt
Famous portraits: There are several statues and paintings made of her in ancient Egypt

Neith is one of the oldest Egyptian gods, the worship of her goes back to about 3000 B.C. - predynastic times. Her cult started in the city of Sais in the Nile delta. Her symbols are the red crown of lower Egypt and a shield with two arrows. She was both a goddess of war and hunting. She was an important deity from the start.

Her name was initially also connected with the word for water which made people see her as a connected with the primordial waters and as such as a mother-goddess, the goddess of creation. But over time the focus slided from the water aspect to the fact that her hieroglyph resembled a loom and she was instead connected with weaving - and weaving the whole world into being.

Her connection with weaving made her connected with death too, as the deity of mummy-wrappings and the shrouds worn by those who had died - especially of warriors fallen in battle, a suitable thing for a deity connected with wars too. Since she was worshipped for so long - from predynastic times to the Ptolemeic era - it was inevitable that the myths would change around her, it is after all a time-span of 3000 years. It was not just the shift from water to weaving, it was also her bonds with other gods. As a water goddess she was seen as the wife of Khnum, a creation god connected with the Nile, and the mother of the crocodile god Sebek. Later on she was considered to be the mother of Re, the sun god.

Her cult had a special revival in the 26th dynasty (664-525 BC) when the capital was located to Sais.

9/12/2008

Woman of the week - Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Name: Charlotte Anne Perkins
Born: July 3, 1860, in Hartford, Connecticut
Dead: August 17, 1935, Pasadena, California
Married to: 1. Charles W. Stetson (1884-1894)
2. George Houghton Gilman (1900-1934)
Children:
Katharine Beecher Stetson (born 1885)
Occupation: Writer and advocate of women rights.

Perkins grew up in a rather poor middle-class home with a mother who, at least according to Perkin's memoirs, had some strong ideas of the proper way to raise a daughter - which included not having the child read fiction (since it would do her no good living in a dreamworld) and not having close friends since the child must learn to survive without human affection. She spent much of her childhood in Providence, Rhode Island, and the father did not live with them. Perkins enrolled in a designer school and also earned money as a tutor - though she did not like it much. 24 years old she married the artist Charles W. Stetson (1858-1911). Their daughter, Katharine, was born the following year. But it was not a happy occasion for Perkins who had a total nervous collapse as a result after having suffered from melancholia for the whole time of the marriage - the usual division between the hardworking husband and the householdtending wife suited her very ill. The usual prescribed cure for this, rest and more rest, did not help her at all. A trip to a friend in California proved more helpful - but her depression returned as soon as she returned to her husband. She was adviced not to use her brains too much as it would only make things worse, an idea that did not nsuit her at all. In 1888 she left her husband for good moved to Pasadena with her daughter. She divorced her husband in 1894, in a very public affair (divorces were not common and the general public was far too interested in the topic). At the same time she had begun to work hard, both as a writer and as a suffragete.

This time also saw the writing of her perhaps most well-known work 'The yellow wall-paper', the short story of a woman's mental break-down, done worse by the well-meaning of the people around her - much in the same way as Perkins herself experienced. But it was privately a hard time for Perkins. Her husband finally accepted that the marriage was over - just to marry the very friend who had taken her to California to help her out and who actually financially and emotionally supported her during that time. She also had reoccurring problems with depression - but at the same time she also met women to fall in love with, for example a writer for a local paper - by today's terms Perkins would in all probability be labeled as bisexual. She also raised her daughter from time to time (the daughter also lived with her father and his new wife), ran a boarding-house and gave lectures.

The lectures would take up more and more of her time and she traveled around giving speeches on the rights of women turned into America's leading feminist intellectual. That also meant that for 14 years, 1895-1909, she did not publish any fiction - being to busy. This changed when she started, and almost singlehandedly, ran the monthly periodical the Forrunner. In her work she was much helped by her cousin Houghton Gilman, whom she was rather close to and in the end they married in 1900 - a marriage quite different from her previous which allowed her to continue her own carreer as a writer and lecturerer. He died in 1934.

She ran the magazine until 1916 and she was one of the co-founders of 'Women's peace party' - but she started to take a less active part in politics by now. Perkins and Gilman lived in New York until 1922 when they moved to Norwich, Connecticut. After her husband's death she moved to her daughter in Pasadena, California. She had been diagnosed with breast-cancer in 1932 and in 1935 she chose to take her own life.

9/08/2008

Fashion of the week - Daywear, 1808


Parisian day-wear in the French Magazine 'Journal des dames et des modes' from 1808.

The little text beneath the picture helps to further point out details of the dress that cannot be properly discerned from the picture itself. In her hair she has a diadem of flowers and the necklace is made of silver and, according to the text, it is cross-shaped. What they mean with that is less clear since it seems not to be.

The regency fashion had been around since 1793 - that is by now 15 years, but it still had many of the traits from the early days left in it's appearance. The neck-line is still really low and shows off much more than it could possibly be accused of hiding, long sleeves are rare and the colours light. The pattern on the dress is inspired by classical times too. With the ascension of Napoleon as French emperor there came an interest in the Roman empire that seemed to be a more suitable source of inspiration than the ancient Greek democracy that had served as a role-model during the early years after the French Revolution, and this is obvious in the pattern here. The formal look of the dress has very little to do with the flowing lines they took inspiration from earlier on but a whole lot with the formal forms of the early years of the imperial age of Rome.

What was not inspired by neither Rome nor Greece was the ever-present shawl - as can be seen in this picture too (in a bright colour). It was a must in a climate colder than that in ancient times down by the Mediterranean - especially since they had not quite grasped the fact that ancient clothing often were in wool and not just light materials. With a shawl they could preserve the classical lines, and still keep some warmth.

9/07/2008

Pop-culture women of the week - The March Sisters

Names: Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March
First appearance: Little women (1868)
Creator: Louisa May Alcott
Weapon/ability: Each other
Race: Americans
Ages: At the beginning of the novel, Meg 16, Jo 15, Beth 13 and Amy 12.

Please observe that the following text contains very few spoilers for the book.

The story of the four March-sisters is a classic American coming-of-age book which still is widely popular, despite being 140 years old. It is the story of four sister growing up in the shadow of the American civil war (1861-1865) and who also have to handle a strained economical situation, being middle class but having lost their money.

The main theme is the growing up of these four girls, they all have their virtues - but also vices and in a very straight forward manners these are all pointed out to the reader - many times through the words of their kind, but straight-laced, mother. There are also many occasions when their development is likened to the travels of Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan (1678), though these references were probably more obvious and easy to understand to 19th century readers than today's.

The most central character is Jo, short for Josephine, who is a real tomboy, who hates to have her hair pinned up and to dress womanly. Her real passion is writing and she tries repeatedly to get her work published. Her character is based very much on Alcott herself and her own experiences, both with growing up and becoming a woman and as a writer - which can be a troubled path too. The other sisters, the kind and motherly Meg (who at times can be a bit vain though), the one who seems to be really without a fault, Beth (who ends up with ruined health due to taking care of a child with scarlet fever) and Amy (headstrong but with a really good eye for drawing) are all based on Alcott's sisters - Anna, Elizabeth and May.

Another important person to the plot is their neighbour, the rich young man Theodore Lawrence who lives with his paternal grandfather and to whom the girls is a breath of fresh air. But even though love enters into the book from time to time it's never a central theme and of secondary interest. The main theme is the love between the sisters themselves.

Little women was an immediate success and Alcott published a follow-up in 1869, just called part II and since then both books has been published in one volume since then in the US. In Britain the book is separate, titled Good wives - though this book was not named by the author herself. Later two other follow-ups appeared: Little men (1871) and Jo's boys (1886).

The book(-s) has been filmed on several occasions, most noticeably perhaps in 1994 (with Winona Ryder as Jo and Susan Sarandon as Mrs. March) and 1933 (with Katherine Hepburn as Jo). Also worth mentioning is the version from 1949 - with a blond Elizabeth Taylor as Amy.

9/05/2008

Photo of the week - Girls in traditional national costume

Date: Around 1900
Photographer: Emil, last name hard to read
Sitter: Unknown
Provenience: Helsingborg, Sweden

The whole Nordic region got swept away with a longing for the old and the traditional in the 19th century. It was not unique for this part of the world - but some of the expressions it took on were less common in other parts of Europe. This is a good example, taking a photo dressed in traditional national costumes.

Sweden around 1900 was not a country where it was common to walk around in such dresses on an everyday basis, but there exists tons of photos with motives like this one. The reason for this was very simple - just like the photographer could offer different backgrounds in his studio (or sometimes her studio - female photographers existed, though not as common) like landscape with a fence or a window with a palm-tree he could also offer costumes. National costumes were all the rage for a while and it was very common for mostly women who were not that old to go with a sister or a good friend to take a photo in costumes they would never wear normally.

Further north in Sweden, in for example Dalarna, the habit of wearing national costumes were much more common, Helsingborg is way down south. But even there it was slowly falling out of fashion and not something that all the young people wanted to do.

This fad would die away completely by the time of the first world war and leave many family albums with a motif that is somewhat rare and perhaps even out of place for a modern viewer.

9/04/2008

Portrait of the week - Petulance


'Petulance', painted in 1885 by a, to me, unknown painter (his initials are C.S.L. and if anyone knows more I would be happy for the information).

The painting is clearly dated to -85 and it is very clear that by that is meant 1885 - and the girl is dressed in a very obvious regency fashion with the high-waisted dress in a light colour, the little shawl wrapped around the upper part of her chest. That was not how girls in the 1880's were dressed.

The reason for this is the 19th century's liking for paintings that did not show the current time and/or place. Historical paintings flourished at this time, showing the death of lady Jane Grey, the court of Henry VIII, scantily dressed ladies at the sultan's harem, even Roman emperors and their extravagant lives. Another theme that kept reoccurring was people in regency clothing. The difference between paintings that really are from that time and these later versions is often more use of pink cheeks and glossy material in the clothing - though this is not so much the case here. It was like the regency looked like, but a little bit more of everything.

Why this girl is dressed in a regency outfit is not altogether obvious, it is not a made up portrait of some famous girl of the time but instead is supposed to illustrate the word 'petulance' with a sulking face and eyes that will not meet those of the beholder. Mood-themes on paintings was another thing more common for the late 19th century than the regency-era. Another tell-tale sign of the age of the painting is the girl's hair that is much more 1880's than 1810's - but it was easier to copy the dresses than the subtilities of hair-fashion.

9/03/2008

Hair-do of the week - Staia Quinta, first century AD

This marble bust from the first century AD was found in the Diana sanctuary in Nemi, south of Rome. Her name is Staia Quinta and she is a freed-woman of a man who's first name was Lucius, and who might have been Lucius Aninius Rufus. This former slave shows off a quite elaborate hair-style which definitely shows the fashion of the day.

The hair-do is very symmetrical, both in front and back. At the top of the head the hair is parted and in waves it continues to the temples where the hair is curled - Romans had a thing for curling hair and it is a quite common theme. These curls make a frame around the face and down to the neck.

When viewed from the back the hair-do turns out even more complex. The curls, falling from even rows of waves from the top of the head, cover most of the lower part of the head. But the woman has obviously longer hair than that and the excess was caught in two braids at the back of the neck, perfectly symmetrical and hanging down to the edge of her clothing.

The photos are taken by me - do not use without permission.

9/02/2008

Goddess of the week - Epona

Name: Epona
Sphere of influence: Horse-goddess, among others
Location: Gaul and the Rhineland, to begin with
Famous portraits: Many, most from the Roman times, but also the White Horse of Uffington, England

Epona is one of the most famous Celtic goddesses, and of the goddesses that were the most worshiped in the ancient world. The heart-land of her cult was eastern Gaul and the Rhineland, but it spread through the Celtic world and when the area was conquered by the Roman empire the cult spread to even to the heart of Rome and even to North Africa. In Rome she was only Gaul goddess to have a festival - on the 18th December.

She was a horse-goddess, which means she was a fertility goddess. Horses were extremely important to the Celts and fertility connected to both animals and soil. She was generally pictured with horses, sometimes with a mare and a foal - generally in the Burgundy area - sometimes between grown horses, two or more, and sometimes riding side-saddle on a mare. She is always connected to mares. She is also sometimes depicted with a basket of fruit and corn, also signs of fertility.

There are not many cult places that are known, the only positively identified shrine devoted to Epona was found in the ruins of a temple in Entrains (Nièvre, France), where two inscriptions were found.

But there was also a darker side to her, she is depicted on several tombstones, on horseback of course, where she seems to be leading the deceased to the Otherworld.

To the Romans she was a horse-goddess, not a goddess of fertility. In the Roman army she was above all popular with the Gaulish cavalary, and it is likely they saw her as a protector due to her strong connection with horses.

Woman of the week - Isadora Duncan


Name: Isadora Duncan
Born: May 26, 1877, San Fransisco, USA
Dead: September 14, 1927, Nice, France
Married to: Sergei Esenin, 1922-1925
Children: Deidre, Patrick and unnamed son
Occupation: Dancer

This woman was very much at the heart of the inventing of modern dance - but she is perhaps most famous today for her tragic death.

She was born in San Fransisco as the youngest of four children to the banker Joseph Charles Duncan and the senator's daughter Mary Dora Gray. She had a sister and two brothers. It was long believed that she was born in 1878, but in 1976 her baptismal certificate was found and that stated that she was 1877. Her upbringing was one in poverty, her father went bankrupt when she was very young and after that her parents divorced, in 1880, and her mother took the children with her to Oakland where she worked as a music teacher. Isadora had an obvious talent for dancing and one way for her to earn money was for her and her sister to give dancing lessons to the local children.

In 1895 she and her family moved to New York to help her further her dancing career. She was not an immediate success, but she did a lot of work for the Augustin Daly Theater company and toured with them. She was not happy with the restricted form of classical ballet that was pretty much the opposite of everything she believed in - both as a dancer and as a person. Instead she went with her mother, sister and one of her brothers to England, in 1899 and a year later they moved on to Paris where she would be a great success.

Her revolutionary view on dancing was that the classical ballet was restricted and had nothing to do with the natural movement of the body that was what dancing must be striving to achieve and capture. She studied classical Greek sculptures and was inspired to dance barefoot and dressed as nymph - nothing like what had been seen before, and it was an immediate success. She moved on to not just performing, touring all over, but also to teach others and founded schools - In Germany, USA and Russia, though none survived for long.

But her private life caused even more sensation than her dancing - she lived as she wished and did not care about social conventions. She did not believe in marriage and had children out of wedlock. Her daughter Deidre was born in 1906 was the daughter of Gordon Craig, son of actress Ellen Terry and theatre designer, and her son Patrick, born 1910 - the son of Paris Singer, son of Isaac Singer. On April 19, 1913, a disaster would struck her from which she never really recovered. The children and their Scottish nurse were sitting in a car that rolled into the Seine and all three drowned. Duncan was devastated by this and it clearly influenced both her dancing and choreography. She became pregnant again soon after this, as a form of consolation - but the baby boy died withing an hour after birth and was never given a name.

She was a great fan of the Soviet Union which to her sounded like a land of promise, and when she was there - among other things starting up another school with governmental aid - she met the poet Sergey Aleksandrovich Yesenin (born in 1895) and married him in 1922. She still did not really approve of marriage, but she wanted to take him with her when traveling in the US and that was the only way. But there was a great skepticism towards Russians and possible communists and they were both viewed with great resentment. This enraged Duncan who swore never to return to America - and she didn't. But she was also disoultioned by Russia where the authorities failed to give her the promised aid to her school and her husband became mentally ill which in the end led to his returning to Soviet Union on his own. He died, possible from suicide, in 1925.

Her last years were spent in Nice and at the French Riviera where she came across as a rather pathetic figure, growing older, being a bit too fond of the bottle, having financial trouble and having indiscreet love-affairs with young men. She died when she was riding in a car with a potential lover - she had a long scarf around her neck but it was caught in the wheels of the car and strangled. She was cremated and buried next to her children in Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris. She was then still an Soviet citizen.

Her autobiography My Life was published in 1927 and reissued in 1972.