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Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: Resisting the Beast
Author Guest / June 17, 2020

Last month we looked at lives impacted by World War I.  This month we’ll continue reading about the extraordinary feats and stoic acts of heroism men and women find themselves capable of when tested by the cataclysm that was World War II—a fitting topic as our world continues to battle an invisible modern-day enemy. Not all the heroics happen in desperate clashes between uniformed soldiers.  Jennifer Ryan’s THE CHILBURY LADIES’ CHOIR shows us the increasing strain of worry and scarcity in a small village on the English home front.  When the men of Chilbury go off to war, the vicar suggests that the church choir, stripped of its male voices, suspend operation.  Instead, several forthright ladies decide they will “carry on singing” as the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.  Presented through letters and diary entries, the author follows the lives and struggles of the choir’s members, including an agonized widow whose only son goes off to war; a flirtatious teenager drawn to a mysterious artist, a refugee hiding secrets, and the choir director who inspires them.  Intrigue, heartbreak, and courage carry the ladies of this small town through these dangerous and desperate days. From England, we switch to Norway in UNDER DARKENING…

Julia Justiss | History ReFreshed: The Gift of Self – Extraordinary Women
Author Guest / December 18, 2019

Christmas—the time for exchanging gifts with those we love.  But sometimes, the greatest gift we can give is to ourselves, sorting through the clutter of everyday life and conventional expectations to discover who we really are—and having the courage to pursue that.  In this month’s selections, we look at four women who manage just that. We begin chronologically with ENCHANTRESS OF NUMBERS by Jennifer Chiaverini.  Ada Byron Lovelace was the famed Romantic poet’s only legitimate child, who grew up estranged from the father her bitter mother thought deranged.  Because of her mother’s fears that she might inherit her father’s “insanity,” Ada was from childhood kept away from tales of fantasy and make-believe and led to pursue mathematical and scientific studies, subjects in which she excelled.  Though she debuts and makes the expected society marriage, she never gives up her intellectual pursuits, maintaining contacts with a number of leading scientists and philosophers. Through one of her former tutors, she meets inventor Charles Babbage and becomes fascinated by his “Difference Engine,” one of the earliest versions of a computer.  She will eventually write for Burbage’s machine an algorithm that some consider the first true computer program.  Before her tragic early death, she…