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Survivor Stories & The Tinkerbell of Paper Bags

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This episode has a TRIGGER WARNING and so does the notes.

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Name: Timoclea of Thebes

Dates: Unknown

What she did: Survived

  • Timoclea isn’t just known for the bad things that happened to her; she’s known for her response.
  • We don’t know when Timoclea of Thebes was born. We don’t know what her childhood was like. We don’t know a lot about her, because her story is part of a much more famous man’s- Alexander the Great.
  • In 335 BC, Alexander’s armies took Thebes as a part of his Balkan campaign. Thebes had rebelled in an effort to become autonomous, but it didn’t work out for them.
  • As part of his army, Alexander conscribed Thracian forces who began looting the city. The Thracian captain looted the home of a Theban noble, Timoclea, whose brother, Theagenes was killed in the siege.
  • He forced her servants to serve him food, wine, and made himself at home. Then he raped her.
  • There are a lot of ways for someone to respond to this kind of horrific violence. Some people blame themselves. Others retreat into denial. Some people engage in self-destructive behaviors. All of these are natural responses to trauma.
  • Timoclea didn’t respond this way, though. She had other ideas.
  • The Thracian captain demanded Timoclea show him where she hid her valuables. Timoclea said she had hidden her gold and other valuables into a well on her property when it became clear that Thebes was falling.
  • Timoclea led the captain to the well in her garden and told him to peer inside. When he did, Timoclea pushed the son of a bitch in.
    Then, for good measure, Timoclea began hurling rocks into the bottom of the well.
  • By the time she was found by Alexander’s soldiers, the captain was dead and buried.
  • Timoclea was taken to Alexander the Great himself to stand trial.
  • Timoclea recounted the events before Alexander the Great.
  • Maybe he was impressed by her tenacity, disgusted by the captain’s actions, or had a super woke moment, but he not only believed Timoclea, but also freed her and her family (which was a big deal because most Thebians who were not killed in the invasion were enslaved.) This was one of Alexander’s rare acts of clemency.
  • Timoclea pushing her rapist down a well has been depicted in countless paintings, including by Elisabetta Sirani in 1659.
  • Her story primarily comes from an account by Aristobulus of Cassandrea who was buddies with Alexander the Great.
  • Naturally, the validity of the story and details of the account are hard to verify, but we’re giving Timoclea our Herstory Stamp of Authenticity.

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Name: Carrie Davies

Dates: 1897(ish)-1961

What she did: Shot a man

  • Carrie Davies immigrated to Canada from Bedfordshire England in 1913 when she was 16-years-old.
  • The goal was to find work so she could send money to her widowed mother and siblings back home.
  • Carrie was described as having “Soft, fair hair, blue eyes, and the pink and white soft skin of the English girl.”
  • She found her way to Toronto Canada where she became a maid for Charles Albert Massey, commonly known as Bert.
  • Bert was a member of the prominent Massey clan who was one of those old, rich families.
  • Bert was a salesman for York Motors and, despite his status as a Massey, he was known to be a bit of a tool. Massey also wasn’t as wealthy as the rest of the clan, living in a modest brick house with his wife Rhoda and their 14-year-old son.
  • At the time, Toronto was undergoing a rapid urbanization, leading to a higher demand for domestic servants, many of whom were young, single women. It was this demand that Carrie was hoping to take advantage of when she started working or Massey.
  • February of 1915, Massey’s wife Rhoda went out of town with their son. Massey took advantage of her absence to sexually harass the staff.
  • Things escalated for Carrie (who was now 18-years-old) when on Sunday, February 7th, the 34-year-old Massey “had caught her and kissed her twice,” causing Carrie to run and lock herself in her room.
  • Later that night, Massey tried to force himself on her. Carrie was so horrified by the attack that she fled the house and went across town to her sister and brother-in-law’s. She told them what happened and, while they were sympathetic, the told her she needed to go back and work.
  • Carrie was naturally anxious after she returned to the house, but tried to carry on.
  • Then, at 6:15 p.m. on February 8th, when Massey was returning home from work, Carrie met him with a .32-caliber revolver. Carrie shot at Bert, who tried to run away from the house. Carrie fired a second time, shooting him through the heart. A passing newspaper boy witnessed the murder and called the police.
  • Carrie, still holding the revolver, made no attempt to hide what she had done, saying, “I shot him.”
  • When questioned, Carried stated that Bert “Took advantage of me yesterday and I thought he was going to do the same today. He caught me on Sunday afternoon and I ran upstairs and then he called me to make his bed and I obeyed and as soon as I went into his bedroom he said ‘this is a nice bed,’ and then he caught me and I pushed him aside and ran upstairs and locked my door while I dressed and then went out and told my sister.”
  • She later expanded that “he caught me by both hands, around the waist and side and said he liked little girls.” He had also given Carrie a ring earlier in the week. Basically, Carrie felt that the only way to protect her honor and her virtue was to eliminate the threat.
  • When Carrie was officially read her charges she collapsed, sobbing.
  • In a time when World War I was dominating the headlines, the ‘Murderous Maid’ made the front page.
  • However, citizens of Toronto quickly sided with Carrie and worked to raise funds for her legal fees. This was due to a variety of factors including her reputation for being pure, her image as a wholesome working girl, the fact she was pretty and English.
  • Donations came in signed as “One Who Knows” and “Another English Working Girl,” highlighting how others identified with Carrie’s situation.
  • This was a largely ‘isolated’ profession, with many working as live-in servants where there were rarely witnesses to any harassment or assault. The fact that many of them were poor immigrants also left them with little recourse.
  • Surprisingly, the wheels of justice were going full speed and Carrie stood trial on February 26th of the same year. The packed court room included an all-male jury.
  • The prosecution relied heavily on questioning Carrie’s credibility and reminded everyone that Massey wasn’t around to give his side of the story while Carrie’s defense focused on her virtue, values, and virginity, which they had verified by a doctor.
    • Remember, virginity is made up and none of that should have mattered.
  • Carrie’s lawyer argued, “Her only motive was the defense of her honor against a treacherous assailant. The hotbed of murderous intent found no place in her character. You can well conceive the torture she went through worrying about future abuse. How that thought echoed in the woman’s brain.” 
  • “She is a heroine. A woman of strong character, of stamina, of strong principles.” 
  • After 30 minutes of deliberation, the all-male jury found Carrie not guilty. 
  • Carrie luckily lived a pretty quiet life after this. She married a farmer and had two children. She never spoke in detail of what happened to her and dedicated her life to the service of others, as if she was doing penance. 
  • Carrie died relatively poor in 1961 at age 64. 

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Name: Margaret E. Knight

Dates: Feb. 14, 1838 – Oct. 12, 1914

What she did: Tinkerer, bag maker

  • A hundred and fifty years ago, you had to bring your own bag, take stuff home in a rolled up cone of paper, or use one of the inefficient mass-produced envelopes that passed for bags—glued at the bottom in a V-shape. The flat-bottomed paper bags that were in use were made individually, by hand. And re-using one at the grocery store would not earn you back a nickel.
  • From her earliest years, Knight was a tireless tinkerer. In a scholarly article titled “The Evolution of the Grocery Bag,” engineering historian Henry Petroski mentions a few of her childhood projects, which tended to demand a certain facility for woodwork. She was “famous for her kites,” Petroski writes, and “her sleds were the envy of the town’s boys.”
  • With only rudimentary schooling under her belt, a 12-year-old Knight joined the ranks of a riverside cotton mill in Manchester to support her widowed mother.
  • In an unregulated, dangerous factory setting, the preteen toiled for paltry wages from before dawn until after dusk.
  • One of the leading causes of grievous injury at the mill, she soon observed, was the propensity of steel-tipped flying shuttles (manipulated by workers to unite the perpendicular weft and warp threads in their weaves) to come free of their looms, shooting off at high velocity with the slightest employee error.
  • The mechanically minded Knight set out to fix this, and before her thirteenth birthday devised an original shuttle restraint system that would soon sweep the cotton industry. At the time, she had no notion of patenting her idea, but as the years went by and she generated more and more such concepts, Knight came to see the money making potential in her creativity.
  • As Petroski explains, Knight departed the brutal mill in her late teens, cycling through a number of technical jobs to keep her pockets and her mind well-fed.
  • In time, she became adept in a formidable range of trades, equally comfortable with daguerreotypes as she was with upholstery.
  • What cemented—or should have cemented—her place in the history books was her tenure at the Columbia Paper Bag company, based in Springfield, Massachusetts.
  • Margaret Knight was one of the first women to receive a patent, most notably for her invention of the flat-bottomed paper bag machine.
  • Presumably stupefied by the slowness of the manual process required to assemble flat-bottomed bags, Knight began toying with the idea of a machine that would make them. Within a month she had a sketch of one, and within half a year she had a working wooden model that would cut, fold, and glue the bags together with the turn of a crank. Though “rickety” as described by a witness later in the courts, it pumped out more than 1,000 bags.
  • Knight took the model to a local shop and, working closely with the machinist, put together an iron prototype. She then moved to Boston to refine the invention with two machinists. While work proceeded at the second of the shops, another machinist, Charles Anan, stopped by to examine the proceedings, with Knight’s permission.
  • By the time she had built a working model of her elegant paper-folding apparatus, Knight knew she wanted to go the extra step and secure a patent on her creation. This was considered a bold move for a woman in the 19th century, a time when a small percentage of patents were held by women (even allowing for those women who filed under male aliases or with sex-neutral initials).
  • Even in contemporary America, where women have full property rights and hold many more positions of power in government than in the 1800s, fewer than 10 percent of “primary inventor” patent awardees are female—the result of longstanding discouraging norms.
  • When, some months later, Knight filed for her patent for the now complete flat-bottom-bag-making machine, she was surprised to find her application was rejected. A patent for such a machine had already been granted to one Charles Anan.
  • Knight sued Anan with as much vigor as she applied herself to invention. With witnesses from each of the three machine shops testifying to her vision and careful instruction, coupled with several years worth of drawings and plans, Knight won hands down.
  • Anan’s only argument was that his modifications (presumably changes introduced because he could not perfectly remember the details of the model) made his a different machine. Subsequently, the use of her bags spread throughout the world. An updated variation of her machine was still in use at the end of the twentieth century. Queen Victoria decorated her in 1871.
  • After making the machine, she formed the Easter Paper Bag Company. But before long she had turned her mind to other manufacturing problems.
  • She created a machine for cutting the soles of shoes, a sewing machine reel, a pronged spit, a paper-feeding machine, an “automatic tool for boring concave or cylindrical surfaces,” a numbering mechanism, a skirt protector, and a sleeve-valve engine, among many other inventions.
  • Knight, “at the age of seventy, is working twenty hours a day on her 89th invention,” reported the New York Times on October, 19, 1913.
  • The next year she would be dead, leaving behind an estate valued at $275.05. ($6,910.16 today) When Knight died she was honored in a local obituary as a “woman Edison.”

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