Category Archives: Blog


20 Questions with Sarah

Thank you to all my readers who continue to show interest in Her Storyline. I think it’s time that I answer some of your most frequently asked questions.

  1. What made you want to start up this website?
    Women are often misrepresented in history, but something that really motivated me occurred on one Tuesday night. I came back from a class, and my mom was watching a movie about an extraordinary heroine that took place during World War II. I wondered why I never heard of her. I thought of more stories that get missed in history, and I wanted to help bring them to the surface.
  1. How do you decide who you’re going to write about?
    I decide when knowing that a certain person won’t get out of mind until I write about her.  That’s when I know. There are so many people I want to write about, but there’s so little time!
  1. Are you the only person who works on this site?
    I do a lot of it, but I have my own inspirational support crew. They edit, write, give honest feedback, and are there to make suggestions. A special shout out to Jenny, Brenda, Lynn, Kyle, and Dad.
  1. So you do take suggestions?
    I do, but I can’t take them all unfortunately. However, I do like hearing them. They’re very uplifting.
  1. Where do you find your subjects?
    All over! Like I said, I take suggestions. Lots of times I feel like I’m led to them. I like history in general. Random books, shows, and footnotes make me curious. I’ve made the most discoveries, however, while doing research about someone else.
  1. Who’s been your favorite?
    I can’t say. That’s like picking a favorite child! It sounds cliché, but it’s true.
  1. Who do you like least?
    The majority of the time I love whom I’m writing about or I wouldn’t be writing about that person! However, there are people within their stories that I would like to have a little chat!
  1. Like whom?
    Hmm…the top two are King David and Robespierre. I don’t think they would like to talk to me though!
  1. Out of the women, who would you like to interview most?
    Whoever I’m writing about! If I had to pick one, though, I’d choose Anne Neville, wife of King Richard III. Hopefully, she would tell the truth about herself, her husband, and what really happened to those poor princes in the tower.
  1. Why don’t you post more often?
    It can take a really long time for me to research and write the posts. Sometimes I get too nervous. And I admit that sometimes I don’t make time.

11. Who’s surprised you the most?
        Definitely Marie-Antoinette and the Kennedy clan.

  1. Who would you like to be friends with most?
    I would have to say Michal. It sounds weird, but in a way, I feel like I’m already friends with her. I’ve spent the most time with her. If I met her in real life, I hope she’d let me in.
  1. What’s the biggest lesson you learned since starting this website?
    That extraordinary people exist now and all around us. Everyone really does have a story and contributes so much to society—even if they don’t think they do. As great as it is to learn about people in the past, it’s also good to learn about the people in the present.
  1. What’s the most frustrating thing about keeping up this website?
    Getting sad. Sometimes I can hardly bear the sorrow that these women went though. And to be totally honest, it’s also difficult for me to keep going when those who are near and dear to my heart roll their eyes at my efforts. Thankfully, I’m blessed with more supporters.
  1. What does “remember the ladies” mean?
    It’s what Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, John, when he met with the Continental Congress in 1776. She wanted women to have a voice—almost 150 years before American women could actually vote!
  1. Will you write about Mormon pioneer women?
    I hope so! They are very extraordinary!
  1. What’s your favorite time period?
    I enjoy the intrigue surrounding the Wars of the Roses. I also love the Tudor era. Think about it—even if you don’t give a hoot about what was going on at the royal court, there’s something for everyone like religious reformers and martyrs, exciting world discoveries, and odd fashion.
  1. Who would you be most nervous to meet?
    King David because I haven’t been very complimentary toward him. I would still like to meet him, but he’d literally want to kill me! Out of the women, Charlotte Corday. Even though I believe she did the right thing, I wouldn’t want to upset her!
  1. Are you married?
  1. I didn’t like what you wrote. Can you change it?
    I take these requests seriously. Maybe. Maybe not. I try to be classy as well as honest.



Mrs. Hamilton: When You Only Got 97 Years to Live

Hands down I agree with the article by Cokie Roberts about how Elizabeth Hamilton–not her husband Alexander–should be on the $10  bill.

Now I don’t totally hate Alexander Hamilton—I mean he’s a founding father. I did a report on him in eighth grade and got a good grade but was weirded-out by his personal life. Then years later, a musical about the man comes out. It made me research him again—and nope—my feelings for him hadn’t changed. While I was on Wikipedia, of course I had to click on his spouse’s name: “Elizabeth Schuyler.”


I was shocked.

“Ninety-seven? Ninety-seven. NINETY-SEVEN!” I couldn’t believe it. I told my roommate who listened patiently to how I can’t stand Alexander Hamilton but that his wife, Elizabeth, was extraordinary.

Martha Washington said, “She was always my ideal of a true woman.” In Alexander Hamilton’s farewell note he closed with calling Elizabeth “Best of wives and best of women.”

How did she make it to ninety-seven? Well, she and her sisters had been savvy in preserving themselves through the Revolutionary War. She proved she had a survival instinct. She was active. She was forgiving and loving. She had a purpose.

While preserving her husband’s memory (through gathering his papers and shutting down negative comments about him), she also had to pay his debts (was Alexander really qualified to be Secretary of the Treasury? Um…no!) and auction off their house . Miraculously, she was able to repurchase it. So who’s the real treasurer? (She had even helped him  draft his financial plans!) She was the brains. Elizabeth also founded the first orphanage in New York (plus she also took in orphans into her personal home) and helped Dolley Madison raise money for the Washington Monument.

Elizabeth died fifty years after her husband. She was a survivor, but I further believe she had a divine mission to accomplish.

She greatly contributed to having her husband—and the other men who founded the United States Constitution as well as the document itself—being remembered and revered.




Paintings: Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton by Ralph Earl



Heroines in the Star Wars Movies Resemble Real Life

Have you seen the Rogue One trailer yet? It’s intense. What’s another first impression—another girl?

Darn right another girl. The Star Wars thing is reflective on current affairs and wars that have left long lasting effects. Darth Vader’s captains and guards from the original Star Wars resemble Nazis. George Lucas also made the Nazis the bad guys in the Indiana Jones movie.

The last few decades many are fighting against terrorism. Many people have to leave their homes, defend themselves, and are without family. The Force Awakens seems to touch on that. When I saw the preview for Rogue One, I couldn’t believe how the movie seems to parallel with reality—particularly when it comes to women soldiers.

Perhaps the filmmakers didn’t have a specific group in mind, but I thought of the Kurdish women soldiers. How they’re going up against ISIS. A big motivation for them is that ISIS is afraid of being killed by a woman. ISIS believes that if a woman kills them, they’ll go to hell.

The world is full of brave people—women included. You can’t win a war without them.

More informations on Kurdish female soldiers:

Kurdish women on the front lines against ISIS by Trudy Rubin 

Kurdish women fighters wage war on Islamic State in Iraq by David Simm


Her Storyline’s Top 30

In celebration of my recent 30th birthday, I wrote about Her Storyline’s top women. Here are just some words and short description of the top thirty off the top of my head. (Excuse the spacing.)

  1. Catherine of Braganza
    Sneaky. Will get justice. She’s so good, she’s bad.
  2. Charlotte Corday
    Oh, Charlotte, Charlotte. What to say? She was self-motivated and determined for sure!
  3. Jael

Oh Jael. Similar to Charlotte.

  1. Anne Neville

Ambitious. Innocent or guilty?

  1. Michal

Intelligent. Impressive. Miss America type intimidating.

  1. Margaret Jacobs

Setting yourself free. Honesty is the best policy.

  1. Marie-Therese

Tough. Survivor who’s generous and loyal. Daddy’s girl.

  1. Madam Elisabeth
    A bit on the wild side. Opinionated and selfless.
  2. Marie-Antoinette

Fun. Nice. Very strict. Like the two Bourbon women mentioned above, virtuous. Lived religion.

  1. Henrietta Barrett Cook
    If Jane Austen had a happy ending. Fighter. Love is a battle field.
  2. Vashti

Beautiful. Rockstar. Heroic. I admire when people stand up for what they believe in. Dignified.

  1. Ann Rule
    She’s saved my life. A couple times.
  2. Philippa Langley

Go for it! They’ll make a movie about it all fifty years from now. Rivals Anne Neville when it comes to guys.

  1. Rachel, the Poetess

Patriot. More powerful than realized. In tune with surroundings and sees beyond.

  1. Catherine of Aragon
    Too good for Henry.
  2. Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Influential. Though she had a bumpy life, she and the characters in her story make me smile.

  1. Elizabeth, Mother of John the Baptist.
    Hardcore. I mean, come on—having a baby at her age? Please make a movie how her husband sacrificed himself for her and John—and then mother and son had to flee from danger!
  2. Mary, Mother of Jesus.
    So good and responsible and trusted. How did she raise the Son of God? And then raised other children? Awestruck. Her husband was a good man—one of the best. Lucky.
  3. Esther

Peaceful but still a fighter. If only her enemies knew the reputation of a Benjaminite and that she was one. Beware the Benjaminite. Don’t mess with people or causes they care about.

  1. Maria Ann Mozart
    Can we please include she was an influence on her brother? Seriously.
  2. Queen Elizabeth II
    She’s nearing 90, has reigned for over 53 years, and sent an email in the ’70s for crying out loud! Extraordinary! Even for us in the present, she beat the odds. The past would drop their jaws too. Take that, David!
  3. Merab
    So Michal had a sister…
  4. Pilate’s wife
    What’s her name?
  5. Martha of Bethany
    It’s cool to be a Martha. Jesus for sure is the greatest champion of women.
  6. Mary of Bethany
    More on her identity please? But I love Martha and Mary.
  7. Grandma Patten

Honored to have known her. Popular and influential. Hope I can do her proud.

  1. Phyllis Wheatley
    After school. Poetry opens up the heart and brain.
  2. Cassandra Austen

Shares he sister’s sense of humor.

  1. Anne Boleyn

Can I be honest here? I don’t really…hold her in high esteem.

  1. Little Mermaid

Okay—fictional character but still popular and relatable. People need to consider her true story.

An Angel’s Account of the Behind the Scenes of the Largest Nativity

Have you seen the Christmas music video about the largest Nativity? It’s officially called “Over A Thousand People Came Together to Break a Record And Bring This Moving Christmas Hymn to Life.” If you haven’t, you will. Because I want you to click on it later in this post!

The following account was mostly written last year–2014–shortly after the nativity video came out.  This gives a different point of view than the other behind the scenes videos and accounts….

Diary Notes

My last journal words for the month of November:

I signed up to be part of the largest nativity ever (hopefully). I followed links on Facebook ward page that led to the event.

It’s tomorrow!

The very beginning of the next day’s entry:
My fingers are beginning to unthaw.

A New Friend

I thought I dressed warm enough for the day of filming. I mean I had two layers of socks and jeans under my white skirt. I just had a thin shirt underneath the white sweater I had worn backwards to hide the buttons.

Check-in was at two. I was nervous I wasn’t going to get a good parking spot so I went early to one of the designated parking areas—the parking lot of the temple. I drove there before one o’clock to make sure I didn’t run into any traffic. I didn’t.

There were cars parked there but very few which belonged to the grounds workers. I kept thinking, Just give it more time, and you’ll have families to follow.

I hoped and prayed for angels.

Sometime after a prayer, a car pulled up a few spaces over. The driver was wearing white and had her hair curled. I hoped for the best. After a while, I just had to get out of the car. I had to get to Rock Canyon Park. I had to know if the other person dressed in white was going to the same place. I couldn’t be shy.

I walked over and said, “Um, excuse me…”

The driver opened the door. She was wearing an angel costume! What a relief. We set out to Rock Canyon Park.

As my new friend, Haley, and I walked across some road work, I found out she was from a few towns over and decided today to be a part of the nativity. “I knew about it weeks ago but decided I was going to do it today. I went to Wal-Mart this morning to put together my costume. I took off work.”

We found the park, and a lot of cars were parked curbside. There was some confusion on where to sign in and where to wait.

We were told we could wait on the grass by one of the white tents. I saw a few people come out with the “bell costume.” Basically a white bell shape screen that could go over your head. I couldn’t be a bell angel. I had signed up too late.

with hayley 2014

Me and Haley shortly after checking in at the park. My prayers of finding an angel to follow were answered.


The Little White Tent We Saw In the Distance

Most people were there with their families.

Grass shot 2014

This was one of the first views after I checked in. Here are  tents and angels lounging on the grass.The VIP tent was much farther away .

I wasn’t too worried about grass stains, but Haley and I thought it would be best if we sat in some of the chairs further down the field. We wondered what the red balloon was and why some people were taking pictures with a guy who had a camera. “I think he’s a famous YouTuber,” said Haley. We saw the archway where we knew the main cast of the nativity would pose. We saw the hill we would be standing on.

The guys who handed us our orange wristbands said something about singing with Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

We had our eyes on the little tent. We were given a list of prominent people who would be participating. Haley had to explain more on who some of their identities. It was cool sitting in the chairs because we also saw people coming out of a distant little tent near the parking lot.

A woman came out wearing a silvery white robe and some kids came out. People kept going in and out. Haley and I speculated who they could be.

People related to the Piano Guys? Was Studio C going to provide entertainment while we waited? When was David Archuleta going to appear?

“Oh! Oh! Is that Peter Hollens?” Some people dressed as shepherds and Wise Men were appearing.

“Um, who?” I felt a little out of the loop. Haley was obviously a die-hard fan of the singer.

We talked about the other celebs that were on the list. Some were more familiar.

Though I wasn’t sure who the some people were except Alex Boye. We spotted him as a Wise Man dressed in orange the instant he walked out of the tent.

Calling All Angels

More and more people were coming. A family in front of us were talking about getting together their costumes together that day.

Then came directions. “Angels with a purple wristband, please report to…” “Angels who have an orange wristband with words written on it, go…”

I turned to Haley. “Is that us?”

“No, we don’t have writing on ours.”

Then I heard, “All angels, go…”

It was time to take the group shot.

I think I took this pic on the way to the group shot.  In a few hours, the animals would freak out at the sounds of the helicopters. and booming music.

I think I took this pic on the way to the group shot. In a few hours, the animals would freak out at the sounds of the helicopters. and booming music.

We got in line with the rest of the angels to go up to another slope. But as we went through the portable orange fence, we were each given a green and white wristband.

Haley and I got in the middle. Everyone had to scoot in. We could see some of the people below. The main cast of the nativity. I knew they were down there because of the Wise Men’s bright wardrobe. Some officials and cameras were there too.

Angels were taking cell phone pictures and talking about YouTube videos. It was exciting, but I felt sorry for the bell angels who were trying to protect their 3D costumes.

“We broke the record, right?” I asked.

Haley nodded. “I’m sure we did.”

But how would it go on record?

That was answered when we heard there was an official guy to witness the event. I heard the first part about Britain and over 800 angels. “And today…” He started to speak slower and the angels got louder. Cheers caused me to assume we broke it.

with a shepherd 2015

After taking the group picture, we angels managed to come down the steep hill and take some pix with the main cast.

I’m not sure how we managed to get down the hill, but we did and managed to take some pictures with some cast members. One asked, “Aren’t you cold?” I wasn’t till he asked.

lots trying to take pic

The sun was going down quickly, and it was getting colder fast! We needed to rush to the other hill, which was the filming location.

Haley and I left toward the other hill after she got an individual shot with  Peter Hollens.

It was getting colder.

Angel Praises

We were ushered to the  hill.  A guy with a megaphone announced the arranger of the the version of “Angel We Have Had Heard on High” He started teaching us the additional verse we would sing along with the recording.

He’d say lines, we would repeat. “Now say it to your neighbor!”

Everyone seemed to be catching on except me. I was mesmerized by the track. The Piano Guys, Mormon Tabernacle Choir. David Archuleta. That’s a winning combo.

But I still didn’t know the words. I didn’t know the words were available online before that. I tried to recite what I knew to Haley but couldn’t remember.

“We have the words!”

A mother and her daughter, Emily, had the lyrics printed out. It was getting darker but we could make out the words well enough. If there was the rare chance the cameramen got us on tape, I feared I wouldn’t know the words. Plus, memorizing the words gave us something to think about besides the chillier temperature. Perhaps that was the plan the directors had in mind.

When the angels got a break to go to the tents to get warm, most of them gladly rushed to the tents. I could hardly move. So, Haley, Emily, and I practiced. In fact, the first Deseret News article about the event captured the moment with the three of us practicing on the empty hill in one of the many photographs. (Ours was fuzzy.)

We soon thought it best to get to go to a tent since the break was going to be longer than I initially thought. I had adjusted my skirt a certain way where I could have access to my jean pockets. I had the mini fake candle production gave us in one and my phone in the other but still was nervous my phone was going to slip out.

Wising Up

The tent was a little warmer. Our spirits lifted by the sight of donuts, muffins, cocoa, and apple cider. The apple cider was room temperature but the maple donut was delicious. Haley and I rushed to finish our food when we heard the angels needed to go back.

Oh. They needed the bell angels.

We went by a mother and her daughters who were by a heater. We took turns to be by the warmer spots. We went over the lyrics. I panicked each time a guy in a vest announced it was time for the angels to go back to the hill. Once again, it was the bell angels.

But a lady came up to me and Haley and asked if we went to the VIP tent.

“It’s warmer. Lots of people are taking pictures with Alex Boye.”

Haley and I ran to the little white tent. There was a photographer taking pictures of people against a lighted backdrop with words: ShareTheGift and Radiant.

In the VIP tent--or another chance to meet some stars. Plus, #ShareTheGift.

In the VIP tent–or another chance to meet some stars. Plus, #ShareTheGift.

There was a table with handouts that said “Share the Gift. I will share the gift by…” Alex Boye and another cast member were taking pictures with people. I noticed  their picture was done. “I want to take a picture with a Wise Man,”  I said.

I held up my Share the Gift paper for the photographer and then rushed to Alex Boye who was filling out how he was going to share the gift. He said, “I will share the gift by sharing…wisdom. Get it?”

With Alex Boye!  He was super nice and added cheer.

With Alex Boye! He was super nice and added cheer.

Haley and I took individual  phone pix with him. He was even more fun than he was in his videos.

Someone announced, “They need all angels now!” We got out of the tent and the hill was covered with angels again. I think they started to play the music, and we ran to what we assumed was our spot before.

An Angel’s Eye View

We took out our candles. I made the mistake of taking out my cell phone. David Archuleta’s voice rang out and that meant the cameras were rolling. I couldn’t find my pockets fast enough so trusted the phone would be safe enough resting on the wrinkles near the pocket.

There was a lot of stopping and starting for aerial shots, close-ups. Haley and I got close to one (but didn’t make it in the video) The camel and donkey looked like they were having a hard time—especially with the loud sounds! A shepherd (who I’m now pretty sure was Jeremy from Studio C) had to chase the donkey a couple times, but they were all gentle with the animals. I was impressed by that—and the bell angels.

The bell angels were in some sort of order and had to turn their light switch on at a certain time. (The bell angels are the lights you see moving that form the nativity profile at the end of the video.) The switch lit up the bottom of their costumes blue.  “Let’s do it again,” said the booming voice. Wow. How did they manage to turn on a switch? And multiple times! My fingers were becoming more frozen. The bell angels kept at it. They came on at a certain time and had to time when their blue lights went off.

When the ground people (this time I mean the bell angels and the nativity cast) were getting directions, I was trying to get my phone back in my pocket.  I was able to open up my pocket with enough space for my phone. My phone got near the pocket but my hands couldn’t cope together. My fingers were wrapped around the phone but wouldn’t budge. I tried not to give up but so it was painful and I just put it on some denim wrinkles again.

I’ll have to say the night was tough. My thoughts then: “But this is going to be a good story. We’re going to be so glad.”

The arranger of the video and other megaphoned voices were also encouraging. “You guys are doing great!” People with children were allowed to leave. If you could stay, it would be nice. Haley and I kept saying we were going to stay the whole time. And we did. We went to the trouble of finding white clothes and coming here, so we would take the trouble to stay till it was done.

My feet were hurting, and my boots were getting uncomfortable. It felt a little better when we walked down the hill ever so slowly. The main cast were clearing out. But some stayed. Between shots, an announcer said, “Alex Boye has agreed to stay a half hour after and take pictures with any of you guys who want to.” The directors kept on saying encouraging comments like “You’re doing awesome!”

The best motivation, though, was when one director said, “Think how this video will bring people closer to Christ.”

Going Home

It was a little past ten when we were dismissed. Some of the directing crew told us we all did a good job and to look for the video on December 12th on YouTube. We got to keep our candle but I used my phone walking back to the parking lot. Haley and I actually found our way back pretty easily, but what if I hadn’t had anyone to walk back with? It was late.

We had expected the lot to be fuller but it wasn’t—which meant it was easier to drive out. It was yet another tender mercy for me. I had quite a few angels looking out for me.

I got home, and maybe two hours later checked if we got in the news. We did! I texted Haley about our blurry shot, and she confirmed it was us.

I will never forget the experience. I was definitely brought closer to Christ that freezing night. As I shivered, I had considered what I would have done the night of His birth. Maybe this was a way of showing I would have rushed to see the baby in the stable. I’d like to think I actually participated when the host of angels appeared to the shepherds.

P.S.  When I went to the store the next day, I saw my candle. It was still on! It was a reminder to share the gift. Share how much the Savior means to me. Do what he would do and let my light shine.

Going Viral

I was still waking up when I checked my email this last Friday. I perked up when I got an alert saying the video was up!

I clicked on the link. Huh. Just a little over 300 views.

That didn’t last long. What I thought was more impressive than the video was how it was coming up on Facebook. I even got emails from family asking if I saw the video yet.

As I’m writing this—less than four days later—the numbers are going up. I think we’re almost at 900,000 now. (Update on December 13, 2015-over 9 million nearing 10!) 

But the thing that matters most is the feeling. As I watch it, I get excited about the additional verse and the music buildup and then the outside nativity appears. As I watch and recall standing in the cold, I do get a warm feeling. Something tells me This actually happened. People traveled far to see the child who would save them. Thousands and thousands more—or maybe trillions more—were probably singing the night of Christ’s birth. I hope I was among



Images and Videos:
Featured Image is video still from music video, “”Over A Thousand People Came Together to Break a Record And Bring This Moving Christmas Hymn to Life” Video is inserted at the end of this post.

All other images taken by Sarah Patten.


Cooper_Queen-Catherine-of-Braganza (2)

She Lives With Angels: Others’ Views of Michal and Catherine



Okay, since November 25 was Catherine of Braganza’ birthday, I decided to add another post about her…

If you look around my blog, you might discover that I’m writing a biography of Michal,King  David’s first wife, and the similarities she shares with other princesses. Now,  I don’t imagine Michal looking like any of those princesses.

The last princess I’d ever compare Michal to in physical appearance is Catherine of Braganza. As I was doing some online Michal research, I came across a website about biblical woman and was taken aback that the author, Elizabeth Fletcher, inserted Catherine’s portrait into a her Michal post.  Ironic, isn’t it?

rtiist: After Dirk Stoop

Catherine_of_Braganza, by (after) Dirk Stoop

I emailed her about my project and asked why she used Catherine’s picture. She responded:

“I used her face because the emotions on the Princess’s face seemed to sum up what Michal must have felt…I see sadness, real grief and the beginning of wisdom/understanding in the Princess’ face, even though she is so young. It is a subtly tragic face, and no other image I’ve seen fitted Michal so well.”

That makes sense.  Neither princess foresaw the struggles they’d face. Dirk Stoop’s painting of Catherine before her marriage to Charles screams naïve.

It would be a mistake, however, to judge the two women solely on that portrait. As I mentioned in my earlier post about Catherine , you can see her story unfold with her further portraits.  She transformed from a neglected princess bride into a calculating queen. I cannot rule out, though, both princesses might have carried a certain sadness described by Ms. Fletcher.

Did Catherine ever view herself as Michal?  Neither produced an heir, and both saw their husband as father to many. Even if she didn’t, others made a connection during her lifetime.


I was surprised to discover John Dryden and Nahum Tate’s 1681/82 allegory poem, “Absalom and Achitophel” in which they based Michal off of Catherine. Michal/Catherine gets one of the more favorable edits:

Such was the charge on pious Michal brought
Michal, that ne’er was cruel e’en in thought.
The best of queens, the most obedient wife,
Impeached of cursed designs on David’s life,
‘Tis scares so much his guardian angel’s care.
Not summer morns such mildness can disclose
The Hermon lily and the Sharon rose,
Neglecting each vain pop of majesty,
Transported Michal feeds her thoughts on high;
She lives with angels, and as angels do,
Quits heaven sometimes to bless the world below,
Where, cherished by her bounty’s plenteous spring,
Reviving widows smile and orphans sing

Whether the two women can be considered angels, the stanza lets the reader know the risks they took to help others.

It’s a relief I’m not the only one to remember and liken Michal to figures thousands of years after her death.




From Maria Anna to Martha: 5 Influential Piano Gals

Life would be a dark place if it weren’t for music. But thanks to creators of music, my world is a happier place. I’m indebted to so many but I have to say there are some standouts that paved the way for my love of music. Maria Anna Mozart, Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Jane Bastien, and Martha Patten.

Maria Anna Mozart

The two prodigy siblings. Wolfgang was inspired by his big sister, "Nannerl" Anna Maria

The two prodigy siblings. Wolfgang was inspired by his big sister, “Nannerl” Anna Maria

When we hear “Mozart,” don’t we think of the boy? Wolfgang Amadeus? We don’t think of  his talented sister Anne Maria Mozart as much.  Smithsonian  magazine called her “The Family’s First Prodigy.”

Her father, Leopold–a court musician and teacher to his children–took them on tour across Europe. The trio was a hit and the siblings made a good team. She was considered one of the greatest pianists.. However, Leopold pushed more for his son’s performances as it was easier for males to break into a professional music career.

Wolfgang saw Anna Maria as a role model. She accompanied him and played his compositions. She also wrote her own, which we sadly don’t have today. But we do have their letters and her diaries which display affection and eccentricity.

I can only imagine her reactions when she opened to write in her diary and found that her brother was at it again. Pretending to be her and writing  irreverent language that I rather not repeat.


Fanny Mendelssohn

Portriat of Fanny Hensel 1842 by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

Another  equally talented sister. She composed over 460 compositions and sometimes they were attributed to her brother, Felix, because it just wasn’t proper for a woman to publish music. Felix, though,  corrected Queen Victoria that a piece she was fond of was not by him but by Fanny.

She said that one of her piano works, The Year, was for “home use entirely.” Of course it wasn’t, but I’m sure she gave informal concerts to her family that the world will never know.

Clara Schumann

Drawing of Schumann

Clara was romoted by family and friends but had a mind of her own and showed the world that women are master performers too.


Clara’s career was promoted by her father and associates but had a mind of her own. She took the opportunity to show the world that female pianists can be equal to men. I thank her for that.

I’m not sure if I would have gotten along with her, though. But it was nice of her to promote the career of her husband, Robert. I also have to laugh that while he was a student and guest of her father, Robert scared her by popping out of nowhere dressed as a ghost.  She wouldn’t fall in love with him til later,  but perhaps that’s when the sparks started to fly,

Jane Bastien

Everyone in my piano teacher’s studio knew I was on the lowest piano level. (Some things haven’t changed much.) Even when I was promoted to second on the program, it was common knowledge.. For years, I was playing pieces by either Jane or James Bastien. When I saw other names such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, I longed to be playing those composers—or any other composer however obscure. Anyone but Bastien.


Jane Bastien is still one of my favorite composers. It’s evident in the Bastien teaching books that she’s a brilliant teacher. Thanks to her I was wowed and inspired by the other students who went up on stage playing songs by composers whose names I couldn’t pronounce.

I remember bits and pieces from other famous composers’ songs I eventually played, but I remember the very first piano song exactly  I performed in my piano teacher’s annual recital—which of course was a Bastien song.

I became really excited when Jane Bastien was in a piano convention center in San Diego.  She was a gracious, smiling woman, and I got to take a picture with her. Believe me, I couldn’t have been more ecstatic to meet her than meeting the Mozarts themselves.

Martha Patten

I'm honored my favorite pianist happens to my mom. She could have made bucks but continues to share her expertise and expression music with others. Here she is teaching a grandchild.

I’m honored my favorite pianist happens to my mom. She could have made big bucks but continues to share her expertise and expressive music with others. Here she is teaching a grandchild.


A Broadway performer said my mom could have made a lot of money if she moved to New York. My  mom can play by ear, improvise, transpose music into  different keys in a matter of seconds.

The piano could be considered her unofficial sibling when she grew up. Piano and clarinet are her specialties, but she can pick up other instruments. She taught band, choir, drama, and private piano lessons. Her students are complimentary of her and  have invited her to watch them in performances. One student, now a junior high school history teacher, puts on an annual medieval faire in which his students get into character and show the oddities of the Middle Ages. At the beginning of one of his faires, he told the audience how he couldn’t remember much of what he learned in middle school but could remember the words to “76 Trombones” and then announced the presence of my mom.

I can’t count how many times she accompanied a variety of groups–school plays, choir, church functions, talent shows, weddings, and just all type of revenues. I know if my lifetime, she’s played and performed for hundreds of people. So I’ll just say thousands.

Her genius is impressive, but her trademark is how she makes the individual feel. I’m honored that I get a front row seat and hear her best performances–which are played at home.

By the way, she has composed but they are usually “for home entirely.” But my favorites are “Crib Lullaby,” “One By One and Two By Two,” and “No Tail.”



Sources and Links:


Mozart Family Portrait by Croce
Wolfgang and Nannerl Mozart by Eusebuis Johann Alphen
Portriat of Fanny Hensel 1842 by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim
Drawing of Schumann
Grandma Teaching another Prodigy courtesy of Douglas Patten

in white shirts

My siblings drive me crazy

In honor of Siblings Day and my car reregistered, I decided to give tribute to my siblings and talk about our car memories.

us by the car



“Do you see the maroon van yet?” my sister-in-law asked.

I was in a car with people I met a couple hours ago that were headed in the same direction. We were now in a nearly deserted parking lot.

“I think so,” I answered. “Is it covered with snow?”

“I don’t know.”

My ride pulled by a nearly white van. I saw some maroon. “I think I’m right by you guys. Do you see the gray Honda?”

I was annoyed with my sister-in-law when she said, “I really don’t know.”

Another passenger in the car said, “Just see who the driver is.”

I didn’t want to. It was dark and would be slippery.

“Okay,” I told my sister-in-law. “I’m going to knock on the door. Do you see me yet?”

Her response was not encouraging. “Um, no?”

I knocked on the driver’s door. The door opened. It was not my brother’s wife. It was a man wearing a red coat and CowboyS hat.


“Surprise!” My brother helped me with the luggage and then he and I were off to his house. I don’t remember what we talked about but I remember feeling relieved, secure, and happy. I was finally getting the one-on-one time with my oldest brother.


rach's wedding

If it weren’t for Dan, I wouldn’t be writing this post. The car I had to reregister this week? Yeah, I bought it from him a couple years ago. He upgraded to a better car though we’re in agreement I’m driving a fairly good vehicle.

But Dan didn’t always have the classiest cars. But when you’re in high school any car would do. I still felt cool riding in his first, cheap car. I was a freshman and he was senior. He would race with a friend to school from seminary. It wasn’t healthy for the yellow car.

One morning the steering wheel came off. “What???” Dan tried to keep it in place as we slowly crossed the wide intersection where the most car accidents occurred at school. We made it. Barely, but we made it into a parking spot.

I’m thinking our mom picked us up that day. The car got fixed, and Dan secured the steering wheel with duct tape.  The fixes and the car’s accessories  cost more than the car itself. A CD player. A loose fake arm from Spencer’s that Dan liked to stick out the window.

Hope this didn’t embarrass him. But like I said, I felt pretty cool riding in his car.


Rachel is my favorite travel companion. Even when I get us lost, she’s patient. We never go hungry. Wherever we go, it’s a party–complete with Sonic drinks.

Rachel is pretty cool. As she drove me around, her song “Cool Kids” played over and over again. (I wished I could be like her!) One other favorite one was “Rude.” We applied it to a pet.

One of the most exciting times in her car was when we brought home a movie she wanted to watch with me. But we would have to wait for her husband to get home.  Until then we quoted clips in the car and while were eating dinner.  We even threw in wisdom.

“It doesn’t matter what happens in the blender. It’s what happens next.”

When it’s just Rachel and I, it’s a fun guarantee.




A couple years ago, I had the upper hand in some things. That included transportation. Joe is one of the best drivers but needed to borrow my car  a few times.

“Could I use the car this weekend?” Joe asked.

I knew the next thing he was going to say. “I have a date.”

Of course I would let him. And of course he’s gotten a cooler car since then and got married. But he and his wife still help me when I go places.

“Don’t hang up the phone!” (A favorite phrase of his wife) Without her and Joe, I would be in Wyoming right now with bad brakes.

Joe probably thinks (correctly) my car or myself couldn’t survive without him.

Because I needed to reregister my car this week, I needed a smog and safety check and was asking around. I texted Joe who texted back an address. As characteristic of our relationship, he called right after that text.

“This is what you need to know…” He went into greater detail and then asked if I understood. He’s pretty good at simplifying things when I ask.

car sleeping

Zzzzzzzzzz end!


Personal and family photos
Sonic photo taken by Belinda Hankins Miller


The Austen Vs. Barrett Sisters


One sister was near marriage but outside forces dashed those hopes. Her writer-sister had a proposal of marriage and….

How will such a story end?

The Austens

Cassandra’s fiance  worked in order for them to get married. He went on a military mission but died after he caught yellow fever in 1797. Cassandra now had some money, but no man to share it with. She never married.

Then we all know Jane.

CassandraAusten-JaneAusten(c.1810)_hiresParties, balls, humor, but never she seemed to find Mr. Right. She briefly accepted a proposal in 1802. The man was financially secured and perhaps it would have been perfect if she loved him. She didn’t and soon declined.  One portrayal of possible romances include Becoming Jane.

The Barretts

Henrietta could have been a character out of an Austen novel—was religious but determined to have fun and find romance at balls and parties. It seemed marriage was in her grasp at one point, but  any suitor was kicked out of her life by her father.

Mr. Barrett would never let his children marry.

Elizabeth couldn’t spend time outside like she used to, but kept contact with her family, friends, and intellectuals through  correspondences and others visiting her.  Her mind was active, but felt close to death till fellow poet Robert Browning showed intense interest in her.Elizabeth-Barrett-Browning,_Poetical_Works_Volume_I,_engraving One of the sonnets she wrote during their courtship starts:

“My future will not copy fair my past.”

The sonnet talks about the new life she feels like she’s been given. She can’t go back to the past where she thought love was lost.

Elizabeth couldn’t make the same mistakes other did. She had to be stealthier than Henrietta. And unlike Jane, Elizabeth had the means to support herself and was in love with a man who loved her. But could Elizabeth back out at the proposal of marriage from Robert? Would she find enough strength to go through with the marriage?

She did. She eloped with Robert Browning to Italy in 1846.. Elizabeth’s father disowned her but she continued to compose poems.

Now what of Henrietta?

Could she find true love? Even if she did, could she find a way to marry?

Four years after her sister eloped, Henrietta married a Captain William Cook.  Like Elizabeth, she too was disowned by her father.

We don’t know much about Henrietta but we know she displayed gumption. Some of that gumption is portrayed in, The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

Though the Barrett sisters could afford marriage, could they be indebted to the Austen sisters who gave some do’s and don’ts when it came to marriage and love?

P.S. And which film is better–Becoming Jane or The Barretts of Wimpole Street?

"The Two Sisters" by Henri Fantin-Latour
Portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Engraving September, 1859,      by Macaire Havre, engraving by T. O. Barlow
Charlotte Corday

Jael vs. Charlotte Corday: History’s Heroines or Villainesses?

The Bible’s Jael and French Revolution’s Charlotte Corday committing murder has to gone down with some of the most controversial moves in history.  It’s hard to say if they did the right thing . To understand why they did what they did, we need to look at the overall picture.


"Jael" by Spillberg

“Jael” by Spillberg












Barak wanted Deborah to go with him and his troops to face Canaanite army led by Sisera. Deborah agreed and told him, “The Lord shall sell Sisera in the hand of a woman” (Judges 4:9).

When Jael saw Siseria approaching, she acted as a friendly hostess. She welcomed him in her tent, gave him milk and blanket, and made sure he’s not disturbed. Then she “took a hammer in her hand, and went softly unto him, and smote the nail into his temples, and fastened into the ground: for he was fast asleep and weary. So he died” (Judges 4:21).


“Jael Smote Sisera and Slew Him” by Tissot

"Jael Shows to Barak Sisera Lying Dead" by Tissot

“Jael Shows to Barak Sisera Lying Dead” by Tissot

She went out to meet Barak who was no doubt graetful. Thanks to Jael, Israel gained momentum in fighting Canaan.  “God subdued on that day Jabin king of Canaan before the children of Israel. And the hand of the children of Israel prospered, and prevailed against Jabin the king of Canaan, until they had destroyed Jabin king of Canaan” (Judges 4:23-24).

What a wonderful and victorious ending. She killed a key captain making way for Israel to eventually kill the king.

Deborah praised Jael: “Blessed above women shall Jael the wife of Heber the Kenite be, blessed shall she be above women in the tent” (Judges 5:2)

"Deborah Praises Jael" by Gustave Dores

“Deborah Praises Jael” by Gustave Dores


Charlotte Corday

Charlotte Corday

“Charlotte Corday” From Evert A. Duykinck’s “A Portrait Gallery of Eminent Men and Women of Europe and America, with Biographies.”


During the French Revolution, a twenty-four-year old gave herself a mission. She planned to kill Jean-Paul Marat.

Charlotte Corday lived in in Normandy. She sympathized with the Girondists, a political group moderates—who were not for an absolute monarchy but didn’t like where the revolution was going. She, like other Girondists, were disgusted with the politics of the Jacobins, members of a radical political club, who used terror and violence to wipe out their opponents in the Reign of Terror such as the nobles and Girondists. Jean-Paul Marat, propaganda journalist and one of the Jacobin leaders, played a big role in that and most notably in the mass killings in Paris in 1792 which became known as the September Massacres. That event and the threat of civil war motivated Charlotte to take action and take out such a threat.

Going for the Most Venerable Leader

Without telling her plans to anyone, Charlotte traveled from Normandy to Paris with the intent to kill Marat. As mentioned before, Marat was a leader of the Jacobins, but he wasn’t the head leader.  Maximillian de Robespierre led the Reign of Terror. It’s been argued if she had to kill someone, it should have been Robespierre. That would have been like going for a king which actually would have made her mission impossible. Like Jael, Charlotte was going to wipe out a captain-figure not a type of king.

You could say both Charlotte and Jael used unorthodox weapons that usually served for every day use. Jael used a hammer and stake, and Charlotte used a six-inch blade kitchen knife she bought when she got to Paris .

Charlotte planned to kill Marat in front of the National Convention.  Due to illnesses, he was unable to make public appearances. He had developed a skin disorder probably from hiding in sewers. Charlotte found out he was staying with his wife Simone.  The first two times Charlotte went to the apartment, Simone turned her away. Charlotte claimed to have a list of Girondists that were plotting an uprising. On her third attempt, Marat wanted to speak with her.

Charlotte Corday et Marat by Jules Aviat 1880

Charlotte Corday et Marat by Jules Aviat 1880

L'Assassinat de Marat by Jean-Joseph Weerts

L’Assassinat de Marat by Jean-Joseph Weerts

Marat’s skin condition was so serious he did his work from the bathtub. As he wrote down the names, he was unaware that he was in such a vulnerable state. Charlotte stabbed him in the chest. He yelled to Simonne, and then he died. This was followed by a huge uproar and the arrest of Charlotte Corday on July 13, 1793.


Charlotte didn’t meet the same triumph as Jael. When Charlotte was tried, she was asked why she killed Marat.  She said she did it to save thousands. This answer had reflected Robespierre’s reaction to executing Louis XVI. Four days after killing Marat, Charlotte’s head went on the scaffold.

Did Charlotte Corday fail in her mission? It’s hard to say. She didn’t get the immediate praise Jael got for killing, but she made an immediate impact. One witness at her execution named Pierre Notelet said, “Her beautiful face was so calm, that one would have said she was a statue. Behind her, young girls held each other’s hands as they danced. For eight days I was in love with Charlotte Corday.”

"Charlotte Corday" by Jean-Jacques Hauer. This portrait was done in prison at her request.

“Charlotte Corday” by Jean-Jacques Hauer. This portrait was done in prison at her request.

Adam Lux, another witness, was so impressed with Charlotte Corday, he published pamphlets that deemed Charlotte’s actions justified and for freedom. He was also executed. I believe this shows that people got thinking who the actual enemy of was. It wasn’t pro-monarchs or true republicans. Those in power during the Reign of Terror didn’t have the French citizens’ best interests in mind. They were dictators who used sources, like the press, to deceive and threaten the people. There were those like Charlotte Corday who called them out.  A year after Charlotte’s death, those who corrupted the government also had a date with Madame Guillotine, including Robespierre.

Charlotte Corday went on to influence others with her patriotic zeal. Writer Alphonse de Lamartine nicknamed her the “angel of assassination” in his 1847 book Histoire des Girondins.

In 1860, France was on the road to a republic that Charlotte had desired. The Jacques-Louis David’s 1793 painting portraying Marat as a martyr that the Jacobins used as propaganda was literally painted at a different angle. In Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudr’s 1860 painting, Corday is portrayed as the heroine.

640px-Death_of_Marat_by_Jacques-Louis David

“Death of Marat” 1793by Jaques-Louis David. Here Marat is portrayed as martyr.


640px-Charlotte_Corday by Paul-Jacques-Aimé Baudry (2)

“Charlotte Codray” 1860 by Paul-Jaques-Aime Badry. Now, Charlotte is seen as the hero.


The Verdict

Did Jael do the right thing? Was Charlotte’s act justifiable?
I have studied the biblical text more and the Reign of Terror closer in order to come to a verdict. I’ve also considered the circumstances of war in their cases. I will not be a judge in the final judgement, but I’ve made my personal conclusions,
Jael: By killing the captain of the opposing army, Israel was able to win the battle and the war. She protected a nation by weakening the enemy. Verdict: Not guilty. Heroine.
Charlotte: Murdering a journalist responsible for massacres. It looked like she lost the battle, but her sacrifice was a necessary loss to win the war in finding freedom. She identified France’s true enemies. Verdict: Not guilty. Heroine.

Do you agree with my verdicts?  The situations are in gray areas. I see these two women acting for their great good their country. One lived to see victorious results, and the other died before she could witness the enemies’ downfalls.

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