Tragedy, Bravery, Royal Weddings and Queer Riders – why I can’t stop researching the nineteenth-century circus

Following on from essays for the Paris Review Daily about Selika Lazevski (here, with research notes here) and Sarah l’Africaine (here, with research notes here), I’ve written a third essay about my obsession with the horsewomen of the nineteenth-century Parisian circus who “lived at the center of public attention while simultaneously being marginal”. You can […]

The Story of the “Black Gazelle” of the Paris Hippodrome: Sarah L’Africaine

A new essay on an equestrian stuntwoman who set Second Empire Paris alight: Sarah l’Africaine, following on from an earlier piece about the mystery horsewoman Selika Lazevski. Here’s some information about my sources: Most of the firsthand material is combed from Gallica, the incredible, searchable digital collection of the French national library. The quotations in […]

Everything I Don’t Know About Selika Lazevski

This blog post is about the research behind an essay I published on Paris Review Daily on 9 February 2018 (accessible here). I first blogged about Selika when her image went viral in 2012. The best source of information was a commenter called Marie (her profile has since been deleted), who pointed out the source […]

Women Who Spend Too Much Money On Horses #265372

A COUNTESS IN THE RING She Is to Make Her Debut in a Paris Circus A Countess of ancient lineage, and who for many years has been one of the ornaments of the Austrian court, is about to make her debut as a circus-rider of “Haute Ecole” at the “Nouveau Cirque” at Paris. She is […]

Unbridled Dressage, Brushes with Scandal and a Tragic End: Adèle Drouin

Scores or maybe even hundreds of women in nineteenth century Europe performed as haute-école riders in circuses and hippodromes* before audiences from all classes. A handful of them became famous, as the expansion of the newspaper market meant that they were the first women to be widely celebrated for their equestrian skills (other than the […]

May 2017 Bring You Obedient White Horses

Therese Renz of the famous Renz circus dynasty, c. 1895. I’ve seen wonderful pictures of her in action (have you see the one where she and her horse are jumping rope?) but didn’t realise that she was a Berliner, and is buried just up the road from me in St Hedwig’s cemetery in Weissensee. She […]

Sidesaddle in a Hot Air Balloon (and other adventures)

If you’ve come here after reading the Washington Post piece on the revival of sidesaddle in America (now going a little viral on Jezebel.com), here’s a selection from the archives – a little bit of everything from balloonists to tragic heroines, scandalous females and zebras ridden sidesaddle. I also wrote in detail about women and […]