71 episodes

A podcast about people and events in American history you may not know much about. Yet.

Unsung History Kelly Therese Pollock

    • History
    • 4.8 • 45 Ratings

A podcast about people and events in American history you may not know much about. Yet.

    Southwest Borderlands in the 19th Century

    Southwest Borderlands in the 19th Century

    Through the 19th Century, the US-Mexico border moved repeatedly, and the shifting borderlands were a space of cultural and economic transition that often gave rise to racialized gendered violence.  
    In this episode I speak with Dr. Bernadine Hernández, Associate Professor of American Literary Studies at the University of New Mexico, an activist with fronteristxs, and author of Border Bodies: Racialized Sexuality, Sexual Capital, and Violence in the Nineteenth-Century Borderlands.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is: “Mexican church at the smelter, El Paso, Texas, United States, ca. 1907,” Detroit Publishing Co. No known restrictions on publication, Accessed via the Library of Congress.

    Additional Sources:

    “A moving border, and the history of a difficult boundary,” by Ron Dungan, USA Today, The Wall, 2018. 

    “The Violent History of the U.S.-Mexico Border,” by Becky Little, History.com, March 14, 2019.

    “Mexico's Independence Day marks the beginning of a decade-long revolution,” by Heather Brady, National Geographic, September 14, 2018.

    “The Republic of Texas - The Texas Revolution” The Treaties of Velasco,” Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission.

    “Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848),” National Archives.

    “Refusing to Forget: The History of Racial Violence on the Mexico-Texas Border.”

    “Rodriguez, Josefa [Chipita] (unknown–1863),” by Marylyn Underwood, Texas State Historical Association.

    “Woman by the River: Chipita’s ghost lingers on in San Patricio on 156th anniversary of hanging,” by Paul Gonzales, News of San Patricio, November 15, 2019.


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    • 47 min
    The Pacific Coast Abortion Ring

    The Pacific Coast Abortion Ring

    In mid-1930s, pregnant women in cities in California, Oregon, and Washington could obtain safe surgical abortions in clean facilities from professionals trained in the latest technique. The only catch? The abortions were illegal.
    The syndicate that provided these abortions was the Pacific Coast Abortion Ring, which  operated from 1934 to 1936 with clinic locations in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; and San Diego, Long Beach, Hollywood, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, California. It employed more than thirty people, which included not just doctors but also receptionists, nurses, and steerers who referred women to the Pacific Coast Abortion clinics from doctors’ offices and pharmacies. 
    Joining me to help tell the story of the Pacific Coast Abortion Ring is Dr. Alicia Gutierrez-Romine, Assistant Professor of History at LaSierra University and author of From Back Alley to the Border: Criminal Abortion in California, 1920-1969, the source for much of this introduction.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is: “Jewel Inez Joseph, mother of Ruth Attaway who died after an abortion, in court, Los Angeles, 1935,” published in the Los Angeles Times, August 22, 1935, and is available via the UCLA Charles E. Young Research Library Department of Special Collections, under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

    Additional Sources:

    “Abortion and the Law in California: Lessons for Today,” by Alicia Gutierrez-Romine, California History, February 1, 2022; 99 (1): 10–29. 

    “How California created the nation’s easiest abortion access — and why it’s poised to go further” by Kristen Hwang, Cal Matters, April 21, 2022.

    “San Diego’s History as a Haven for Desperate Women” by Randy Dotinga, Voice of San Diego, July 3, 2022.

    “‘Criminal Operations’: The First Fifty Years of Abortion Trials in Portland, Oregon,” by Michael Helquist. Oregon Historical Quarterly, 2015; 116 (1), 6–39. 


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    • 51 min
    Mary Ware Dennett & the Birth Control Movement

    Mary Ware Dennett & the Birth Control Movement

    For birth control advocate Mary Ware Dennett, the personal was political. After a difficult labor and delivery with her third child, a physician told Mary Ware Dennett she should not have any more children, but he told her nothing about how to prevent pregnancy. Dennett’s husband began an affair with a client of his architectural firm, destroying their marriage, and Dennett devoted her work to ensuring that other couples could receive information about birth control. A 1930 federal court case against her, United States v. Dennett, opened the door to widespread distribution of birth control information in the US.
    Joining me in this episode is Dr. Lauren MacIvor Thompson, Assistant Professor of History at Kennesaw State University and faculty research fellow at the Georgia State University College of Law’s Center for Law, Health & Society. She is writing a book called Battle for Birth Control: Mary Dennett, Margaret Sanger, and the Rivalry That Shaped a Movement, that will be published by Rutgers University Press.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is a photo of Mary Ware Dennett from the New York Journal-American Collection, Harry Ransom Center, University Of Texas.

    Sources:

    “The Sex Side of Life: An Explanation for Young People,” by Mary Ware Dennett, 1919. Available via Project Gutenberg.

    “Papers of Mary Ware Dennett,” Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute

    “The Sex Education Pamphlet That Sparked a Landmark Censorship Case,” by Sharon Spaulding, Smithsonian Magazine, September 30, 2021.

    “A Birth-Control Crusader,” by Marjorie Heins, The Atlantic, October 1996.

    “Mary Coffin Ware Dennett,” by Lakshmeeramya Malladi,Embryo Project Encyclopedia, June 22, 2016.

    “Unsentimental Education: Mary Ware Dennett’s quest to make contraception—and knowledge about sex—available to all,” by Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, The American Scholar, March 4, 2021.


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    • 53 min
    Abortion in 18th Century New England

    Abortion in 18th Century New England

    In 1742, in Pomfret, Connecticut, 19-year-old Sarah Grosvenor discovered she was pregnant, the result of a liaison with 27-year-old Amasa Sessions. Instead of marrying Sarah, Amasa provided her with a physician-prescribed abortifacient, what the youth of Pomfret called “taking the trade." When that didn’t work to end the pregnancy, the physician attempted a manual abortion, which led to Sarah’s death. Three years later, the physician was tried for “highhanded Misdemeanour." The surviving trial documentation gives us an unusually detailed look into the reproductive lives of Connecticut youths in the mid-18th Century. 
    Joining me in this episode to help us learn more about the Sarah Grosvenor case and its historical context is Dr. Cornelia H. Dayton, Professor of History at the University of Connecticut and author of the 1991 article, “Taking the Trade: Abortion and Gender Relations in an Eighteenth-Century New England Village,” in The William and Mary Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1, 1991, pp. 19–49, and co-creator of the Taking the Trade website.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is original artwork created by Matthew Weflen.

    Additional Sources:

    “Abortion in Colonial America: A Time of Herbal Remedies and Accepted Actions,” by Kimberly Phillips, UConn Today, August 22, 2022.

    “The Strange Death of Sarah Grosvenor in 1742,” New England Historical Society.

    “The History of Abortifacients,” by Stassa Edwards, Jezebel, November 18, 2014.

    “How U.S. abortion laws went from nonexistent to acrimonious,” by Erin Blakemore, National Geographic, May 17, 2022.

    “In Connecticut, A Long Battle For Reproductive Freedom,” by Susan Campbell, Hartford Courant, June 5, 2014.


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    • 41 min
    Agatha Christie

    Agatha Christie

    Agatha Christie is the best-selling novelist of all time, whose books have been outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. You can probably name several of her books and recurring characters, but how much do you know about Agatha Christie herself? In our final British History episode, we look at Agatha Christie’s life, in the hospital dispensary, at home with her daughter, abroad on archeological digs, and behind the typewriter.
    Joining me in this episode to help us learn more about Agatha Christie is historian Dr. Lucy Worsley, OBE, Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces and BBC presenter and author of the new book, Agatha Christie: An Elusive Woman, which will be published in the United States on September 6, 2022.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is Agatha Christie as a young woman, circa 1910. It is in the public domain and available via Wikimedia Commons. The audio interlude is “Mystery Waltz,” written by Raymond Scott and performed by Raymond Scott and His Orchestra in 1953. The audio is in the public domain and available via Archive.org.

    Additional Sources:

    AgathaChristie.com: The home of Agatha Christie

    “A Very British Murder with Lucy Worsley,” BBC Select TV Mini Series, 2013.

    “When the World’s Most Famous Mystery Writer Vanished,” by Tina Jordan, The New York Times, June 11, 2019.

    “The Essential Agatha Christie,” by Tina Jordan, The New York Times, October 25, 2020. 

    “Why Agatha Christie is even more awesome than you thought,” by Margaret Sessa-Hawkins, PBS NewsHouse, September 15, 2015.


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    • 42 min
    Mary Seacole

    Mary Seacole

    When the United Kingdom joined forces with Turkey and France to declare war on Russia in March 1854, Jamaican-Scottish nurse Mary Seacole decided her help was needed. When the British War Office declined her repeated offers of help, she headed off to Crimea anyway and set up her British Hotel near Balaklava. The British Hotel, which opened in March 1855, was a combination general store, restaurant, and first aid station, and the British soldiers and officers came to love Mary and call her “Mother Seacole.”
    Joining me in this episode to help us learn more about Mary Seacole is historian and writer Helen Rappaport, author of the new book, In Search of Mary Seacole: The Making of a Black Cultural Icon and Humanitarian, which will be released in the United States on September 6, 2022.
    Our theme song is Frogs Legs Rag, composed by James Scott and performed by Kevin MacLeod, licensed under Creative Commons. The episode image is a photograph of Mary Seacole from an unknown source, believed to be dated around 1850; it is in the public domain. 

    Additional Sources:

    “Mary Seacole & Black Victorian History: Remarkable Women in Extraordinary Circumstances,” Helen Rappaport.


    Mary Seacole Trust.

    “The Crimean War,” by Andrew Lambert, BBC.

    “Crimean War,” History.com



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    • 48 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
45 Ratings

45 Ratings

Megan Linger ,

An absolute gem!

I absolutely love this podcast. Always astounding, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes inspiring. Each episode turns your understanding of the past and present on its head to some degree. The scholarly guests are always fascinating to listen to and Kelly is a talented, thoughtful interviewer.

Buhnanie ,

You Never Fail

To host an author or expert who doesn’t make me feel I’ve learned more about our country’s history and the achievements or plights of others in the process. we have to, as a country, invite knowledge even when it is not always positive or conflicts with our preferred view of our country. We can still love our country while knowing its (our) faults. The episode on Filipino nurses taught me more than I’d ever learned in American history about the people of the Philippines in relation to their migration to the USA.

Dressing Up book ,

Clever and well-researched

Love the subjects and how the host hones in on the most salient points about each "unsung history." I also appreciate the thorough, well-paced introductions to each episode.

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