Meet The Ladies: Theodosia LaDuke

Good day my colleagues!  In continuing with our Meet The Ladies series, here’s the inside scoop on our favorite Amazonian Adventuress

Theodosia LaDuke

Miss LaDuke, or Theo as the other Ladies like to call her, is a free-spirited force of nature.  Not content to spend her life married away to a yawn of a man and following society’s stipulations, she took her money and ran… all the way to South America.  She parked her ship, trecked into the amazon, and set herself up quite nicely with the locals (and local sheep), contentedly crafting and dying fiber in her self-made paradise.  The ladies are always eager for her letters, illustrations and precious samples of her exotic discoveries.  Though I don’t doubt she’d turn that ship for home in an instant if any one of them was in need of her assistance.  And I have the feeling with a little help from Theo, there isn’t much they couldn’t do.


The Scent of a Lady, pt 2

Greetings, colleagues!  As promised, today I give you Part 2 of the tale of Miss Alyssa Rynne’s osmanthus perfume.  As you recall last week, we read all about her collaboration with Miss LaDuke to cultivate the osmathus flowers and extract the oils.  I also hinted about a little collaboration of my own, so here’s the story!

Along with Miss LaDuke’s letter, I found a gorgeous bottle (more on that next week!) containing the merest few drops of Miss Alyssa’s perfume.  Colleagues, you cannot imaging the glorious scent that issued forth from that well-sealed bottle, preserved these many years.  Now, just as I have been re-creating the amazing knitted items from the Ladies, I knew I must re-create that fragrance!  I immediately got in touch with my good friend, perfumer Sweet Anthem, to see what she could deduce about the scent, and here’s what she found…

Alyssa’s Perfume Recipe:

Head Notes:
• Bergamot
• Cardamom c02 extract
• White Grapefruit
• Ylang Ylang

Heart Notes:
• Petitgrain Sur Fleur Osmanthus*
• Osmanthus Fruit**
• Jamsine Sambac

Base Notes:
• African Sandalwood
• Violet Leaf Absolute
• Clove Bud Absolute
• Immortelle

Notes from the Perfumer:

“This is fundamentally a classic unisex chypre, which is a blend of woods and citrus.”

As you can see, the osmanthus is strongly featured, and makes for a truly outstanding fragrance: woods and citrus, right on the nose (pun intended).  Just thinking about all those lovely scents evokes such a strong image of who our Lady Alyssa must have been.  Perhaps you might be able to experience it for yourself in the near future (hint hint – I’m so full of them these days!)  And, as mentioned earlier, stay tuned for Part 3 coming next week!

Smell ya later (sorry),

~The Archivist

The Scent of a Lady, pt 1

Good morning colleagues!  It’s the first of a multi-part treat for you today!  Segueing quite nicely, if I do say so myself, from Miss Alyssa Rynne’s letter last week, I’m very excited to present the first in a series of correspondence between her and our Amazonian Exploress Theodosia LaDuke.  Let’s see what happens when you put those two minds together!


        I hope this package finds you well. After the arrival of your Osmanthus seedlings last spring I am happy to send you these wonderful oils, which I have extracted from not just the stems and leaves as you suggested, but also the fruit. I do believe this to be the first time anyone has used a press to extract Osmanthus oil and I will be sending my report on to the institute for publication on the matter. These oils are simply astounding, as I’m sure you well know; the oil from the fruit is sweet and earthy, as if it were a cross between a fig and an olive. I am sure these will make a most wondrous perfume.


Once I was able to have my torch and glass rods airdropped in, going about setting up a distillation laboratory was surprisingly simple. Here in the Amazon, the natives have never seen such advanced technology and were more than happy to learn. I now have a full staff of laboratory technologists! (I should write to Dr. Erma and see if she can recommend a good seamstress for appropriate laboratory attire.) This of course does not even take into account the lovely garden I have erected outside my hut. The soil composition and tropical air are perfect for growing most any fruit or flower I desire.

        I have also sent along a couple more native oils for you to try out. I am sure the blend of Osmanthus with these oils will produce a spicy/indolic floral scent, though the osmanthus brings out the earthy side, with a musky/sweet blend of woods and spice. Please do be sure to send me a bottle when you have blended it. I will not be able to wear it here in the tropics but would love to have it on hand for my next journey to London.

With much love and affection,

Theodosia LaDuke


Mmmm… I’m sure any perfume Miss Alyssa wore was absolutely divine.  Having botanical experts and scientists as friends certainly has its perks!  And it’s so nice to read what a pleasant time Miss LaDuke was having in the Amazon, all settled in with a nice hut and garden, and see more of her beautiful sketches as well.  As I mentioned before, I have more on this subject to bring you next week (Hint: I have friends who know about perfume too.)  You won’t want to miss it!

What’s sheepy and lives in the jungle?

Greetings colleagues!  As you may recall, last week I shared with you an exciting new letter from Theodosia LaDuke, beginning her Amazonian explorations.  Well, I’m thrilled to share with you some excellent field notes of hers I just found, complete with drawings.  Enjoy!

Field Notes:

Ovis pluvia (Jungle Sheep)

First spotted in amazonian basin June 18th 1884

Initial observations:

These remarkable new creatures are small in stature, measuring 40 centimeters long from tail to muzzle and 30 centimeters tall at mid back. The animals’ hoofed feet appear to be rough on the bottom and slightly split, presumably to help climb into the trees much the same way a mountain goat would scale a cliff side. They have two small horns atop their heads which have rounded nobs on each.

The wool of these beasts is a buttery tan shade with patches of mossy green. The staple length is 6 centimeters and has the most incredible crimp, making this wool top grade. The most notable quality to this wool is that it appears to resist felting. Even once spun up this wool fabric will not felt when exposed to heat and water (presumably this adaptation is to protect the animals in their warm, wet jungle environment.) Fabric made from this extraordinary new fiber has kept me cool and dry. I knit with it continuously and wear nothing else. I simply cannot wait to get this fiber back to the states and into the hands of Miss Miriam Tingley to see how it holds up to cold weather.

These sheep live among the low trees that occupy the river edge. They spend a good part of the day here consuming mostly young vegetation. At night they venture to the ground and sleep in small crevices and hollow logs along the jungle floor, their colored wool acting as a deterrent from large nocturnal predators.

I can only wonder what the Ladies made of her outstanding discovery.  Did any of these fine animals and/or their fleece make it back to the United States?   I should definitely have some of the wool items I have recovered (oh yes – there’s more to come!) analyzed to see if the fiber has any of the distinguishing characteristics mentioned above.  Perhaps it was a well kept Ladies of Mischief secret!  They seem to have quite a few…

Welcome to the Jungle

Good day, my colleagues.  I’ve been hard at work categorizing the artifacts in the lower portion of the trunk – some very exciting finds to show you in the near future!  I had to put this one up right away, since it’s an update from Miss Theodosia LaDuke, who we last left skipping town for the Amazon to shake off some financial disputes.  Well, it seems there was quite a turn of events…

My dear Ladies,

This letter is sent to you in greatest confidence. If my now husband, Mr. Beechworth, were to discover my location, I would be in grave danger. Just yesterday, I escaped from Cape Cod and am safely making way to the Amazon on my newly christened ship, the Coriolis. You may be asking, “What on earth happened at her father’s funeral to prompt Theodosia to marry such an intolerable man?” As you know, Mr. Beechworth was the sole heir to Father’s fortune. Try as I may, no lawyer in town could reverse that tradition, thus marriage was my only option. It will please you to know, however, that this union has finally subdued Mother. Upon receipt of our marriage certificate, I was able to secure a loan for the sum of my share of the inheritance, just as my ship was completed and ready to board. Now that all is right, I may continue my adventures south of the border. Fear not, I have told no one about my departure; tracking me and the remaining funds will be a difficult endeavor indeed.

We have set sail for the northern point of Brasilia, where the mighty Amazon meets the sea. From there, we will trek overland to the heart of this great unexplored wilderness. Who knows the varieties of flora and fauna I may discover! With luck I will make some wondrous finds for the Institute.

So it seems our clever Miss LaDuke was able to turn the situation to her advantage. For those of you not up on your Pride-and-Prejudice inheritance laws, as a daughter, Miss LaDuke would have been skipped over and the next male relative would have the rights to her father’s estate.  It appears the next “rightful heir” (don’t get me started) Mr. Beechworth was a distant cousin or some such.  Thus, Miss LaDuke was able to marry him and secure her family funds once again.  And then promptly use the money to run away from her horrible new husband and resume exploring!  The Ladies never fail to impress with their bravery and cunning in defying the standards of the time.  I will of course keep my eye out for more letters from Miss LaDuke’s Amazonian adventure and her finds for the Institute, whatever that may be.  Until next time!

Run for the Border

Hello again, dear colleagues.  I hope you all had a festive Thanksgiving!  I enjoyed my turkey trunk-side and had a very productive time of it, until I managed to fall asleep in a pile of letters.  Fortunately, I’d already set aside a particularly interesting one from a new Lady of Mischief, which I’ve just completed transcribing below.

My Darling Ladies,

I hope this latest dispatch finds you well. How I miss my misty San Francisco; life here in Boston is just as stifling as ever and I simply long to return home. Mother has taken to telling me that in my situation I must refrain from my foolish endeavors, put aside my dreams of world travel and exploration, and focus on finding a husband. What rot! I must confess to you, dear friends, that giving it all up and remaining here is more than I can bear. As soon as my father’s estate has been put in order I shall sail for South America and begin my studies of the aboriginal populations.

By unfortunate coincidence, I managed to run into Mr. Beechworth today; oh, that man is as much a bother as ever. He still maintains that I owe him for the rights on my mine in the Sierra, even though I have repeatedly explained to him about the overseas account and the trustee who is maintaining the funds. Yet Beechworth still insists I pay him or risk the consequences. Well I’d like to see him follow me to the Amazon.

Helen is ringing me for tea, so I must be off. Fear not, I will write again upon arrival in the jungle. Best wishes and good health my dear ladies.

Sincerely yours,

Theodosia LaDuke

The Amazon!  Is there anywhere on earth these gallivanting women didn’t go? And sailing this time, too.  Oh, what I would give for some information on her ship!  It also makes me wonder where their base of operations might have been located, as we seem to have representation from both sides of the pond.  Hmmm.  Hopefully all will be revealed once my cataloguing is complete.  Back to it!

Oh, and as promissed I’ve updated the Lace Gear post with a direct link to purchase the pattern (located at the bottom of the post).

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