My maiden name was Christman —note the "t". I only had to change it by one letter when I married Gabriel Chrisman! My ancestors come from the Black Forest region of Germany, and Gabriel's ancestors come from the Alsace, a region of Europe which has been either French or German depending on who won the last war. In both cases (the Christmans and the Chrismans) our ancestors were Jewish, living through times when being a Jew in Germany was not very conducive to a long life, to put it delicately. Taking on a name which included "Christ" (or a close approximation thereof) was a way families like our ancestors avoided persecution. Christmann and similar variations are still relatively common names in Germany. After converting but before leaving Germany, my ancestors went by the name Christmann; they dropped the second "n" when they came to America in the 1860s. They joined the Union army shortly after arrival and fought in the Civil War.
I was born in Renton, Washington on March 12, 1980. I have always loved the late Victorian era, most especially the 1880s and '90s. When I was a little girl, my mother took me to visit the Flavel House in Astoria, Oregon, a Victorian house built between 1884-1885. I begged her to leave me there.
Like any good Victorian lady, I have an advanced education in the humanities: I hold a degree in French from the University of Washington, and also a degree in International Studies (c/o 2002.) I've done a great deal of teaching, to all age groups. From November of 2006 to November of 2007, I taught English at a private language school in Komatsu, Japan (near Kanazawa.) After I returned to America, I taught English as a Second Language for a time at Renton Technical College, then took up a number of private tutoring jobs in subjects from English to history. The youngest student I've taught was seven, while the oldest was a seventy-two-year-old grandmother. I love watching the light that appears in people's eyes when I've caught their interest with new knowledge.
My first book, Victorian Secrets: What A Corset Taught Me About the Past, the Present, and Myself, came out in November 2013. It was an incredibly exciting time and my book's debut led to a number of unforgettable experiences including a trip to New York to meet Whoopi Goldberg and be on "The View."
My second book, This Victorian Life: Modern Adventures in Nineteenth-Century Culture, Cooking, Fashion and Technology tells the story of Gabriel and I moving to Port Townsend and setting up our Victorian home. It recounts the various adventures we've had along the way interacting with Victorian technology, from writing letters in liquid ink to taking a 130-mile bicycle ride with Gabriel on an 1887 high wheel!
My current project is my Tales of Chetzemoka series, historical fiction about the adventures of a cycling club in the Pacific Northwest in the 1880s and '90s. Click here to find out more!
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What Millenial Women Can Learn From Victorian Ladies:
Our Victorian Life
Getting Intimate With History:
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