Whoosh! Issue 46 - July 2000

By Linda Knighton with research notes by Marilynn Masten
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
2446 words

Introduction (01)
Xena's Time
     The Armor (02-04)
     Telling Time (05-07)
     Fire Starting (08-09)
     Healing (10-12)
     Containers, Overstuffed Armchairs, and Stoves (13-15)
Janice And Mel's Time
     Cultural Influences (16-18)
     Travel (19-20)
     Clothing (21-25)
     Miscellaneous (26-28)
     Economics (29-35)
     The Issue of Maids (36-42)
Conclusion (43)

Historian's Rants about Xena: Warrior Princess Fan Fiction


[1] I have a BA in historical research. As a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism for over 10 years, I notice things. I am going to start with the things that bug me the most. However, I will not point out the works of specific bards to do it. That would be mean.

Xena's Time

The Armor

In an effort to save the series (and money), the character of Xena is replaced by Renee O'Connor in Series Six

Gabrielle dons Xena's duds in THE GREATER GOOD.

[2] Xena's armor parts have names. When you speak of the breastplate, you mean the metallic part that covers the front of Xena's chest. The rest of the armor covering her torso in general is the cuirass, or if you want to be super picky, klibanion. The part under the cuirass that looks like a lot of leather bookmarks is called the pteruges. Most of these are Greek terms and were in use at least as early as the Byzantine Empire. Her arms are protected by bracers from wrist to elbow, and by armbands above the elbow. Her legs are well protected by kneecops and greaves over her boots. Her shoulder guards might be called pauldrons, but they are rather small. Her early armor, in the Herc episode had true pauldrons.

[3] Here are some great resources about armor and the names of their parts:



[4] Now, for the thing that really grates on my nerves when I read it: the leather bodice worn under Xena's armor is not "her leathers". For the technically minded, you can call it her aketon, another Greek term.

Telling Time

[5] People in Ancient Greece used oil lamps. They did not use candles, so there is no reason they should ever talk about candle marks. They had sundials. They could see the sun or moon in the sky, since they did not live in the Pacific Northwest. Xena herself told the Princess in THE PATH NOT TAKEN (05/105) to meet her when the moon was in the western sky.

[6] Here is an excellent page on time telling without a clock or a candle:


[7] In Athens or Corinth, they might have access to a water clock or an hourglass. Xena and Gabrielle could also make a crude sun dial with sticks and rocks if they camped in one place.

Fire Starting

[8] Despite some Xena episodes, you do not pound two rocks together to start an immediate and perfect fire. You must have flint or chert, a very sharp edge, and either steel or iron pyrite long enough and formed just perfectly so that you can strike a spark. This is literally slicing a tiny bit of the steel off with the flint so fast that it glows white-hot, and will catch a small bit of char or other flammable material to get the spark to flame.

[9] Lost Dragon and I once took a strike-a-light kit to a fan fiction writing class, and had people try to start a spark. They can all attest that it was not easy.

Another great website:


Knowing full well the Red Cross has disavowed the precordial thump, Xena bashes the bard 'Just for the heck of it'

Xena tries to revive Gabrielle in IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE.

[10] Herbs are not modern wonder drugs, nor are they readily available. It takes time to properly prepare some of them. Some are not in season when needed. Some grow at a different elevation or in a different climate. That is why people carried theirs with them dried. They also do not cure someone in 24 hours. That is why people of old feared getting sick -- people died.

[11] However, some herbal remedies can cure or at least mitigate some common ailments. White willow bark alleviates headaches. Echinacea is used to treat infections and abscesses. Feverfew relieves migraines and diabetes. Licorice settles an acid stomach. A compress of nettles eases backaches. Skullcap can be used as a muscle relaxant and induces sleep. Horehound treats sore throats and colds.

[12] This web site is about the history of Herbal Medicine, and has a lot on Greek and Roman Healing.


Containers, Overstuffed Armchairs, and Stoves

[13] They had a great variety of containers at their disposal. Water skins, leather pouches, sacks, gourds, baskets, leaf packets, and folded bark tied with dried grass were all commonplace. They also had expensive glass bottles and rawhide wallets that were bigger than we carry today. Of course, there were saddlebags. And do not forget the corks, waxed string and sealing wax to close those containers. Parchment was rare and expensive.

[14] Overstuffed armchairs and similar furniture did not exist until the seventeenth century.

[15] Ben Franklin invented stoves. The only exception to this is the Hungarian clay oven/room-heating stove/sleeping shelf. It was an amazing feat of invention, but still post Xena.

Janice And Mel's Times

Mel regards the back of Janice's head as 'chakram material'

Janice and Mel -- fashion mavens in THE XENA SCROLLS.

Cultural Influences

[16] I ran my rant past the real expert on the Janice and Mel era, my mom, who is their contemporary. She corrected many of my misconceptions. It is a tricky time period to get right.

[17] Janice and Mel were in their mid-twenties in 1942. Now, they would be in their seventies. This means they were born around 1920. Their parents experienced World War I, and the Roaring Twenties, as well as the Influenza Epidemic of 1918. Janice and Mel grew up in the Twenties and during the Great Depression. These events colored the thinking of a whole generation. The American South Mel grew up in was also segregated.

[18] In the late 1930's and early 1940's most people did not have a telephone in their home. If they lived in town, they had running water, a furnace, a gas stove, a refrigerator, electricity, and radio. They also went to the movies quite often. Drinking Coke was also a part of life, as well as very fancy ice cream sodas.


[19] The majority of women who lived in town did not drive. The streetcar or bus was a fixture in most major cities.

[20] Flying in a plane was a rare thing. Some Janice and Mel stories point this out, while others assume they flew as often as we do today. More likely, they would be using a tramp steamer to get around while traveling across the Atlantic, and riding the train traveling across land.


[21] Most grown women did not wear slacks in public, unless they were working in a factory, or doing a man's job, such as Amelia Erhardt did while flying, or Janice Covington did while on a dig. Marlene Deitrich is the one woman who made it okay for women to wear slacks in public. Thanks, Marlene! Work clothes for most adult women consisted of a housedress, extra thick cotton stockings, a hairnet, and sturdy shoes. Fancy hairnets were in style for that time period.

[22] Teen boys were wearing blue jeans by 1941. Jeans were not made for girls yet, so teen girls wore the boy's version, and they were rather tight across the hips. For casual, everyday wear, teens and young women wore skirts, cut short due to the cloth shortage, with blouses and bobby socks, with either saddle shoes or loafers.

[23] Silk stockings were in short supply, so women shaved their legs, put tan makeup on them, and drew a line down the backs of their legs with an eyebrow pencil to make it look like a stocking seam. There was no such thing as a seamless stocking. There were nylons, but they were very scarce. People literally could not buy them after 1940. You could take a nylon with a run in it to the drugstore, and they would sew it up for you for ten cents. The run did not show anymore. Women held their nylon or silk stockings up by using a garter belt. Mel wore a girdle for special occasions, and Janice did too (with much bad language while putting it on, I am sure). Pantyhose came in when I was a teenager in 1964.

[24] There was also no polyester cloth, although rayon and nylon existed. And the pantsuit was far in the future. Women wore hats and gloves when they dressed up. Also, they wore skirted suits sporting padded shoulders.

[25] And now for makeup: pancake makeup, eyebrow pencil, lipstick (Tangee brand), rouge, and eyeliner. No colored eye shadow. That is my generation. Mel would have borrowed a trick Marlene Deitrich used. She would have taken a china teacup, lit a match under it, and collected the smoke to use as eye shadow. The charred end of the match was used to darken your eyelashes. All this makeup was inside a makeup case, in your purse, which was actually a shoulder bag.


[26] They had soap, not detergent. Remember the ration stamps if they are in the USA. Gasoline, sugar, fat and meat were all rationed. No direct dialing on the telephone. Operators answered and connected you to the desired party. Prefixes were often colorful names, like Emerald or Pennsylvania, followed by only five numbers. Rural areas still used crank phones and had different rings for different households on the party line, which were shared with many other families. Rural people also still used windmills for electricity, which basically only took care of the lights. They were allowed to drive cars and trucks, as well as tractors.

[27] Country people used wood stoves, springhouses, and heated their own bath water. They grew or shot their own food. They did a lot of canning at home too.

[28] Blackouts and blackout curtains were also a fact of life in the USA. Air Raid Wardens enforced the rules.


[29] Prices and wages were both lower, although World War II made high wages more commonplace for many families. Housing was in a great shortage, and roommates were a fact of life. Boarding houses were common. Here are some prices from 1938, directly from a period newspaper:

Vicks or Ludens menthol cough drops for 5 cents
Bread for 7 cents, or 3 for 20 cents per loaf
Jumbo bread for 10 cents
Pennant coffee 18 cents per pound
Folgers coffee 20 cents per pound
Post Toasties 11 cents
Toilet tissue 5 cents for 1000 sheet
Rice 7 cents per pound
Iodized salt 9 cents
Prunes, fancy 15 cents for 2 lbs.
Raisins 17 cents for 2 lbs.
Apricots 30 cents for 2 lbs.
[30] Here is the federal hourly minimum wage, since its inception:

October, 1938 -- 25 cents
October, 1939 -- 30 cents
October, 1945 -- 40 cents
January, 1950 -- 75 cents
[31] Here is what those dollars translate to, accounting for inflation:

Value of the Minimum Wage
YearNominal Dollars1996 Dollars
[32] My mother provided these details. In 1942, she made $12 per week (not per hour), working at a thermometer factory. Her rent for a shared apartment was $15 per month or 31% of her monthly salary. Rent for half a house was $20 or 42% of a monthly salary. Rents were frozen, and you paid according to what you got with your apartment originally. You had to register with the Rental Commission.

[33] Her apartment was a Living Room/Bedroom combined, with two cots they made up to look like sofas. They had a big kitchen and shared their bathroom with other tenants. Their lights were included in the rent.

[34] The ad said they would have a refrigerator, but the landlady said it was broken. So they were stuck with an old icebox. If you needed ice, there was a card you put in the window telling the iceman from the street how much ice you needed. Just for the two of them, it was 25 pounds, in a big block. In winter, the back steps were used to keep food cold. The back steps were inside the house. The apartment was in Upstate New York.

[35] The heating was from the landlady's coal furnace. Coal was a very common heating source in the 1940's.

The Issue of Maids

This is what happens when jobs are handed out by patronage rather than ability

The ideal maid?

[36] Yes, well-to-do households had maids. In the South, they were Black. In the North, they were usually immigrants or Native American. My grandmother was a maid when she was young. Many Southern families were large, and extended family members helped out in the household, as in the television series, The Waltons (1972-1981).

[37] Some people are a bit sensitive on the issue of maids in Janice and Mel stories. Some dislike the convention because they feel the maids lack dignity. Others object because they feel it portrays White Southerners as a stereotype.

[38] I love how good the history is in this fanfic:

[39] But the expert thinks you should watch, A Christmas Story (Bob Clark, 1983), which is on TV somewhere all during Christmas in the US and Canada. If you live elsewhere, you could try renting a video of it. [40] This is all in the cities, by the way. In rural Greece, life was quite different. A great book on life in World War II era Greece is Eleni by Nicholas Gage.

[41] MaryD has started a great fanfic set in World War II Greece at:
http://xenite.simplenet.com/fan fiction/i/intheblood1.html

[42] Another really good fanfic on the era is at:


[43] I love Xena fanfic. Much of it is thoughtful, beautiful, funny, outrageous, and speaks a deeper truth. It would mean a lot to me if some of the bards would indulge me and try for a bit more historical accuracy.


Linda Knighton Linda Knighton
Linda Knighton, also known as Simahoyo, is a resident of Seattle. She holds a BA in historical research from Boise State University, was a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, and a title searcher. She now works in Washington State Politics as a fundraiser for Washington State NARAL. She is the former Co-chair of the Association of Southeastern Tribes, a member of the Pan-American Indian Association, and is active in Native Community activities. Simahoyo is currently re-writing a novel set in mid-19th Century America.
Favorite episode: THE PRICE (44/220), IDES OF MARCH (89/421)
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "I'll rise, but I refuse to shine". BEEN THERE, DONE THAT (48/302)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: GIANT KILLER (27/203); TAKES ONE TO KNOW ONE (87/419)

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