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March 6, 2023

Nina Bagley - Women in Beekeeping's Past (S5, E38)

Nina Bagley - Women in Beekeeping's Past (S5, E38)

Today we talk with Nina Bagley. Nina lives in Columbus, Ohio, and has a profound interest in the role women have played in beekeeping in this country. She is a county bee inspector, runs about 50 colonies in and around Columbus, and is an officer in...

Today we talk with Nina Bagley. Nina lives in Columbus, Ohio, and has a profound interest in the role women have played in beekeeping in this country. She is a county bee inspector, runs about 50 colonies in and around Columbus, and is an officer in the Ohio State Beekeepers Association.  Plus she’s a University of Montana Master Beekeeper, so all in all, she has a grounding in the science and art of keeping bees.

She started her quest after running across a mention of some of these women in a book on the history of beekeeping, and now has a whole library of beekeeping history books plus the entire collection of both Gleanings In Bee Culture and the American Bee Journal as references.

The women she talks about today, and she writes about every month in Bee Culture magazine, were industrious, ambitious and hard-working, though some ran their business with a tiny bit of larceny.

Find out more by listening in on her history of women in American Beekeeping.

We hope you enjoy the episode. Leave comments and questions in the Comments Section of the episode's website.

Thank you for listening!

Links and websites mentioned in this podcast: 

Honey Bee Obscura


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Thanks to Bee Culture, the Magazine of American Beekeeping, for their support of The Beekeeping Today Podcast. Available in print and digital at

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Thank you for listening! 

Podcast music: Be Strong by Young Presidents; Epilogue by Musicalman; Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus; A Fresh New Start by Pete Morse; Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott

Beekeeping Today Podcast is an audio production of Growing Planet Media, LLC

Copyright © 2023 by Growing Planet Media, LLC

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S5, E38 – Nina Bagley - Women in Beekeeping's Past


Jeff Ott: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture.  Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news, information, and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.

Kim Flottum: I'm Kim Flottum.

Global Patties: Hey Jeff and Kim. Today's sponsor is Global Patties. They're a family-operated business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honeybees. It's a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing group production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honeybees. Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs.

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Jeff: Thank you Sherry, and thanks to Bee Culture for continuing their presenting sponsorship to this podcast. Bee Culture's been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. A quick thanks to all of our sponsors whose support enables us to bring you this podcast each week without resorting to a fee-based subscription. We don't want that and we know you don't either. Make sure to check out all of our other content on our website. There you can read up on all of our guests, read our blog on various aspects and observations about beekeeping, search for, download, and listen to over 200 past episodes.

Read episode transcripts, leave comments and feedback on each show, and check on podcast specials from our sponsors. You can find it all at Hey, Kim, you know they've got the bees out in the almonds and Southern California is the new snow winter playground. What are you hearing?

Kim: I think climate change is here to stay. I've heard interesting things from out there. It's called snow on almond blossoms. It's not something you see very often. Beekeepers are doing pretty good. They don't have enough bees I'm hearing.

Jeff: That's always the case, isn't it? They're always searching for bees and there's bees being stolen from yards, and it's a mess.

Kim: Even this year, they took a lot of acres of trees that they're not-- they don't have to pollinate and they're still looking for more. It'll be interesting to see what the crop is.

Jeff: I have not seen any maps to show how widespread the snow and cold has affected the almonds in the almond bloom, but it'll be interesting because it has a national impact for later in the season for all other pollinators. It'll be interesting. You have an exciting weekend planned there in Wooster, Ohio, don't you? With the Tri-County beekeepers meeting?

Kim: Tri-County, yes. Friday night and Saturday, this weekend and Jim Tew and I will be there talking about, of course, the podcast. Jerry Hayes is the primary speaker. It'll be good to see-- I haven't been to a walk-in bee meeting in a long time. We went last year to Tri-County. That's the last one I went to, so it'll be good to get in and rub elbows with some people.

Jeff: You were a young man last time you went to a beekeeping meeting, weren't you?


Kim: Yes.

Jeff: Tri-County was the first larger regional meeting I ever went to and it holds good memories for me.

Kim: Yes.

Jeff: Coming up on today's show, we have Nina Bagley. She was writing a series of articles on women and beekeeping. You've met Nina before?

Kim: Yes, she was at that program that Jerry put on back here a month or so ago when he had brought in people from all over. She was one of them that came in. He had inspectors and researchers from all over the US, and this is was the first time I'd ever heard her talk about this subject. I've been reading her articles, but I was really intrigued with the way she put out her presentation, so I'm kind of looking forward to talking to her.

Jeff: All right, let's talk to Nina in just a few moments after these words from our sponsors.

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Jeff: While you're at the Strong Microbials site, make sure you click on and subscribe to The Hive, their regular newsletter full of interesting beekeeping facts and product updates. Hey everybody, welcome back to the show. Sitting across the virtual Zoom table right now is Nina Bagley. Nina, welcome to Beekeeping Today podcast.

Nina Bagley: Thank you. Hi, great to see you.

Jeff: Nina, we've invited you here today to talk about your column in Bee Culture, about women in beekeeping. Fascinating articles.

Kim: Before we get started, Nina, tell me about what you're doing with bees and beekeeping right now. Where are you and how long and all of that?

Nina: Okay, I've been keeping bees about 20 years. I'm an urban beekeeper in Columbus, Ohio in German Village, and I worked with a master beekeeper for eight years to teach me how to raise queens. I've taken Joe Latshaw's class on instrumental insemination, and I've also taken the master's from the University of Montana with Dr. Bromenshenk and I educate-- in this city here, I run about 50 beehives. I'm in the metro parks, the State House, at the Franklin Park Conservatory.

I just want to educate everybody in the city and try to get diversity in Columbus. I started getting into the history years ago from a friend who gave me a couple old Gleanings, and then I started buying them online. Then he left me a whole bunch of his books, and then Jim Thompson also gave me a bunch of the Women. My background was fashion designing, and I love history, and that's-- I started because I saw the ABJ 1891 book that I have with Lucinda Harrison and her bee dress and veil, underneath the veils.

Then when COVID hit, I just started reading them more and going through my archives, and I always have wanted to write a book on these women and bring them to life instead of just what's been documented. Make them more like your friend, like my ghost friends and bring them to life and find out more about them and their families. I started doing ancestry and calling historical societies on the women that I would pick. Then I just started with Harrison and it went down the line when I find out she'd have a friend, Mrs. Tupper and another friend Mrs. Axel.

I just started putting them all together by the dates that they were born and how they were an asset to beekeeping.

Kim: It also sounds like you could probably give us some good information on urban beekeeping if you've got that many colonies in downtown Columbus.

Nina: Yes, I could.

Jeff: Are you running any on rooftops?

Nina: No, but I do inspect a couple of downtown on the rooftops. I am the Franklin County bee inspector. The State House, we do really well there. They put up a cage and they painted the hives. It looked like the State House, so we named them after famous women.

Jeff: That's cool.

Nina: Yes, it's pretty interesting.

Jeff: I know I mentioned this to you before, but I probably passed by some of your beehives last summer when I was-- my brother and I were cycling from Cincinnati to Cleveland, and we rode right through the middle of Columbus and up from the southwest up the Northeast, and I'm sure I saw some hives. They must have been yours.

Nina: You probably did because I paint them all green because I am in the city, and I don't want them to stick out. I'm in the Green Lawn Cemetery, and my friends laugh at me but I do really well. They don't spray, they get all the natural wildflowers from the river and I get black locusts. I'm in the bees all the time. That's what I do. In the bees every week, every other week. I live for the bees and I help a lot of people with their bees.

Jeff: There's got to be jokes about graveyard honey. That'd be quite the label.

Nina: I dead honey. My skull head honey.

Jeff: Yes, that'd be quite the label. [laughs]

Nina: They do really well and you know why. I think I have a theory about why they do so well in Green Lawn Cemetery. Sue Cobey used to have her bees back there when she was at Ohio State. The Garden Club, the Children's League allowed me to go there and they donated $10,000 to Children's Hospital in my name to pollinate. They let me pick my spot and I found that Sue's old beehives were back there. It was like an old abandoned shipyard. It was really cool. I thought, "Wow." That was another reason because she's so cool.

She's a woman beekeeper. I thought, "Here's my first woman, that I can find out about." I always tell everybody that my queens come out of there really big and great and beautiful they are. I say it's because of Sue's genetics.

Kim: Who do you want to talk to us about today? What famous woman is at the top of your list today?

Nina: Today I'm actually working on a woman called Nina Scott, and she's from Henry, Missouri, Clinton County, Missouri. She was in Gleanings. A gentleman wrote an article about her. She ran 85 hives, and she was a good beekeeper, but I can't find any pictures on her. Her sister was a beekeeper. I'm finding through the historical society that her family started in 1835 in Missouri. I've got a lot of good history on her, but I can't find pictures. She's coming up next.

Kim: Nina, I'm going to interrupt you for half a second and that's because the magazine these people were writing before way back then was called Gleanings in Bee Culture. If you have been keeping bees for only three or four years, you might not know that it's just bee culture. When you say Gleanings folks, she's talking about the original Gleanings in Bee Culture published by A. I. Root company.

Nina: Yes. I'm glad you said that because I'm in these books all the time, and I call them Gleanings in Bee Culture. Yes, it is Bee Culture. These women that I found like Mrs. Harrison, she wrote for them all the time. She started with Mrs. Tupper. Ms. Tupper wrote an article, but unfortunately, she was arrested for forgery in 1876. She faded out and Ms. Harrison took her spot and started writing. Then through Ms. Harrison, Ms. Axel came, and all of these other women.

They had a story to tell because the man like Langstroth, Dadant, I'm going to mess his name up. Johann Dzierzon, they all study these books from these men and followed them and read them like the back of their hand until they really understood beekeeping. They were intelligent women. They were strong, they had grit. They made money selling honey. They sold queens. All of these women ran 100 hives, and they would rather run 100 hives than work in the kitchen under the heat and cook and do the ironing.

I think that's pretty cool. Mrs. Axel was lame and she still did all of the bee work. She didn't have any children but she hired help. She was lame on the right side of her arm and she was practical. A.I. Root said she was very practical because she would carry everything on when she'd go to the beehive so she didn't have to go back and get anything. She thought that you should have grass around your beehives and cut the grass instead of straw because if you drop your smoker, you could catch your house on fire and your hives, and I believe that. That was neat.

Jeff: Was that a common practice at one point to spread straw around?

Nina: Yes and some of the women would actually almost burn houses down or burn their dresses. Their dresses would catch on fire.

Jeff: We think we have problems.

Kim: Yes, really. [laughs]

Nina: To get around like Mrs. Harrison she was a woman of means. She had a fighting buggy and she could go 60 miles to visit her friend, Ms. Chaddock. They all were in Illinois. Still, could you imagine the bumpy roads and taking a trip like that, and she was exhausted when she'd get there? What I did find out about all these women and the man, which I thought was interesting, they all had health problems. They all were sick. Working the bees and getting the beestings made them feel much, much better.

Mrs. Harrison's husband, it took him 10 years to realize that beekeeping would add 10 years to your life and the stings. He finally came aboard with her and helped her with her beekeeping.

Kim: He finally woke up.

Nina: Yes, it took him 10 years, but they did. They would sting themselves and they felt so much better.

Kim: Some of these people were raising queens you said selling honey. Were they advertising in the journals?

Nina: Yes, they were. You had Mrs. Atchley. She was the biggest queen woman and she advertised all the time. She went out to California, and she advertised out there as well.

Kim: Just out of curiosity, what were the queens sold for back then. When was back when, the date?

Nina: 1871 is when they started getting the bees through women so around 1880. Mrs. Tupper joined up with Dadant, I think in '86. They went to Italy to bring Queens back and it didn't work. The queens had died when they came into New York, and they only had a few of them that had survived. They were $20 a queen back then.

Jeff: That's a lot back then.

Nina: That's a lot of money. That didn't pan out. It fell through. I think it was Adam Graham. He was a big queen seller and he was also bringing queens back from Italy. He was selling queens to Mrs. Harrison. She was buying queens from him. She bought her first two hives from Adam Graham. They were Italian bees and all the women loved Italian bees. They didn't want the black bees. One lady would call up and she would say-- She wrote into the call-up, and said she would write to the newspaper and she complained because her neighbors had black bees.

She did not want them mating with her Italian bees because she didn't want any hybrids.

Kim: Was there a behavior difference between them?

Nina: They didn't bring in as much honey. The Italian for bees they built up faster and they'd bring in more honey.

Kim: It hasn't changed much then, in 100-plus years.

Nina: A lot of things happen.

Kim: Did they ever go into a difference between the Italians and the black bees and wintering, was one better than the other?

Nina: They felt that the black bees, they wintered a little bit better. They didn't go in as a big cluster when they would put them in their cellars. They would bring them in and the black bees would do a lot better. Then again, when they bring them into the cellar, the cellars would flood and a lot of times your bees would just be floating around like a fishing bobber. [laughs]

Kim: Take a run down to the cellar to check on the bees who bring your waders with you.

Nina: Yes, they had to have men with boots and poles to get them out.

Kim: [laughs] As you read about how they were taking care of their bees, you said not much has changed. Are there things that they were doing then that we mostly don't do now or vice versa? Is there some kind of standard practice that eventually they decided wasn't as good as it could be or was harming the bees?

Nina: I think a lot of the women, they were using American hives and chafe hives, so a lot of them started doing Langstroth. They did a lot better with the Langstroth hives, but really nothing has changed. They build boxes to put over them. I make a hive covered or put over my bees for the winter that I had designed and they did the same thing. They would make boxes. They would make shelters for them just like we're doing, which I think is neat. That hasn't really changed to keep the wind off. They apparently knew that the wind was really bad for the bees.

Jeff: You mentioned chafe hive.

Nina: Yes, the chafe hives.

Jeff: What is that?

Nina: It's a big hive and from what I understand, it had sawdust on the top to keep the moisture, keep it warmer. They would put wool or burlap on the top which we don't do now. We're using Styrofoam. I don't but some beekeepers do that for their bees. I don't insulate them like that. I know some people do. They had mice problems. They had robbing problems. The swarming was neat because they could get packages like we could get packages.

They waited to get their bees from swarms. If they had a lot of bees, they were worried that their bees would swarm. When they would go to church or work, they would hire young kids to sit in their fields and wait for the swarms so that these young kids they pay them that could catch the swarms. Many times they would run out of church after the swarm. I think that was the only time that the preacher would let them run out of church. He would always say, "Is it swarm season and it this time again," because they would just run out after their bees.

Kim: Of all of these people that you've been reading about were any, some most of them successful enough that this was their sole source of income?

Nina: All of them were. Mrs. Axel had 180 hives, God, in 1882, 39,000 pounds of honey. Miss Harrison sold her queens, she sold only comb honey, a lot of them only sold comb honey back then.

Kim: The belief was that if it was liquid honey, it had been diluted with sugar syrup or something. It came in the comb.

Nina: That's right. That goes back to Lizzie Cotton, she got accused of honey adulteration or selling bad honey. You're right.

Jeff: Some things have never changed.

Nina: I didn't know that, but now I get that. That makes sense, Kim, now I understand why. Because I'm like all these women do comb honey, why so much comb honey? They were big on clipping their queens wings. They clipped and clipped, because that way, the one lady that I had just-- Miss Aquiline, I think she was smartest one. She said she was not going to go chase the swarm when she was in church. She clipped the wings, that queen to be there when she gets back. If she had a cow that fell in the mud, the cow would be there when she got back.

[laughter] She's funny. Yes, they would clip the wings, and they would find their queen.

Kim: That makes sense. There's a lot of people that still do that. Of all of these women, then, you've mentioned some that were less than ideal behavior-wise, but who's your favorite?

Nina: Oh, boy, I used to think it was Mrs. Harrison. It's hard because there's so many, and I just found a woman, Mrs. Fouse from Wisconsin her article is not out yet. She was from Oberlin, Ohio. I had had a picture of her and her family, I had it for like a year, then finally I was reading an article and I started put two to two together with her family. It's a neat story because it's five generations. I found her grandson, and he sent me pictures of a family and a model T4 that her grandfather used for the honey.

I think that one she's pretty cool because the father worked those girls like boys. He didn't have boys, so he depended on these girls. They didn't get married untill they were like 37. The one sister never did, but I think the Fouse, Ionna Fouse from Oberlin, Ohio. I really can't say because I'll tell you, they all had grit. They've become my friends with I figured their personalities out from Ancestry, and what they were like. Mrs. Chaddock, she was grumpy, she was a politically correct.

She was jealous of her friends because she had a mortgage and three kids and the other woman had means, so she was always complaining. She had very nice honey and she was a quaker, and she was really good at going out and finding succulents and educating her children. She was a poet and a humanitarian. They all had their personalities.

Kim: Hold that thought for a second. We got to let our sponsor come in here for a second.

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Kim: Okay, you've got a favorite and you mentioned Overland, Ohio, and Wisconsin. That's my home state. Do you recall where she was in Wisconsin?

Nina: Madison? Yes.

Kim: Hometown.


Nina: Yes. What was really cool about her, she was a teacher, and she would go teach in Wisconsin in the 1920s when she was like 18 or 19. Then she came back and she met her husband and married him. Her husband was in the war, and her mom and dad moved to Wisconsin, then they didn't know it. Finally, when he got out his dad, Shalon was his name, had moved out there trying to find better honey, the clover was better, they said out there. Then they just all stayed out there. It's a interesting story about the family.

Kim: Oh, yes.

Nina: The pictures are cool. Because it's hard for me to find pictures, I have to dig and dig and dig. This one, I finally spoke to a family member who sent me these pictures, and they actually use the pictures on their honey jars, which is really cool.

Kim: Yes. I got to believe that Madison was probably a pretty good place to keep bees, and working bees out there for about 10 years. [laughs]

Nina: That's neat. He worked for the Department of Wildlife. It's neat, because I love researching, and they'll stay at my head, then I'll open something up, then I'll find something about them. Now I'm like, "score." Yes, it's neat.

Kim: How many of these, I guess columns have you written for Jerry so far?

Nina: Nine. He's sitting on three, I'm dyslexic, so I've always wanted to write these stories and do a book and I thought, well, it's impossible, but then I'm persistent, I do like to tell a story, so I thought, I'm just going to sit down and take a class and figure this out, so that I don't write like I talk, and start putting it all in the proper way, and I just got into it. I can't stop now.

Jeff: I'm sure Jerry is not just sitting on your stories. He's waiting to release them in the proper [crosstalk]

Nina: Oh, he is, yes. He's not just sitting on them. Now I feel we get busy with bees and you get so busy. The wintertime I like to do the stories, and I just reading these books all the time. There was a funny woman, Mrs. Thorson, she wrote in and said that she really liked Mrs. Axel's dress, and the bloomers and she didn't mind if it dragged a heavy dress. Then A.I. Root wrote in and he's like, "Could you devise another dress that's not so conspicuous?" A.I. Root was funny. He would give these women some really quirky answers.

Jeff: You brought it up before and because you said you had prior knowledge of in history, enjoying fashion. Can you talk about the women's beekeeping fashion back in the day? Back in the 1870s, late 1800s?

Nina: Okay, you have Mrs. Wilson. She was C.C. Miller's right hand. He married Sidney Wilson, her sister came along. She did all of his comb honey, and she would buy brown blue jean fabric to make these aprons. The apron is in the 1891 ABJ. She would make her own bee veil, and she made her own bee gloves. Miss Harrison prior to her did the same thing. She would make a dress, it was just a sack dress we call it, and she would put it over her undergarment, which was a white cotton button-down top with sleeves, and she would cut it in half her bloomer, she wouldn't make it one whole piece.

I understand why she cut it in half. She would cut it in half, and she had the bloomers. Then she'd put on these socks all the way up to her knees over the bloomers, and she would wear slippers, then she had an apron over the sack dress, and they were heavy fabrics. Then her veil was just like a grain mesh with a flat pasteboard, tacked around. It had a calico vest-like. It reminds me of when you go to the dentist when you get x-rayed, that they heavy thing that lays on you? That's what went on the front end around. That was her bee outfit.

Jeff: People complain about the heat buildup in today's beekeeping suits. That must have been horrible during the Midwest summers.

Nina: They would sweat really badly. I think that's why when Mrs. Wilson came along, she eliminated two layers under that skirt, and said it was just too heavy to wear around. Then now the woman that I'm doing now, Mrs. Scott, she was born in 1887. She is actually wearing white denim overalls like C.C. Miller would wear. C.C. Miller would wear white denim overalls. The women are getting into the generation where the women are wearing pants now and not doing the skirts like they did.

Kim: Today's bees women, you mentioned C.C. Miller and some of the other notable beekeepers of the day. Were any of these women ever asked to speak at meetings, how-to demonstrations, or any of that?

Nina: Yes, Mrs. Tupper. She was born in 1822. She was the first one to go to the North American Beekeepers Association. She would bring the women in from the Temperance Movement to teach them liberal arts, so that they didn't have to do Home Ec. They would go, I think it was in Chicago was the big state meeting, and there were 36 women there. They gave them a discount on the train to go, she got that form that they didn't have to pay full fare and they could go.

Jeff: They were treated with a lot of respect?

Nina: Yes, Tupper was. Huber was her friend, Wagner was her friend Adam Grim was her friend. She believed in Johann Dzierzon. She followed him in her parthenogenesis. She totally believed in that. She was the first one, really, when she wrote it was all science and educational, where the other women came along like Mrs. Harrison. They corresponded with each other like girlfriends would like, "I've got this much honey this year, or I'm doing this," where Mrs. Tupper was more on the political and the science part of it.

She didn't write just to say hi to her friends like the women after her have done. There was their way of staying in contact with each other.

Jeff: That's fun.

Nina: Yes, and they would upset each other, but you'd have to wait till the next article came out and they would say, "Well, she was wrong."

Jeff: There was no Instagram.

Nina: Nothing's changed.


Jeff: I was going to say, although it's just a little bit slower, there's no immediate feedback from dislike or trolling [laughs] as you do in today's social media.

Nina: Oh, no. They would write it and they were really blunt about it. "Well, I am not going to wear that veil because it's too hot and it's too heavy." They were still women put it that way.


Kim: Were there any of these people working with their husbands?

Nina: Now that's really interesting because that comes up. The only one that really worked with her husband was Mrs. Axel. They worked hand in hand together, and then Ms. Harrison's husband finally came on after 10 years and helped her, but, no, no, Oberlin, he was the father, but no, that's Mrs. Axel's husband, she worked with him. Now, the one I just did. Mrs. Acklin, yes, she worked with her husband. Mrs. Axel and her story was interesting because I found a picture of a little girl that sang some songs.

C.C. Miller used to sing songs and write songs. Before all of his big meetings, he would get up and he would sing these songs and all the stuff he wrote. Mrs. Acklin's daughter, Elizabeth, she sang and I'm like, "She's an Acklin, and then I came across Mrs. Helen Acklin. I said, "They got to be mother and daughter," and they were. What's really neat, that article's coming out. She's connected the A.I. Root. Her daughter married Howard Root Calvert. He was killed in a plane crash in 1929 or '24.

That was a really interesting story because I had to really dig and find articles in the paper, and then things just started coming together. Her husband, Mrs. Acklin's husband, worked with her, but then he had passed away. I'm not going to give the story away, but these two women, the mother and daughter, had parallel lives. Very similar lives.

Kim: Have you ever seen the songbook that C.C. Miller published?

Nina: Yes, yes.

Kim: Back in the day when I was the editor, I had a copy, and I tried to find somebody that would--

Nina: I would love that.

Kim: -somebody that would play those, so we could record them. That would be fun to do, Jeff. We should get somebody to do that and play that as background music in there.

Nina: It would be because people don't realize that they were very into the singing and the music before meetings.

Kim: [laughs]. There were. Of all of these people that you talked about, the one you liked probably the most, you mentioned one that was probably a crook of some kind. Of all of these people, which is the one that you respect the least because of the way that they talked about other beekeepers or things that they did. Does that person exist?

Jeff: Kim's asking you to spread the dirt on some beekeeper. [laughs]

Nina: I can't really say because they were women in hard times, and a lot of these women married men 12 years older than them, and 9 years older than them, and they came back from the Civil War. They were stuck in circumstances that, I don't know how I would handle it if I had to. If it's a white lie, I think a lot of their friends covered for them, like Lizzie Cotton. Okay, she was called Naughty Lizzie Cotton because people called her a swindler and they called her a man. She wasn't that attractive, but I think she had Bright's disease.

The public picked on her and she had nine kids, and I really believe it. I saw her birth certificate. She was a woman, and I just think she got a bad wrap and married a guy that was older than her that took advantage of her, that was a teacher, and could read and write. Because she was a woman, I think he put her out there to get orders and to get things, but they weren't delivering. They were scamming people. They got caught, and Mrs. Harrison said that she was a nice woman and covered for her.

There was a school teacher that came to town and wanted to buy some bees and told Ms. Harrison, she had called Mrs. Tupper, but she didn't get her bees in the mail yet. Ms. Harrison didn't say a bad thing about her. She covered up her for her. I think they protected each other because things were so hard, but Lizzie Cotton, she got a bad wrap. You can go online, it's in the main library and you can get her book Controllable Beehive. It's 120 pages, takes a half hour to read it. It's a pretty neat little book.

I think out of all of them, she got a bad wrap and so did Mrs. Tupper for being accused of forgery and going to jail.

Kim: Well, keep that in mind, Jeff.

Jeff: Fascinating. Yes, I don't want to do that for sure. This is really fascinating, Nina. It was a different time. So many different variables, but it's very similar in so many ways, but like you said it was a different time with different social norms. I can only imagine the lives that they lived marrying somebody who's, what, 8, 10 years older?

Nina: A lot of them were not well. Mr. Tupper's health faded away like they do before the sun, Mrs. Tupper said, and his money, when he came back. He was 57 years old when he came back from the Civil War. You had Mrs. Chaddock. Husband was a sharpshooter. There's another lady I didn't mention. Lodemia Bennett. I really like her because she was part of OSBA, and wrote the constitution. She was treasurer. She was married, then got divorced. She was 15, and her husband was 60.

You could only imagine what that poor woman went through and she was part of the Temperance Movement big time.

Jeff: Well, that would do it, wouldn't it?


Nina: Yes. I just tried to put myself in their shoes and she did queens. She was a big beekeeper. They held their own, these women. It couldn't have been easy.

Kim: If I wanted to do what you've done, delve into the past on some of these people where you mentioned, I think some of these articles were published in both Gleanings in Bee Culture and the American Bee Journal, but are there other books out there that I could find and pick up on?

Nina: Well, not new books. I just think you can go-- No, I don't know. I know Tammy Horn had-- I try not to read other people's stuff so I don't feel like I'm in their head. Follow me and I'm doing my own thing, and behind me, I have all these books back here, a wall. Dana Stallman was very kind to give me a lot of books. That's my archive. I go through all my Gleanings, my ABJ. I have these 1891, I have 1871 ABJs. That's my resource. I know you could go online and go through the archives of ABJ and Gleanings and start just looking and finding articles about people and women.

Jeff: Kim's been eyeing your bookshelves this entire show.

Nina: Kim. I have The American Bee Journal. 1861. The original one. The first one that came out, and it's a mint condition. I love it. I love old books.

Kim: Have you explored the library of the USDA Library at Beltsville?

Nina: No. That's on my bucket list.

Kim: Okay. I don't know what's there, but I'm going to guess that there will be some there also old agriculture books.

Nina: See that. I love that stuff. I haven't even gotten into Cornell. You've got Anna Comstock. Not there yet. I'm going by dates, and upstate New York and her husband and her story. It's incredible because she was her husband's helpmate for so long, and when she married him, he was the genius scientist, but she was brilliant. Then again, women didn't have the rights to jump ahead of their husbands. She became first professor in 1920. They took it away from her at first because the conservative board didn't feel she should have it.

Then she prevailed in 1920 and became the first woman professor, but her drawings are incredible in her ink work and she did all the drawings for her husband. So, yes, there's just so much out there.

Kim: It sounds like down the road, we're going to be able to do this again when you're talking about some of these other people. Can we get you to come back again?

Nina: Oh, sure. That'd be great. Yes, I love it. Thank you. With so many things with bees and mites and this and that, I'm just so glad I have something fresh and different to talk about. [laughter] That's all. No one knows about it yet, but we need to know our history because it's through these men, these women would've never gotten into beekeeping if they didn't know the Langstroth of the world first. Follow me? Then it's not his story, it's her story now, but it's through the men and then the women came. They're important.

Jeff: Well, we definitely appreciate you taking the time to join us this afternoon. This's a fascinating story that I think really does need to be told and relived. These are people that left their mark in beekeeping. I'm glad you're telling their story. Your story's in Bee Culture, a sponsor of Beekeeping Today Podcast. You've had three out already and there's three more in the queue?

Nina: They've done I think nine.

Jeff: You have pictures, you have full stories? I encourage our listeners to go out and check out Bee Culturemagazine for Nina's continuing series on women in beekeeping. Thanks for joining us.

Kim: Good idea.

Nina: Tammy Horn, when I met her, she was delightful. I knew she had stories too but I thought, "I'm just going to dig deeper." She was so kind and made me feel even better that I just want to keep doing it, which was really neat. That was good women together because sometimes people don't want to share, and stuff. She was just delightful. I have to say, it's pretty good. The stories need to be told.

Kim: Well, Nina, this has been fun. Thank you for joining us today. We look forward to down the road a little bit when you've got some more people to talk about.

Nina: Great guys. Thank you so much and have a good day.

Jeff: Thanks, Nina.

Kim: You too.

Nina: Bye.

Jeff: Kim, I was checking on this a $20 queen back in 1800 to 1890. You know how much that would be today?

Kim: Couple $100, I'll bet.

Jeff: $670 roughly.

Kim: That's an expensive bug.

Jeff: That is great. How would you like to go to Italy bring back? Oh, man.

Kim: Then lose half of them on the way there.

Jeff: Yes. Oh my gosh.

Kim: Well, this was fun.

Jeff: I thought $25, $40 was expensive for a queen. $670. Yikes.

Kim: Well, like I said, this was fun. She touched a lot of things and I hope it stirs some people's interest in get some to go read the rest of the articles that she's got out there.

Jeff: It's really amazing the people who blazed the trail for beekeepers. We go to meetings, we see other beekeepers, we get involved in the hobby or in the profession. It's rare that you think back on all those people who really, like I said, blazed that trail and help make it what it is today. I'm glad that Nina was here to share the story about the women in beekeeping. That was very good. Well, that about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple Podcast or wherever you download and stream the show.

Even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any webpage. As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for their continued support of Beekeeping Today Podcast. We want to thank our regular episode sponsors Global Patties and Strong Microbials and Betterbee for their longtime support of this podcast. Thanks to HiveAlive for returning this spring and thanks to Northern Bee Books for their generous support.

Check out all of their books at Finally, and most importantly, we want to thank you the Beekeeping Today Podcast listener for joining us on this show. Feel free to leave us questions and comments at Leave a Comment section under each episode on the website. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks a lot, everybody.


[00:44:15] [END OF AUDIO]

Nina BagleyProfile Photo

Nina Bagley

Biography Nina Bagley

Nina Bagley lives and breathes beekeeping. She is the energizer bunny of beekeeping! Nina has promoted beekeeping around Ohio in an impressive variety of ways and has educated countless beekeepers in the apiary, through her presentations and hands-on experience.
• Nina established her own small business, Ohio Queen Bee LLC. , Selling queens, and nucs, and making winter hive covers to protect the bees from the harsh winds.
• Nina often gives presentations on how to graft queens and other topics of beekeeping to bee clubs around Ohio.
• Nina worked under a Master Beekeeper as an apprentice for 8 years learning how to graft queens. And then earned her Master Beekeeper Certificate from the University of Montana under Dr. Bromenshank completing the beekeeping program. She completed Dr. Joe Latshaw’s instrumental insemination classes.
• Nina has served on many committees for both COBA and OSBA. For 10 years, she was OSBA’s Ohio State Fair Honey Pavilion Chairperson – a yearlong job. She spent weeks coordinating vendors, information displays, and organizations; rounding up volunteers; communicating with the fair board; and overseeing the 7-day Honey Pavilion exhibit at the fair.
• Nina helped establish and cares for two hives on the Ohio State House property, educating the public about the behavior of honeybees.
• Nina has her beehives in public places such as German Village, Frank Fetch Park, Franklin Park Conservatory, and Columbus Metro Parks. She was the first beekeeper in 2010 to get a pilot program at Frank Fetch Park. In a city park in German Village under Mayor Coleman, the bees are still there.
• Nina is currently the Ohio Department of Agricultures Franklin County Bee Inspector and often has classes on backyard beekeeping and how to make your own queens.
• During bee season Nina appears on Ron Wilson’s radio program, In the Garden with Ron Wilson, talking about honeybees.
• The Childs League garden club gave Children’s hospital $10,000 dollars in Nina’s name for pollinating Green Lawn Cemetery. Nina has been featured in the Columbus Dispatch Newspaper, promoting bees and beekeeping.
• Nina has a passion for the history of beekeeping, especially women beekeepers. She has a collection of many old beekeeping publications and has started writing articles Bees and Women for Bee Culture Magazines.
• Nina is an accomplished photographer sharing her beekeeping adventures and her beautiful photos of honeybees, apiaries, and plants on social media with the public.