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Iconic Females Who Enjoyed Cigars

Feb 10, 2008
Who comes to mind when you hear the word "cigar" smoker? If you're like too many people - most of them nonsmokers - you imagine a well-dressed male, perhaps wearing a sweater vest, someone - no matter what age - who exudes a certain personal gravity.

In fact, though, many important women throughout history have bucked this stereotype. From Catherine the Great to some of today's most popular actresses, these women wouldn't let popular misconceptions stand between them and the rich, full taste of a cigar. Herein, learn about just a few of history's great female cigar smokers.

Catherine the Great
For 34 pivotal years, from 1762 till her death in 1796, the German-born Catherine II (born Sophie Auguste Frederica; she married into the Russian royal family in 1745) ruled Russia with an iron hand in a velvet glove. As the idea of human rights and greater political freedom blazed across Europe, Catherine maintained a correspondence with several of the most important apostles of these ideas, including Voltaire and Diderot, and she encouraged the arts and education, establishing a girls' school based on the then-new ideas of John Locke.

Outside Russia, she was often hailed as an "enlightened despot." But she acted ruthlessly toward those she perceived as political rivals, including Tsar Ivan VI (who was under arrest at the time of her accession and whose murder, by his jailers, she supposedly ordered) and Princess Tarakanova (seduced and captured by an aide of Catherine's, whereupon she was taken to jail, eventually dying of tuberculosis). Worst of all, she suppressed attempts to lighten the load of Russia's serfs, and (after the French Revolution of 1789) supported reactionary movements abroad. She left Russia - and the world - an ambiguous legacy.

She was also such a passionate devotee of cigars that, according to one story, she invented the cigar band - she didn't want the tobacco soiling her imperial fingers.

Annie Oakley
According to legend, this great American sharpshooter (1860-1926) could split a playing card by its edges and - as a bonus - perforate it with five or six more holes before it touched the ground. She was born in rural western Ohio, and by age nine she was helping to support the family by hunting and selling game, eventually paying off the mortgage on her mother's house in this way. In 1881, at the age of 21, she beat famous traveling sharpshooter Frank Butler in a contest arranged by a local hotelier - a fateful victory that not only ensured her fame and her subsequent career as a traveling stunt shooter, but her marriage, to Butler in 1882.

The eagle-eyed five-footer became known as "Little Sure Shot" on joining the traveling Buffalo Bill Wild West Show in 1885. She continued to improve even after retiring from the circuit, setting records even after a 1922 auto accident seriously compromised her health. She died in 1926, and was followed 20 days later by Butler - he missed her so badly that she stopped eating. On her death it was discovered that she'd spent her entire fortune on her family and on charities.

Ironically, this great (if nonviolent) gunslinger was born a Quaker - the same pacifist sect that also gave us, with even greater irony, Richard Nixon.

Gertrude Stein
If anyone was ever a "writer's writer," that writer was Gertrude Stein (1874-1946). Though her gristly, complicated prose, with its constant repetitions and frequently nonsensical effects, has defeated even extremely intelligent readers, her ferocious originality made her an acknowledged influence on nearly every writer of the '20s who mattered. Sherwood Anderson called her works "a rebuilding, an entirely new recasting of life, in the city of words."

Ezra Pound, Mina Loy, Ernest Hemingway, Paul Bowles and Richard Wright were all strongly influenced by her, and she helped as well to pave the way for the popular acceptance of Cubism, the painting style which she tried to translate into language. More recently, Stein has become an icon among gay and lesbian writers and scholars, who have pointed to Q.E.D. (1903) as one of the earliest coming-out stories in the English language. Both her eccentricity and her passionate devotion to language are fully on display in her famous outburst against the comma: "A comma by helping you along holding your coat for you and putting on your shoes keeps you from living your life as actively as you should lead it and to me for many years and I still do feel that way about it only now I do not pay as much attention to them, the use of them was positively degrading."

Though she worked behind the scenes, influencing writers and artists destined to a popular acceptance she would never enjoy, it's hard to imagine the twentieth century without Stein, a longtime cigar lover. Her student Sherwood Anderson put it best: "I do think she had an important thing to do, not for the public, but for the artist who happens to work with words as his material."

Marlene Dietrich
Bringing things full circle, the great German-born actress and singer Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992), who played Catherine the Great in the classic 1934 drama The Scarlet Empress, was also a cigar smoker. After her great success in the 1930 Josef Von Sternberg film The Blue Angel, she emigrated to the US and conquered the young American film industry, working with Von Sternberg to refine her image as a femme fatale. But she also provided an example to generations of actresses by continually reinventing herself.

After the bossy and difficult Von Sternberg lost his job at Paramount Studios, she soldiered on, proving herself a great comic actress in 1939's Destry Rides Again and continuing to work in important films throughout the '40s, '50s and '60s, Touch of Evil (1958), Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), and Witness for the Prosecution (1957) among them. She also spoke out against Nazi anti-Semitism early and often, and won the Medal of Freedom for her work raising morale during World War II.
About the Author
CigarFox provides the finest cigars that include cigar brands like cohiba, gurkha and many more. Other cigar products include cigar humidors, cigar boxes, and cigar accessories like Zippo Lighters.
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