Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Islamic Pirate Queen - Sayyida al-Hurra

Image result for Sayyida al-HurraFrom OZY:
Sayyida al-Hurra and her family fled Spain for Morocco, where, after marrying and burying her first husband, she succeeded him as the governor of T├ętouan before remarrying — this time into royalty. When Sayyida wed Ahmed al-Wattasi, the sultan of Morocco and ruler of Fes, she became queen of Morocco. 

Holding a grudge, and feeling a great deal of shame over her fallen childhood homeland and its takeover by Ferdinand and Isabella, Sayyida became hell-bent on revenge. She reached out to the famed Barbarossa, an Ottoman admiral and among the most successful corsairs, to ally with the pirates in seizing control of the nearby seas. Sayyida and her privateers would eventually take over the Western Mediterranean during the corsairs’ and Ottomans’ reign in the early 16th century.

To this day, she’s remembered as a free and independent noblewoman who made the king of Morocco come to her to marry — the first time a royal had left the capital to wed.

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Lyudmila Zhivkova, one of Bulgaria's most powerful political figures

Lyudmila Todorova Zhivkova (1942 – 1981) was the daughter of Bulgarian Communist leader Todor Zhivkov. Primarily known for her interest in preserving and promoting Bulgarian arts and culture on the international stage, Zhivkova was also a controversial figure within the former Soviet Bloc because of her interests in esoteric Eastern religion and spirituality.

Zhivkova died at the age of 38 from a brain tumor. Unsubstantiated rumors continue to circulate that perhaps Zhivkova was murdered by those who disapproved of her esoteric interests.

The official cause of death was a brain hemorrhage. Some suggest that the 1973 car collision finally had killed her. Others say it had been a subtle, slow-acting poison (a precursor of the Litvinenko death, perhaps).

Varying accounts describe her as having been depressed in the weeks before her death and having reverted to conventional medicine, including sleeping pills.

Others say that she had been in fine form. They recall her repeating, even in the final days before her death, what had become a favorite saying: “Think of me as fire”.

Who Framed Mary Magdalene?

Image result for mary magdalene movie
Mary Magdalene's character was traduced by Pope Gregory the Great in 591 when he declared her a prostitute, albeit a repentant one. That papal misreading of the gospel narrative and conflation of different Marys, including the one who washed Jesus's feet with her tears, into 'Mary Magdalene the prostitute' became an established myth, with artists down the centuries drawn by the dramatic potential of the sensual temptress.

In an article titled 'Who Framed Mary Magdalene?', Heidi Schlumpf, former editor at US Catholic, noted that since scripture scholars have "debunked" the myth that Mary Magdalene and the infamous repentant sinner who wiped Jesus's feet with her tears are one and the same woman, "word is trickling down that Mary Magdalene's penitent prostitute label was a misnomer. Instead, her true biblical portrait is being resurrected, and this 'apostle to the apostles' is finally taking her rightful place in history as a beloved disciple of Jesus and a prominent early church leader."

The director and crew behind the new biopic hope Mary Magdalene will turn the tables on the received narrative and tell the story of Jesus from a female perspective. The film's aim, as the actor Tahar Rahim, who plays Judas, succinctly puts it, is to help people realise "it's not Mary the prostitute, it's Mary the disciple".

see also: Melisende's Library - Mary of Magdala

Larger than Rajini: The 19th-century stage actress who drove to her performances in a silver chariot

Balamani lived life queen size, literally. A palatial bungalow with a swimming pool, marble fountains, a garden adorned with a swing and peacocks and deer, a domestic staff of over fifty women and much more surrounded her at all times. When she ventured out to make an appearance in public, she did so in style, in a silver chariot drawn by four horses. Her fame grew so much at some point in the early 1900s that the State began arranging special trains to ferry scores of her fans who wanted to watch her plays. 

However, in spite of all her fame, she remained much ostracized by the conservative elite and puritans of that time. History and fate turned cruel to Balamani. Her charity cost her much. Gradually her property eroded and she was forced to move to Madurai. The last days of her life were spent in utter penury.

The movement Balamani started empowered many more actresses to start their own drama troupes in the following decades. She was truly the first celebrated superstar of the Tamil stage.

read more here 
@ Narthaki (book review - Drama Queens: Women who dared to succeed in a man's world)
@ Images dot Dawn (interview with author Veejay Sai)
@ Bengal Buzz (rise of women in Bengali theatre)

Emperor Akbar’s wife Jodhabai was Portugese, not a Rajput princess, claims book

From the Hindustan Times:

Princess Jodhabai, often referred to as one of emperor Akbar’s wives and the mother of his son Jahangir, could have been a fictitious character, necessitated by convenient historical narratives during the Moghul era, a new book has claimed.

Goa-based author Luis de Assis Correia in his book “Portuguese India and Mughal Relations 1510-1735” has claimed that Jodhabai was in fact a Portuguese woman, Dona Maria Mascarenhas, who while travelling in a Portuguese armada along the Arabian sea, could have been captured along with her sister Juliana and subsequently offered to a young Emperor Akbar as a gift by Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat in the mid-1500s.

Related image“When Dona Maria Mascarenhas arrived at Akbar’s Court, he fell in love with her. He was 18-years-old and he was already married. She was 17 and he said, ‘This young lady is for me’ and her sister Juliana, both of them were lodged in Akbar’s harem,” Correia told IANS on the sidelines of the book release function in Panaji.

The 173-page book suggests that Maria Mascarenhas could have been the mother of Jahangir and was often referred to as Maryum-ul-Zamani and at times, as Jodhabai or Harkabai in popular lore.

read more here 

A royal foxhunt: The abdication of Mary Queen of Scots

From OUP Blog:
Mary Stewart became Queen of Scots aged only 6 days old after her father James V died in 1542. Her family, whose name was anglicised to Stuart in the seventeenth century, had ruled Scotland since 1371 and were to do so until the death of Queen Anne in 1714. Raised in France from 1548, she married the heir to the French throne (1558) and did not come to Scotland until after he died in 1561. By then a six-foot redhead, Mary looked every inch the queen and, with a flamboyant lifestyle suited to an age when appearance was everything, she acted like one. Astute and energetic, she managed to juggle the deeply divisive forces of religious and political faction within her realm. More than this, she trod a diplomatic path between Scotland’s far more powerful neighbours: England, for whom the Scots were an abiding nuisance, and France, where her heart, her roots, and many of her best alliances lay.

see also:
Melisende's Library - Mary Queen of Scots
Executed Today - Mary Queen of Scots

Darwin’s ‘Forgotten Women’

The Darwin and Gender Project (part of the Darwin Correspondence Project at Cambridge University Library) will be adding to Wikipedia for the first time the profiles of ten women who made intellectual contributions to Darwin’s work, and enhancing existing Wikipedia profiles for seven others, including his beloved wife Emma.

As well as the ‘Women in Science’ Wikipedia editing event on March 8, the day also marks the completion of the three-year Darwin and Gender Project undertaken at the University of Cambridge.

The ground-breaking project, supported by The Bonita Trust, has looked at Charles Darwin's impact on attitudes to gender and sexuality. The project makes available for the first time in a single resource Darwin's private and largely unpublished writings relevant to all aspects of gender; in particular, a large body of the great naturalist's own letters.

read more here 
@ University of Cambridge - Darwin's Women
@ University of Cambridge - Darwin Correspondence Project
@ University of Cambridge (youtube) - Darwin's Women
@ The Smithsonian - The Women Who Challenged Darwin's Sexism

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Aliki Diplarakou: Greece's First 'Miss Europe'

The first Greek woman to be crowned ‘Miss Europe’ was Aliki Diplarakou way back in February, 1930.

However, this Greek beauty was far from simply being a pretty face. Well-educated, independent and articulate, Diplarakou confounded prejudices about beauty pageant contestants.

She was a polyglot who spoke four languages and later toured the U.S. giving lectures on ancient and modern Greek culture.

A daring spirit, later in the 1930s she also dressed up in men’s clothes and smuggled herself into the monks’ sanctuary on Mount Athos which had stood “inviolate” by women since the time of the Byzantine Empire, save for twice harboring female refugees.

Old Kingdom style tomb for woman discovered in Egypt's Giza

An Egyptian archaeological mission has discovered an Old Kingdom tomb of a lady named "Hetpet," who is assumed to have been a top official in the royal palace during the end of the Fifth Dynasty, according to information released by Egyptian authorities on Saturday.

"In ancient Egypt, it was uncommon for a woman to to be buried separate from her husband. Only the princesses of the ruling family had their own graves. Building a tomb for a woman, who was not a part of the royal family, was rather uncommon. This shows the status of women at that time," said Hasan Ramadan, the supervisor of the Egyptian team's excavations.

read more here