Sunday, November 19, 2017

India's Outdated Dowry Practice is Killing Brides

Although anti-dowry laws have existed in India since 1961 (twelve years after Indian Independence), they are considered to be largely ineffective. The practice of asking for — and giving — dowry remains unchecked and rampant, and India has the largest number of dowry deaths in the world.

Under Hindu law, a woman cannot inherit ancestral property (although that seems to be changing slowly), which is how dowry must have evolved. The dowry would be registered in the bride’s name and would be under her control. It was referred to as Stridhan (woman’s property in Sanskrit). However, this was restricted to “upper castes;” lower castes practiced bride price to compensate the bride’s family for the loss of income.

read more here @ Wear Your Voice

Ancient Women & Ancient Laws

A series of articles regarding some new discoveries relation to ancient women. 

From Bangalore Mirror: Ancient Sati System
Image result for this hero stone of T DasarahalliSati was a dreaded practice among some Hindu communities in which a newly widowed woman committed suicide after her husband's death — this either voluntarily or forcefully. The widow jumping into the husband's funeral pyre was the infamous method of Sati. Over the centuries, social reformers and court orders ensured it died out.
A hero stone deciphered recently in Dasarahalli has images of a king and his two wives, who presumably had performed Sati after the death of the king in the battle. 

From the Times of Israel: 4000 Pre-Nup Agreement
On the recently found prenup tablet, linguists uncovered what is now considered the first historical reference to infertility. According to the marriage contract, if within two years of marriage there is no issue, the couple’s infertility was to be remedied by surrogacy through the use of a hierodule, which Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines as “a slave or prostitute in the service of a temple.”

The tablet was found in Turkey’s Kültepe district, which from 2,100 BCE to 1,800 BCE was a thriving trade colony of the Old Assyrian Empire. Written in Old Assyrian and signed before four witnesses, the prenup states the wife could hire a sex slave to serve as a surrogate mother. 

From International Business Times: Ancient Surrogacy
A 4,000-year-old Assyrian tablet is the first evidence of surrogacy in infertility. (Istanbul Archaeology Museum)In the Mesopotamian civilization, society was monogamous. Hence, if one partner demands separation or divorce then according to the prenup, he would have to pay five minas of silver, which is some $1,500 in the present day, to leave the marriage.

The Assyrian idea of a wife hiring a handmaiden to give birth to her husband's child is similar to the story of Hagar and Sarai or Sarah from the Bible.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Archaeologists discover rare remains of pregnant woman in King Solomon’s Mines

A consortium of archeologists and researchers from Tel Aviv University have discovered the 3,200-year-old remains of a pregnant Egyptian woman in Southern Israel’s Timna Valley, adjacent to an ancient Egyptian temple in an area once known as “King Solomon’s Mines", according to a report in Haaretz.
Situated in an arid climate with scarce natural resources to sustain life, few human corpses – and no previous female remains – have been unearthed near the copper mines, which were believed to have been exploited for 500 years between the 9th and 14th centuries BCE.
“It is very rare to find human remains in Timna, and it is the first time we found a woman,” Ben-Yosef told Haaretz. “There are no water sources in Timna and it is very inhospitable, so no one ever settled there permanently,” he continued.
read more here @ Jerusalem Post

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Lady of the Spiked Throne

Another fascinating article from Ancient Origins:
The Lady of the Spiked ThroneThe Lady of the Spiked Throne refers to a mysterious artifact from the Indus Valley civilization that has been dated to the 3 rd millennium BC. It depicts a woman in a position of power seated in a spiked throne in what has been described as a bull-headed boat or chariot. She and her crew display unusual features including large almond-shaped eyes, elongated heads or headdresses, and beak-like noses. The absence of information concerning the artifact’s provenance and archaeological context has made it difficult to determine its true origin and purpose.

[Italian archaeologist MassimoVidale questions: “Who is the lady on the spiked throne, a priestess, a queen or a divinity?”. It is a question we may never know the answer to, though it is clear that whoever she is, she is in a position of authority and is obviously held in high esteem.

Nadezhda Krupskaya – and the Russian Bolshevik Revolution

Nadezhda Krupskaya, c. 1890s Nadezhda Krupskaya was a Marxist activist, a revolutionary, and a dedicated advocate of educational reform in the Soviet Union. She was also the wife of Vladimir Lenin for 26 years, until his death in 1924.

In his [Leon Trotsky] words, Krupskaya was “at the very center of all the organization work; she received comrades when they arrived, instructed them when they left, established connections, supplied secret addresses, wrote letters, and coded and decoded correspondence. In her room, there was always a smell of burned paper from the secret letters she heated over the fire to read…”

Of course, she never thought that a critical mind could lead to individualism, which might bring capitalism and fill the spirit with consumerism. She truly believed in Marxism and that imagination could only become realistic once the nation was aware of its benefits.

read more here @ Kameni Spavač

Rose Bertin: The Most Famous French Fashion Designer

Image resultMarie-Jeanne Rose Bertin was the first most famous French fashion designer best-known as the dressmaker and milliner to Queen Marie Antoinette.  Rose was introduced to the Queen in 1772. After the coronation of King Louis XVI, Bertin showed twice a week in Marie Antoinette’s home and presented her the newest creations.

The Queen fell in love with Rose’s creations; she adored every detail which she designed, and in short time, they became good friends. The French women began to pouf their hairs in the 18th century and started to wear oversized gowns with many luxurious details. In that fashion, Bertin designed her own poufs and exaggerated them a little, for example, she made poufs for the Queen which were three feet high.

read more here:

Mathematician Emmy Noether Should Be Your Hero

From the Smithsonian:
Amalie Emmy Noether, born on this day in 1882, has been called a “creative mathematical genius.” She battled sexism throughout her career and just, frankly, loved math—something not many of us can say about ourselves. 

Working at a time when physics and mathematics were transforming, Noether’s best-remembered work on mathematical constants drew on Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity, which completely changed those disciplines. It’s known today as Noether’s theorem.

read more here:

Burial Chamber of Princess Possibly Found in Ancient Egypt Pyramid

Inside a 3,800-year-old pyramid at the site of Dahshur in Egypt, archaeologists have discovered a burial chamber that may have held the mummy of a princess named Hatshepset. A wooden box inscribed with hieroglyphs was also found within the chamber.  The discoveries provide clues that may help archaeologists determine why a pharaoh named Ameny Qemau has two pyramids at Dahshur.
The wooden box is inscribed with "Hatshepset," which likely does not refer to the pharaoh Hatshepsut but rather someone else with a similar name, the researchers said. Last month, another inscription, written on an alabaster block, was also found in the pyramid. That inscription bears the name of pharaoh Ameny Qemau (also spelled Qemaw), who ruled Egypt for a brief period around 1790 B.C. It's the second pyramid that has an inscription bearing the name Ameny Qemau that is known from Dahshur. The other Ameny Qemau pyramid was discovered in 1957 and is located nearly 2,000 feet (about 600 meters) away from the recently discovered pyramid.
read more here @ Live Science

Pregnancy complication took the life of this woman from Ancient Troy

From CBS News:
Death during pregnancy or childbirth would have been common in the ancient world, but these stories are often invisible in the archaeological record. However, in a new study of ancient DNA, researchers reported evidence of a woman who died of a pregnancy complication — specifically, a fatal bacterial infection — 800 years ago at Troy.
The woman was about 30 years old when she died, in the 13th century A.D. She was buried in a stone-lined grave at a Byzantine-era farming community’s cemetery in Troy, the ancient city located in what is now northwest Turkey, immortalized by Homer in the “Iliad.”
“It looks like the bug that caused her disease was in a different niche than what we see associated with human infections today… We speculate that human infections in the ancient world were acquired from a pool of bacteria that moved readily between humans, livestock and the environment.”
read more here @ CBS News

Promoting the rights of girls and women

Article from The Daily Star:
The situation for girls and women in Bangladesh is changing for the better, especially in terms of economic participation. The past decades have brought in significant improvements, including in terms of labour force participation or access to better sexual and reproductive health care, as evidenced by a drop in maternal mortality ratios. However for women from poor, marginalized communities, and those living in remote locations, reproductive health related morbidity and mortality remains a serious challenge.
One pivotal approach to achieving the SDGs is the development of a cadre of professional midwives and integrating them into the national health system. Professional midwives are globally recognized as experts on sexual and reproductive and as champions of rights of women and girls. Professional midwives combine ancient traditions of advocating for, and nurturing women, with modern science and technology.
read more here @ The Daily Star

Stone Age Woman Had Modern-Looking Face

The pretty face of a woman who lived more than 13,000 years ago in what is now Thailand, and is considered a likely descendant of the first humans to populate Southeast Asia, is seeing the light of day.

Scientists have created a digital reconstuction of the woman's face based on skeletal remains found in 2002 in the Tham Lod rock shelter in northwest Thailand. Though fragmented, the remains included the bones of the skull and teeth. 

A Thai research team, led by Rasmi Shoocongdej, a professor of archaeology at Silpakorn University in Bangkok, established that the bones belonged to a woman who was probably between 25 and 35 years old and 5 feet tall (152 centimeters). 

read more here @ Live Science

Carbon dating confirms ‘Penang Woman’ is 5,710 years old

The human skeleton excavated at Guar Kepah in the north of Seberang Perai and dubbed “Penang Woman” is 5,710 years old based on radiocarbon dating, local archaeologist Professor Datuk Mokhtar Saidin said.
“The radiocarbon dating confirmed the skeleton is about 5,710 years plus or minus 30 years Before Present, BP,” he told Malay Mail Online in an interview yesterday.
The skeleton is the first and only remaining Neolithic skeleton found in a shell midden in Malaysia.
read more here @ Malay Mail Online

Searching for Truth in Bones: The Mysterious Relics of Mary Magdalene

Mary Magdalene is one of the most fascinating people from the times of Jesus. Although every year there are more and more people who follow her as if she were a super-heroine, her story has been misunderstood for centuries. But modern discoveries about her are helping to put her back in the right place in history. Her relics are located in different parts of the world and are a link between this mysterious woman and her modern followers.
The role Mary Magdalene played in Jesus’ life is still uncertain, however, it seems that she was an important companion. We don't know too many things about her life, but even the bible confirms the strong bond between Mary and Jesus - much stronger than between his other students. It is well depicted in the scene when Mary Magdalene recognizes him after the resurrection, according to John (20:17): ''Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

read more here @ Ancient Origins

Ingenious Girl Makes Idiom Dictionary Illustrated with Paper-cuttings

A 17-year-old girl who was diagnosed with nephrotic syndrome at the age of 9 has devoted great efforts to making an unusual idiom dictionary illustrated with paper-cuttings since her summer vacation.  The ingenious girl Liu Yu comes from Chengdu, capital of southwest China's Sichuan Province.
"Currently, people have attached great importance to traditional culture. I think idioms are an aspect of our culture and it is more interesting to use paper-cuttings to explain idioms. Meanwhile, the art form can be passed down," Liu said.
In the process of making the dictionary, she chose some idioms that are easy to understand for young children and she also noted the source of the idioms and some examples.
To date, she has made paper-cuttings of 103 idioms and she is expected to complete the dictionary by the end of next year. The young woman hopes that some publishing houses will help her publish it.

Ottonian Queenship: Powerful Women in Early Medieval Germany

From OUP Blog comes this article by Simon Maclean, author of "Ottonian Queenship: Powerful Women in Medieval Germany":

The Ottonians were one of the great dynasties of medieval European history, and are traditionally regarded as the founders of Germany. They began as mere dukes of Saxony, but in 919 acquired the kingship and gradually became the most powerful and successful of all the royal dynasties who ruled Europe in the tenth century. Five members of the family ruled East Francia—the common contemporary name for the territory now called Germany—between 919 and 1024. 
But what makes the Ottonian family really stand out is the remarkable power of their wives and daughters.There were six Ottonian queens, and they rank among the most famous and powerful female rulers of the entire Middle Ages. 
read more here at OUP Blog

Bath tunnels of king’s daughters discovered under Turkey’s second largest castle

Two secret tunnels have been discovered under Turkey’s second largest castle, in the northern province of Tokat’s Niksar district. The tunnels date back to the Roman period, and it has been claimed that one of the tunnels was used by a Roman king’s daughters in order to go to the bath in the Çanakçi stream area. 
The excavations are being carried out by the municipality in the 6.2 kilometer-wide Niksar Castle, which is Turkey’s second largest castle after Diyarbakır Castle. The tunnels are located in the southern and northern facades of the castle and are approximately 100 meters long. 
read more here @ Hurriyet Daily

The witch trial that made legal history

Article in BBC News about the Pendle witch trials:

In recent years children as young as three have given evidence in court cases, but in the past children under 14 were seen as unreliable witnesses. A notorious 17th Century witch trial changed that.
Nine-year-old Jennet Device was an illegitimate beggar and would have been lost to history but for her role in one of the most disturbing trials on record. Jennet's evidence in the 1612 Pendle witch trial in Lancashire led to the execution of 10 people, including all of her own family.
Her convincing evidence was believed by the jury and after a two-day trial all her family and most of her neighbours were found guilty of causing death or harm by witchcraft.
Ultimately though, Jennet fell victim to the very precedent she set herself in 1633. Twenty years after the trial she too was accused of witchcraft along with 16 others by 10-year-old Edmund Robinson.
read more here @ BBC News

read also: Mary Sharratt's "Daughters of the Witching Hill"

Queen Hatshepsut: Daughter of Amun, Pharaoh of Egypt

Nice article by Joshua Mark at Ancient History Encyclopedia

It is a credit to her understanding of her people and culture that she recognized the importance of presenting herself as a daughter of Amun, a living embodibment of the divine. Through her careful manipulation of religious belief she was able to legitimize her rule but the success of her incredible reign is due entirely to her personal abilities as a leader who saw what needed to be done and was able to do it well.
Her legacy is important to note, not only for women who are competing with men for positions of power, but for anyone who feels disenfranchised and powerless in society. Certainly Hatshepsut began her life with advantages, being the daughter of a king, but she refused the traditional role assigned to women and discarded even her parentage in order to become who she knew she really was: the daughter of Amun and pharoah of Egypt. 

read entire article here @ Ancient History Encyclopedia

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

450-Year-Old Book Reveals What to Name a Baby Samurai

What should you name a baby samurai? What food should a samurai bring to a battle? What is a samurai's most treasured possession? A newly translated 450-year-old book supposedly written by a renowned samurai provides answers to these and many other questions about the Japanese swordsmen.
Called "The Hundred Rules of War," the book is a series of songs that could be sung by samurai, who had never gone into battle. It was supposedly written in Japanese in 1571 by a famous samurai named Tsukahara Bokuden, who lived from 1489 to 1571, during a war-ridden time in Japan. Stories told about Bokuden claim that he fought in over 100 battles and slew hundreds of swordsmen.
The book was recently translated into English by Eric Shahan, who specializes in translating Japanese martial-arts texts. The book was first printed in Japanese in 1840, and has been republished in Japanese several times since then, Shahan told Live Science.

read more here @ Live Science

Saturday, October 21, 2017

The forgotten 'female Lawrence of Arabia' - Gertrude Bell

In a picture taken to mark the Cairo Conference of 1921, Gertrude Bell - characteristically elegant in a fur stole and floppy hat, despite being on camel back - sits right at the heart of the action. To one side is Winston Churchill, on her other TE Lawrence, later immortalised in David Lean’s 1962 epic, Lawrence of Arabia.

Bell was his equal in every sense: the first woman to achieve a first (in modern history) from Oxford, an archaeologist, linguist, Arabist, adventurer and, possibly, spy. In her day, she was arguably the most powerful woman in the British Empire - central to the decisions that created the modern Middle East and reverberate still on the nightly news.  Yet while Lawrence is still celebrated, she has largely been forgotten.

read more her @ The Telegraph

About Gertrude Bell
  • The Extraordinary Gertrude Bell edited by Mark Jackson & Andrew Parkin
  • Gertrude Bell: Queen of the Desert, Shaper of Nations by Georgina Howell
  • Queen of the Desert: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell
  • Daughter of the Desert: The Remarkable Life of Gertrude Bell by Georgina Howell
  • Desert Queen by Janet Wallach
  • Gertrude Bell: The Lady of Iraq by H.V.F. Winstone

Written By Gertrude Bell:
  • Persian Pictures
  • Syria
  • A Woman In Arabia
  • The Hafez Poems of
  • The Desert & The Sown: Travels in Palestine and Syria
  • The Arabian Diaries, 1913-1914
  • Review of the Civil Administration in Mesopotamia
  • The Letters of Gertrude Bell - Volumes 1-2
  • Tales from the Queen of the Desert
  • The Arab of Mesopotamia

Ceramic Heads of Possible Goddesses Discovered in Ancient Waste Dump

Another intriguing article from Live Science:
The remains of at least four female heads, made out of ceramic, have been discovered at the ancient town of Porphyreon, located in modern-day Jiyeh, Lebanon.
The four female ceramic heads have a mix of Greek and Phoenician traits, as well as elements of Egyptian origin, Gwiazda said. For instance, one of the heads has a depiction of a Wadjet amulet (a type of amulet that shows an eye) on its breast, Gwiazda said. These amulets were originally used by the ancient Egyptians, who believed that these charms could help protect the wearer from harm. 

read more here @ Live Science

Sarah Siddons - The most famous tragedienne of the 18th century

Sarah Siddons was an actress born in Wales and was the most famous tragedienne of the 18th century, most notably for her role as Lady Macbeth, the wife of the play’s protagonist in Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Sarah Siddons was a star. A charismatic character that enchanted everybody on and off stage. Unfortunately, her private life wasn’t as bright as her social life and acting career. In 1773, when she was only 18, Sarah married the actor, William Siddons.
They had seven children together, but Sarah outlived five of them, while her marriage ended up in an informal separation. Sarah died in 1831, at the age of 75, and was interred there in Saint Mary’s Cemetery at Paddington Green.

read more here @ The Vintage News

Early Egyptian Queen Revealed in 5,000-Year-Old Hieroglyphs

About 60 drawings and hieroglyphic inscriptions, dating back around 5,000 years, have been discovered at a site called Wadi Ameyra in Egypt’s Sinai Desert. Carved in stone, they were created by mining expeditions sent out by early Egyptian pharaohs, archaeologists say. They reveal new information on the early pharaohs. For instance, one inscription the researchers found tells of a queen named Neith-Hotep who ruled Egypt 5,000 years ago as regent to a young pharaoh named Djer. Archaeologists estimate that the earliest carvings at Wadi Ameyra date back around 5,200 years, while the most recent date to the reign of a pharaoh named Nebre, who ruled about 4,800 years ago.

read more here @ Live Science

Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun's wet nurse might have been his sister

From The Guardian comes this article on the family life of Egyptian Pharaoh, Tutankhamun:
Archaeologists believe Maia, Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun’s wet nurse, may have actually been his sister Meritaten.
Maia was the wet nurse of Tutankhamun, whose mummy was found in 1922 by renowned British Egyptologist Howard Carter in the Valley of Kings in Luxor along with a treasure trove of thousands of objects.
DNA tests have proven that the pharaoh Akhenaten was the father of Tutankhamun. The identity of his mother has long been a mystery, although she is not believed to be Akhenaten’s Queen Nefertiti. Some theories suggest the boy king’s mother was one of his aunts.
“Maia is none other than princess Meritaten, the sister or half-sister of Tutankhamun and the daughter of Akhenaten and Nefertiti,” Zivie said.
The mummy of Meritaten has not been found, but antiquities minister Mamduh al-Damati said on Sunday it could be in a secret chamber inTutankhamun’s tomb.

read more here @ The Guardian

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Devil letter written by 'posessed' nun finally translated

From Daily Mail Online comes this mystery from 1676:
A 17th century 'letter from the devil' written by a Sicilian nun who claimed to be possessed by Lucifer, has finally been translated thanks to the dark web.

The coded letter was written by Maria Crocifissa della Concezione at the Palma di Montechiaro convent in 1676, and she claimed it had been scribed by Satan using her hands.

Some 340 years later, a group of Italian computer scientists unscrambled the code using decryption software they found on the dark web, and found it does carry a devilish message - describing God and Jesus as 'dead weights'.

Sister Maria Crocifissa della Concezione was born Isabella Tomasi in 1645, but was rechristened once she entered the Benedictine convent at Palma di Montechiaro aged 15.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Queen Mother Idia of the Benin Empire

The Benin ivory mask is a portrait of the Queen Mother Idia of the Benin Empire in the 16th century, made like an African traditional mask.
This miniature sculpture was worn as a pendant by the queen’s son Oba (which means King) Esigie. There are two almost identical pendant masks today, one of them is in the British Museum in London, and the other one is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The bought masks are portraits of the queen and symbolize the legacy of the Benin dynasty that continues to the present day.

read more here 

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Egypt Uncovers Remains Of Pharaoh's Daughter in 3,700-Year-Old Tomb

From an article in Newsweek

Archeologists have uncovered the 3,700-year-old tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh’s daughter near a newly discovered pyramid in the Dashur royal necropolis south of Cairo. Within the burial chamber, archeologists from Egypt’s ministry of antiquities retrieved an ornately inscribed wooden box containing four pharaonic jars used for the preservation of organs. It is believed the tomb belonged to the daughter of King Emnikamaw (Ameny Qemau), a ruler from ancient Egypt’s 13th Dynasty whose own burial pyramid is located 650 yards away in the same necropolis.

Not much is know of Ameny Qemau of his reign which lasted only two years.

2,500-year-old seal unearthed in Jerusalem

From an article published by CNN
An ancient seal from Israel's "First Temple era" was recently uncovered, according to the Israel Antiquities Authority. The "First Temple," also known as Solomon's Temple, goes back to Biblical times. It's believed this seal is more than 2,500 years old and belonged to a woman described as "exceptional" or quite well-off in society at the time.
"Finding seals that bear names from the time of the First Temple is hardly a commonplace occurrence, and finding a seal that belonged to a woman is an even rarer phenomenon," the Antiquities Authority said in a news release. "She had legal status which allowed her to conduct business and possess property," it went on.

Hama: Forgotten Queen of Assyria

Who was Hama, queen of Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, daughter-in-law of Adad-nerari?  Very little is known about either Hama or her husband, Shalmaneser IV (r. 783–773 BC).  We conjecture that Hama's husband succeeded one brother and was himself succeeded by another.  However, this was a period of turmoil, of weak central government, and palace intrigue was at its zenith.  Courtiers held power, and Shalmaneser IV's reign was dominated by the powerful Field Marshall, Samsi-ilu, and the Palace Herald, Bel-Harran-belu-usur. The Assyrian Empire was systematically weakened by plague and civil war, and there were rumours that the royal family was murdered due to internal dissatisfaction with the monarchy.  

From an article in USA Today
In a crumbling Middle Eastern palace, a woman’s coffin lay undisturbed for millennia, her remains surrounded by treasure and protected by an ancient curse. Now scientific sleuthing has revealed her identity: she was Hama, queen of an empire.
Hama died young, and perhaps suddenly, hinting at why she was interred in a bronze coffin rather than the usual stone sarcophagus. She was no more than 20, but the gold crowns and other riches in her grave signal her power and wealth.
Seal of Hama
Hama was entombed near other queens at the sprawling Northwest Palace in the Assyrian capital of Nimrud, near present-day Mosul. Discovered by Iraqi archaeologists nearly 30 years ago, Hama’s coffin held a breathtaking array of riches, including chunky gold anklets, a beautifully worked gold jug and jeweled rings.
Amid the hoard was the nearly complete skeleton of a short, slender woman. On her head was a delicate gold crown depicting pomegranates, flowers and female winged genies. By her side was a gold stamp seal like those used to stamp documents. The script on it read in part, “Belonging to Hama, queen of Shalmaneser.”
Near Hama’s coffin was a tablet written with a curse warning, “Anyone later who removes my throne … may his spirit receive no bread!” But the curse, which was installed for another queen, didn’t stop Islamic State fighters. They blew up part of the Northwest Palace with barrel bombs in 2015 and wrecked Mosul’s museum, which held Hama’s bronze coffin.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

New images reveal Tamworth’s Warrior Queen taking shape

Tamworth's landmark ‘Warrior Queen’ statue is taking shape, with latest images of the work in progress revealing a little glimpse of just how impressive and magnificent the new sculpture will be.

After several weeks of back-breaking labour by artist and sculptor Luke Perry, work to create a steel statue of the iconic Lady Aethelflaed has reached the halfway point.

Once complete, the Saxon Queen will rise six metres above the ground on the Offa Drive/Saxon Drive roundabout, outside Tamworth Railway Station, where she will greet visitors as they step off the train, and point them towards the town centre.

Also known as Tamworth’s ‘Lady of the Mercians’, Queen Aethelflaed, played a pivotal role in English history by building a chain of fortifications against Viking invaders throughout the Kingdom of Mercia. Her fortification of Tamworth in 913 AD became the forerunner to Tamworth Castle. Daughter of Alfred the Great, Aethelflaed’s accession as a female ruler has been described as one of the most unique events in early medieval history.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Mother, dancer, wife, spy: the real Mata Hari

As the centenary of Mata Hari’s execution approaches (15th October), there are signs of renewed interest in her story.

Here is an article by Julie Wheelwright in the Guardian:
Since her execution on the outskirts of Paris almost a century ago, the Dutch exotic dancer Margaretha “Gretha” MacLeod – universally known as Mata Hari – has been synonymous with female sexual betrayal. Convicted by the French of passing secrets to the enemy during the first world war, MacLeod’s prosecutors damned her as the “greatest woman spy of the century”, responsible for sending 20,000 Allied soldiers to their deaths. MacLeod’s status as both a foreigner and a divorcee, who was unrepentant about sleeping with officers of different nationalities, made her a perfect scapegoat in 1917.

Read more here:

Who Was Julie d’Aubigny - aka Mademoiselle Maupin?

From OZY comes this interesting post on 
How many duels do you think you could fight in a single day? A glimpse at one badass French swordswoman in action offers a possible answer: three. After attending a royal ball dressed as a man, and romancing and then kissing another woman on the dance floor, she was challenged by three men. She proceeded to take them on one by one, and to best all three.

“Most of the more astonishing events happened before she was 20.” While researching Goddess, [Kelly] Gardiner visited every known location of one of d’Aubigny’s most notorious exploits and pored over primary sources for information about her wily subject. What she found: a woman who flouted social convention, class, gender, marriage and the law.
Read more here @ Kelly Gardiner's website and also an interview here @ NPR
Read more about Julie d’Aubigny @ wikipedia

How the British treated 'hardcore' Mau Mau women

From the University of Cambridge:

New research on the treatment of 'hardcore' female Mau Mau prisoners by the British in the late 1950s sheds new light on how ideas about gender, deviancy and mental health shaped colonial practices of punishment.
The research, published in the Journal of Eastern African Studies, was conducted by Gates Cambridge Scholar Katherine Bruce-Lockhart and is the first study to make use of new material on a camp in Gitamayu used to hold "hardcore" female detainees.
Bruce-Lockhart is interested in the treatment of "hardcore" Mau Mau women in the final years of the Emergency Period, one that was marked by uncertainty, violence and an increasing reliance on ethno-psychiatry.
From 1954 to 1960, the British detained approximately 8,000 women under the Emergency Powers imposed to combat the Mau Mau Rebellion in Kenya. The majority of female detainees were held in Kamiti Detention Camp and its importance has been widely acknowledged by historians.

‘Merely Nuns’? Exploring Female Agency in Hospitaller Houses in the Middle Ages - Museum of the Order of St John

Blog post by Nancy Mavroudi, Museum Assistant, Museum of the Order of St John, on women in the Hospitallers:

If we were to generalise, we would probably say that Hospitaller women were primarily wealthy, noble women, from aristocratic or powerful families who, in many cases were even forced to join the Order by their families for spiritual benefits – the Order’s blessing for the family. However, although popular, such generalisations are not always accurate. To start with, there is evidence that many women joined voluntarily, simply because they so wanted. Joining a community of Sisters could bring about a change in their lives in which they themselves might have found comfort – especially given that, as discussed in further detail below, the Order could potentially be a more privileged and safe space to be.
Read more here at Museum of the Order of St John.

See also: Hospitaller Women in the Middle Ages - abstract @ Cambridge University Press

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Forgotten Language That Only Women Once Knew

Ever had the sneaking suspicion that women speak in different tongues? If you were a Hunanese peasant woman in 20-century China, there was a kernel of truth to the old joke. Inside a hilly, remote village of Jiangyong County, unschooled women and girls developed a mysterious system of writing called Nüshu to express their innermost thoughts and passed around favorite songs, prayers, traditional tales, birthday letters and wedding congratulations to each other in coded script.

The communications were hidden in plain sight from the men, who largely disregarded Nüshu — which means “women’s writing” in Chinese — as frivolous, not bothering to learn a word.

Similar female scripts arose in Japan and Korea too, but only Nüshu bore a certain mystique. When women died, they had their favorite works burned or buried with them. So we don’t know exactly when Nüshu began, but we know that women were using the script around 200 years ago, when girls weren’t expected to go to school and long before they received any formal education. 

read more here @ OZY

Last Days of Freedom For Anne Frank

"Not being able to go outside upsets me more than I can say, 
and I'm terrified our hiding place will be discovered 
and that we'll be shot," she wrote in her diary in September 1942.

The Jews in hiding had withstood bombs, near-starvation, two break-in attempts, and the many privations of their helpers during over two years in hiding, and the suspense had begun to take its toll. They were pale and malnourished from life without sun, but they were alive.

And then, on August 4, 1944, everything changed.

read more here @ Mental Floss

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Women in the Medieval World

Modern portrayals of medieval women tend toward stereotypical images of damsels in distress, mystics in convents, female laborers in the fields, and even women of ill repute. In fact, women’s roles in the Middle Ages were varied and nuanced, and medieval depictions of womanhood were multi-faceted. Illuminating Women in the Medieval World, on view June 20 –September 17, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center, reveals the vibrant and complex medieval representations of women, real and imagined, who fill the texts and images within illuminated manuscripts, Art Daily said.

Illuminating Women in the Medieval World will be on view June 20 through September 17, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum. The exhibition is curated by Christine Sciacca, former assistant curator of Manuscripts at the J. Paul Getty Museum, now Associate Curator of European Art, 300-1400 CE at The Walters Art Museum. A richly illustrated book, Illuminating Women in the Medieval World, will be published by Getty Publications to complement the exhibition.

read more here @ PanAmerican

Side Note: I was lucky to have a preview of the booklet accompanying the exhibition. It is a beautifully illustrated work, with carefully selected manuscripts to enhance each chapter which is depicted in the exhibition. We have topics covering the ideals of womanhood (christian saints and martyrs), "warnings" on behaviour (adultery, wantoness), daily life (courtship, marriage, childbirth, death), women in the arts (artists and illuminators), and finally a small section on the renewed interest in women of history.

Bone-Sniffing Dogs to Hunt for Amelia Earhart's Remains

Following on from Women of History: Chasing Amelia Earhart, comes this update on the search for missing aviatrix, Amelia Earhart, and her co-pilot, Fred Noonan:
But the mystery of what happened to Amelia Earhart may be as close as it’s ever been to being solved. An expedition organized by the International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) sets sail on June 24 from Fiji. On board will be a team that’s proved astonishingly adept at locating human remains—specially trained forensic dogs.
The expedition’s destination is Nikumaroro, an uninhabited island some 1,000 miles north of Fiji. The members of TIGHAR have devoted the last three decades to testing what they call the Nikumaroro hypothesis—that when Earhart and Noonan couldn’t find Howland, they landed on Nikumaroro.

read more here @ National Geographic

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rediscovering the Story of Egeria - 4th Century Female Pilgrim

Egeria was a young woman who decided to make the trip of a lifetime and go to the Holy Land. But what inspired her to make that journey and walk half of the world all alone?

She was born in beautiful green Galicia and grew up surrounded by pagan stories and sacred sites related to pagan traditions. The people in this area have always known about magic and pagan rituals. Thus, Christianizing Galicia was a very slow process. In fact, even now many people of this North-West part of Spain believe in witchcraft and supernatural creatures.

It is likely that Egeria was still a young woman when she decided to change her life. Her incredible story was forgotten for seven centuries. Much of the information about her has been lost, but there is still a part of the text written by her hand which allows one to have some insight into her thoughts.

read more here @ Ancient Origins (30th October 2016)
read also here @ Women of History - Etheria (10th February 2008)

The extraordinary women of Ghiyas-ud-din Khalji's harem

Female Court Musicians
The phrase “powerful women of Medieval India” either conjures the image of the queen of the Delhi Sultanate, Razia Sultana, who braved enormous opposition from Shamsi nobles and effectively ruled Delhi for three years, or the Mughal Empress Nur Jahan – an able administrator, but also a poet par excellence and a fashionista.

Mughal emperor Jahangir, in his Jahangirnama, gives the exaggerated figure of 15,000 women in Ghiyas’ seraglio. He further adds that each woman in the harem was either trained in a particular craft according to her aptitude and talent, or was appointed to some high position at the court of Malwa. 

It is not surprising that medieval Indian chroniclers could not understand and appreciate Ghiyas’ distinguished harem. In an era that treated women as second-class human beings, educated women would have certainly been misfits. This may be why when Ghiyas’ son, after he murdered his father and wrested the reins of Malwa for himself, executed most of the women from his father’s seraglio. Weak rulers are often threatened by empowered women.

read more here @