Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Ghost Brush

The Ghost Brush tells the life story of Oei, the daughter of the great Japanese printmaker Hokusai, who goes on to develop her own artistic mastery. Although remarkable talent and opportunity mark her life, so does the shadow of her prestigious father.

While setting and character may have been daunting, with The Ghost Brush Govier returns to the two themes she has spent her career writing about - artists and women's place in history. She also has written non-fiction work on Japan and her last novel Three Views of Crystal Water is partially set in Japan.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Eadgyth of Wessex - Continued

Teeth provide remarkable evidence about the early years of an individual’s life. The region where a person grew up can be traced in the tooth enamel laid down in their first 14 years because strontium and oxygen isotope ratios in the teeth reflect the food a person ate and the water they drank.

See my post: Eadgyth of Wessex

The Bastille - 5-Star Prison

From the Washington Post:
A roaring fireplace, a warm bed, some wine and little pastries welcomed people to La Bastille. This was no charming inn, but the notorious French prison, stormed by an angry Parisian mob on July 14, 1789, in an outburst that helped set off the French Revolution.

For the first time, an exhibit in Paris has pulled together archives on the prison to offer a glimpse into the hidden world of the Bastille. It shows the inmates' relative comfort - and why it became such a target of revolutionary ire.

"I maintain it was a 5-star prison," said historian and Bastille expert Claude Quetel. He said the prison's privileged position came from being directly under the king's eye, both geographically and because it was where monarch after monarch sent his personal enemies.

Ancient Body Adornment

From the Bangkok Post:
What do women today have in common with those in prehistoric times? The answer is none other than a love for body ornaments _ rings, necklaces, earrings, bracelet, anklets.

"All human groups have created accessories. Body ornaments are not just about beauty, but also about beliefs," said Asst Prof Mayurie Veraprasert, a lecturer at the Archaeology Faculty, Silpakorn University, who prepared the exhibition, "Body Ornaments : Beliefs, Beauty, and Creativity", at Phufa Treasure Trove on the 4th floor of Siam Paragon. The event opening on Monday was graciously presided over by HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

The exhibition, on view until December 31, features images of body ornaments worn by women in different historical periods, from Dvaravati to Ayutthaya. Some depict images of adornments on skeletons from prehistorical burial sites, as well as images of people wearing elegant accessories in the famous mural painting at Wat Phumin in Nan province. One section deals with contemporary ornaments, created by students of the Decorative Arts Faculty, Silpakorn University, and another presents a full set of exquisite ornaments on a khon character, Kumpakan, made by students at the Royal Goldsmith College. The accessories were used in a khon production, The Battle of Kumpakan, commanded by Her Majesty the Queen.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Reconstructed: Burnt City Woman

From Press TV:
The reconstructed version of the 5,000-year-old skeleton was unveiled during a ceremony attended by head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization Hamid Baqaei and Iran's ambassador to Italy Seyyed Mohammad-Ali Hosseini.

The woman, whose face has been reconstructed by a group of Iranian and Italian researchers, is famous for carrying the first prosthesis to have been used by man, ISNA reported.

This is a great scientific achievement which shows that Persians used innovative medical equipment 5,000 years ago, Baqaei said during the opening ceremony of the exhibition.

The unique discovery was the result of excavations in the Burnt City in 2006, when archaeologists found an artificial eyeball on a 1.82-meter- tall female skeleton, much taller than ordinary women of her time, and dated back to between 2900 and 2800 BCE.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Lost Women of Science

From the Guardian:
A study of the Royal Society's archives reveals that women played a far more important role in the development and dissemination of science than had previously been thought, says Richard Holmes.

All this year, and all round the globe, the Royal Society of London has been celebrating its 350th birthday. In a sense, it has been a celebration of science itself and the social importance of its history. The senior scientific establishment in Britain, and arguably in the world, the Royal Society dates to the time of Charles II. Its early members included Isaac Newton, Edmond Halley, Robert Hooke, Thomas Hobbes, Christopher Wren and even – rather intriguingly – Samuel Pepys. But amid this year's seminars, exhibitions and publications, there has been one ghost at the feast: the historic absence of women scientists from its ranks.

See my post on Caroline Herschel

Rehabilitating Cleopatra

It has forever been preferable to attribute a woman's success to her beauty rather than to her brains, to reduce her to the sum of her sex life. Against a powerful enchantress there is no contest. Against a woman who ensnares a man in the coils of her serpentine intelligence—in her ropes of pearls—there should, at least, be some kind of antidote. Cleopatra would unsettle more as sage than as seductress; it is less threatening to believe her fatally attractive than fatally intelligent. As one of Caesar's murderers noted, "How much more attention people pay to their fears than to their memories!"

Leargas: Alice Milligan

From the blog Leargas, a wonderful article on Irish writer Alice Milligan:
Alice Milligan was a prime mover in the centenary celebrations in Belfast to mark the 100th anniversary of the 1798 Rising. She was part of the ‘Ardrigh group’ which was a loose affiliation of republicans and nationalists who came together at Francis Joseph Bigger’s home, ‘Ardrigh’, on the Antrim Road to discuss politics and agree ways to promote the Irish language and culture. Milligan was at the centre of all of this, including writing ‘A Life of Wolfe Tone’.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fake Amarna Princess

From BBC News:
A fake ancient Egyptian statue will return to a museum in Greater Manchester which displayed it believing it was genuine.

Bolton Museum bought the Amarna Princess for £440,000 in 2003 after the British Museum authenticated it.

Forger Shaun Greenhalgh made the statue in a shed in the back garden of his Bolton home. He was jailed in 2007 for conning museums and art houses.

The statue will return to the museum in April as part of a collection of fakes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Interesting Reads

Some more interesting reads:
  • The Locust and the Bird by Hanan Al-Shaykh
  • And Furthermore by Dame Judi Dench
  • Beneath the Pale Blue Burqa by Kay Danes
  • Daughter of Dust: Growing Up an Outcast in the Desert of Sudan by Wendy Wallace
  • The Letter in the Bottle: A True Story by Karen Liebreich (recommended)
  • Au Revoir My Darling: An Intimate War Correspondence 1940-1945 by Heather Houghton
  • Grandma Magic: True Stories By and About Grandmothers by Jan Hutchinson

Recommendation: Notes Left Behind

Just before her sixth birthday, Elena Desserich was diagnosed with brain cancer and given 135 days to live. After her death, Elena’s parents found hundreds of handwritten notes from Elena hidden around the house. This is their story of Elena’s fight for life and the messages she left behind.

An inspiring title that has captured the attention of the world, Notes Left Behind is told through intimate journal entries written by Elena’s parents, Brooke and Keith.

Included within this book are black and white photos of Elena and the notes she wrote to her family. The notes show us how even during our darkest moments, it is possible to find hope and encouragement through selfless love.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

FREE!! Aung San Suu Kyi

From BBC News:
Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has addressed a large crowd of her supporters, a day after her release from house arrest.

"The basis of democratic freedom is freedom of speech," she said at her party's offices, Reuters reports.

Ms Suu Kyi was allowed to leave her Rangoon house when her sentence expired on Saturday. She had been detained for most of the past two decades.

World leaders and human rights groups have reacted with joy at her release.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dean of Women Lawyers

After being shunned by the all-male Kansas City Bar Association, Mary Tiera Farrow and 20 other female lawyers form the Women's Bar Association of Kansas City.

On November 8, 1917, Mary Tiera Farrow and 20 other female lawyers formed the Women's Bar Association of Kansas City. Farrow was one of the few women in the United States who successfully practiced law in the early 1900s despite the discrimination that women faced in the legal field and society more generally. After having been denied the professional benefits of joining any existing bar association, Farrow led a group of 20 women in establishing their own bar in Kansas City. It was just one of many pioneering acts that Farrow undertook for herself and for women's rights more generally.

Canada's War Brides

During the Second World War, some women found love amid war-torn Europe. They became known as war brides- the women who left their homes and traveled across the ocean, following the Canadian soldiers who stole their hearts. Doris was one of these women.

Most Canadian war brides are now in their late eighties and a week doesn’t pass without word of one passing away. Although they made fade away, one group is keeping their stories alive.

Canadian War Brides and Families is a new group based out of Saskatoon. It hopes to become a national association that brings together war brides and their family members.

Organizers plan to hold a national reunion in Saskatoon in 2011.

Ursuline Academy Closes After 130 Years

The nine Ursuline nuns from Brown County, Ohio, who got off the train in Santa Rosa in 1880 to organize the “Select School for Girls” under the auspices of St. Rose Catholic Church expected to have 40 students in their first semester.

They had come to Santa Rosa at the behest of the Rev. John Conway, pastor of St. Rose, who had assured the Sisters their boarding school would overflow with students.

The first semester, two students enrolled. Undaunted, the Sisters persisted. Their aim was a quality education for young women.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Heroic Women of Dundee

From the Courier News:
As the old saying goes, “Behind every successful man lies a woman.”

Dundee Township Historical Society members wholeheartedly agree and said it was high time that the women of Dundee’s past be rightfully recognized.

On Sunday, the group presented, “Women in History: The Story of Heroic Women in Dundee Township,” one of many public programs it has offered to help keep the area’s rich history alive.

It’s often been the men in Dundee’s past that have received all the acclaim for their roles in purchasing land, starting up companies, and furthering societal efforts such as the Underground Railroad.

However, none of those advances would have been realized without the help and support of their wives, according to DTHS president Marge Edwards.

Review: The Last Duel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story of the Last Duel focuses on the last "legalised" duel to be held in medieval France in which one man seeks justice through trial by combat.

The two protagonists are a knight and a squire. First, these are misleading titles. Both are military men of comparable age; both men were - in the few years prior to the duel - of the rank of squire. One man was knighted on the field of battle - the other on the field of justice - therefore at the time of the duel both men were of equal rank. The title of squire or "escuier" was ascribed to a "battle hardened veteran" rather than the romanticised vision of a youth attending to his master. Though squire did serve their superiors, the context, in this case, as with the title of knight, is purely a military one.

Now to the protagonists themselves. There was a long period of friendship between the two, which slowly dissolved as one received preference over the other; and one felt that he was more deserving of preferment than the other. Tensions finally boil over when one man accuses the other of rape and violence against his wife, culminating in the long drawn-out process of having the case examined and pondered before (to the delight of all), the duel to the death is granted.

Jager goes to great lengths to fill in the background information on those involved and to enlighten the reader on the intracies of medieval French politics and law. In bringing the suit forward, the women herself, if her testimony proves false, faces a most grusesome end - to be burnt alive - and her champion, certain death. There is no half measures - at the end of the day, someone will die.

I have been wanting to read this book for some time since it was recommended to me about four years ago. And I highly recommend it myself.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Almedha the Martyr

From: Heroines of Welsh History by TJ Llewelyn Prichard

Exhibition: Changing the Face of Power: Women in the U.S. Senate

In 1789, the United States Senate convened for the first time. It had no female members. Such would be the case until 1922, two years after the establishment of women’s suffrage, when Rebecca Latimer Felton was appointed to represent the people of Georgia. Her term lasted for just a single day. Today, of course, things are different. Seventeen women serve their states in the Senate. And still, in the history of this nation, there have been only 38 female senators.

Changing the Face of Power: Women in the U.S. Senate, a new photographic exhibition at The Women’s Museum in Fair Park, explores the careers of the extraordinary ladies who have gone where others dared not.

Alina Treiger - Germany's New Rabbi

From BBC News:
History is being made in Germany with the ordination of the first female rabbi since World War II. Alina Treiger came to Germany from Ukraine, as the BBC's Stephen Evans reports from Berlin.

Why would a Jew migrate to Germany? You would think the ghosts would be too powerful.

Not so, according to those who have made the trip and those who welcomed them.

They are migrating for the main reasons that people in peaceful times pack their bags and seek a new start in a new country: money and work.

And that means work for those who serve them when they arrive - like rabbis, the demand for whom has expanded with the increase in Germany's Jewish communities.

It has led to a bit of history: the ordination of the first female rabbi in Germany since the Nazis killed the previous one in the Holocaust.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

BBC Interview: Eileen Nearne

From BBC News:
As fresh details emerge about the extraordinary bravery of wartime spy Eileen Nearne, the BBC has unearthed an interview conducted with her for a television documentary in 1997.

Miss Nearne died of a heart attack in Torquay in September 2010, at the age of 89.

In this interview for the documentary about the work of Britain's secret army, Miss Nearne talks about her experiences in occupied France.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Shiff

From the New York Times:
In “Cleopatra: A Life,” Ms. Schiff strips away the accretions of myth that have built up around the Egyptian queen and plucks off the imaginative embroiderings of Shakespeare, Shaw and Elizabeth Taylor.

In doing so, she gives us a cinematic portrait of a historical figure far more complex and compelling than any fictional creation, and a wide, panning, panoramic picture of her world.

Instead of the stereotypes of the “whore queen,” Ms. Schiff depicts a “fiery wisp of a girl” who grows up to become an enterprising politician: not so much a great beauty as a charismatic and capable woman, smart, saucy, funny and highly competent, a ruler seen by many of her subjects as a “beneficent guardian” with good intentions and a “commitment to justice.”
From NPR:
The name Cleopatra evokes an indelible image of a beautiful, wanton temptress. For those of us of a certain age, a cinematic image of a young, violet-eyed Elizabeth Taylor immediately springs to mind. In her new biography, Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff argues that the Egyptian queen of gossip and legend, as well as literature and Hollywood directors, is largely inaccurate.

While one of the most recognizable figures in history, the Cleopatra we think we know is not the real Cleopatra at all. First of all, Cleopatra was Greek, not Egyptian — the Greeks ruled Egypt in the first century B.C. — a commanding woman versed in politics, diplomacy and governance. "What unsettled those who wrote her history," Schiff writes, "was her independence of mind, the enterprising spirit."

And from Salon:
Stacy Schiff, in her biography of the last of the pharaohs, writes against the fabulous grain. Having won the Pulitzer Prize for "Vera," her biography of Vladimir Nabokov's elegant wife and selfless helpmeet, she has chosen a subject entirely the opposite, a bold queen who's constantly threatening to overflow the impeccable refinement of the author's prose. "Cleopatra: A Life" is a political biography, a respectable enough enterprise, but since the politics of Cleopatra's times featured more bloody double-crossings than "The Sopranos," more lurid bedroom shenanigans than "True Blood" and more shameless mudslinging than the current electoral campaigns, only ceaseless vigilance keeps Schiff from lapsing into sensationalism.

Black Death Came From China

Teams of medical geneticists and biologists have determined that the great waves of plague that have ravaged Europe, dating back to medieval times, originated in China, according to a New York Times report.

The plagues have claimed millions of lives, and the worst wiped out an estimated 30 percent of the European population.

"The results indicate that the plague appeared in China more than 2,600 years ago," said a statement from the French Museum of Natural History that took part in the research.

It then spread toward Western Europe along the Silk Road, starting more than 600 years ago, and then to Africa, probably by an expedition led by Chinese seafarer Zheng He in the 15th century, the statement added.

The plague came to the US from China via Hawaii in the late 19th century, according to the molecular evidence.

New Memorial to the Lost 29

From the Evening Times:
A memorial to 29 women killed in one of Glasgow’s worst industrial disasters is to be fully restored.

As the 121st anniversary of the Templeton carpet factory collapse is commemorated today, it has been announced the granite memorial, erected in Bridgeton in September 1954, will be restored.

The memorial garden, on the corner of London Road and Tobago Street, in the East End, commemorates the women who lost their lives at the New Mill on November 1, 1889.

At about 5.15pm that day, unusually high winds caused a large section of the building to fall into the adjoining weaving shed, burying many of the 140-strong workforce, which was almost entirely made up of East End women.

The collapse killed 29 women at the factory in William Street, which was renamed Templeton Street.

Brazil: Dilma Rousseff President

From Forbes:
Brazil made history yesterday, when the country elected former chief of staff Dilma Rousseff as its President, making her the highest ranking woman and first female head of state there. She was handpicked as the candidate for the Workers’ Party by popular president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and beat out opponent Jose Serra in Sunday’s runoff election.

In her victory speech, she cited goals of eradicating poverty and improving gender equality. Rousseff has already made tremendous progress. In her posts as Minister of Energy and Chief of Staff, she helped 31 million Brazilians move into the middle class and saw 24 million escape poverty. Moreover, her presence at the top serves as an example for girls around the world. She joins Cristina Fernandez, the first elected female president in Argentina, and Costa Rica’s President Laura Chinchilla as another strong female leader in Latin America. She was named this year to our list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.

Courting Diaster: Leanda de Lisle Reviews

From the Literary Review:
Henry VIII boasted to ambassadors of his vivacious eighteen-month-old daughter Mary, 'this child never cries'. The affectionate father was at the same time also a loving husband to Mary's mother, Catherine of Aragon. When that changed so did the child, and there were tears aplenty, as well as a legacy of blood and fire.

Giles Tremlett's book is the first full-length biography of Catherine in forty years. Tremlett lives in Spain, where he works as a journalist for The Guardian, and had immediate access to Spanish sources. He paints an engaging portrait of Catherine's early life in Granada before she was packed off to England to marry Arthur Tudor.

Women in Power in the Navajo Nation

As the USA gears up for the November 2nd elections, there will be history made amongst America’s Natives if Lynda Lovejoy has anything to say about it. While most Americans & the media are focused on the incendiary battles between Democrats, Republicans & the Tea Party; the Navajo nation which is the largest Native American tribe made up of constituents from Arizona, New Mexico and Utah will be reexamining & battling religious & cultural tradition to make history by electing their first ever female president. Many Americans probably know very little about its Natives let alone the fact that they have their own elected government, but hopefully a historical moment will bring America’s much needed focus & attention to its Natives.

Coast Guard Compass - Heroes - Margaret Norvell

This Compass series chronicles the first 14 heroes the Sentinel-class Fast Response Cutters have been named for. These men and women, who stood the watch before us, lived extraordinary lives as they lit the way for sailors in times past, braved gunfire in times of war and rescued those in peril at sea. As Coast Guard heroes, their stories are a constant reminder of our service’s legacy. As the namesake of the Coast Guard’s newest patrol boats, they will inspire the next generation of Coast Guard heroes.

The focus in this episode is on Margaret Norvell.
For decades, Margaret “Madge” Norvell kept a watchful eye on the treacherous entrance of the Mississippi river and her numerous rescues included enduring howling winds and stinging rains to shelter schooners caught in storms and pulling in shipwrecked sailors.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Review: The Man Who Believed He Was King of France

Interesting - a switched-at-birth story based in France during the reign of King Philip IV and his sons.

The first five chapters of the book deal with the story of Giannino di Guccio who is told that he is the real King of France, though switched at birth, by Colia di Rienzo, Senator (sometime Dictator) of Rome. We follow Giannino as he leaves his home in Siena to set out to prove (by what ever means) that he is indeed Jean I, King of France.

France at this period was locked in a bitter struggle with England over who was entitled to inherit the French throne after the death of Phillip the Fair and his sons. It it the time of the Hundred Years War - and there are many factions eager to see a destablising of political power in France.

The second half of the book deals with the author Tommaso di Carpegna Falconieri's search for the truth behind the story. Was Giannino myth or real? Was his story real or a complete fabrication? Was there any historical "truths" that could support or not such a story.

Falconieri was not the first author to write of Giannino - those who have read Maurice Druon's "Les Rois Maudits" would be familiar with his story.

So fact or fiction - I'll let you decide.