Monday, January 31, 2011

Margaret Thatcher & the Indian Mystic

The Iron Lady, who was renowned for her no-nonsense direct approach, conversed with self-proclaimed faith healer and preacher Sri Chandraswamy in 1975 in her Commons office.

And the future Prime Minister was so impressed with his apparent powers that she agreed to his request to wear a special red dress and a battered talisman around her wrist to a second meeting.

There, it is claimed the bearded guru correctly predicted that she would come to power within four years and remain there for more than a decade.

Details of the extraordinary meetings were revealed by former Indian Foreign Minister Shri Natwar Singh, who was present when they took place.

In 1975 he was India’s Deputy High Commissioner to the UK when Mr Chandraswamy arrived in London and apparently demanded a meeting with Mrs Thatcher.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bosworth Battlefield Showcases Medieval Women

The award winning Bosworth Battlefield Heritage Centre is best known for its interactive exploration of battles, armour and medieval army life, but this year’s free entry exhibition shows a very different side of medieval life. It looks at the lives of medieval women and will be on display from February 2nd until December 30th 2011.

The exhibition, entitled ‘The Medieval Woman – instrument of the Devil, exulted above all angels’, looks at the roles of European women in the Middle Ages and how they were viewed in the eyes of the church and in the law. For much of the time girl power really did not feature in life as medieval women had their lives controlled by men, a girl obeyed her father and a wife was the property of her husband.

However there were some opportunities for women to make their own lives, although they were few and far between. In towns as well as the countryside, women worked in a wide range of trades, often with their husbands and fathers. Wealthy widows had a certain amount of independence - although they could be required by the King to remarry to ensure their lands were under male control - and the mothers and wives of important men could have enormous influence on politics.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Apiti Life - A History

Apiti is a Maori word meaning the narrows, or the gorges. At 457 metres above sea level, it's a high uplift of land between two river systems, the Oroua to the west, and the Pohangina to the east, 40 kilometres from Feilding.

Its isolation meant it was settled by Europeans relatively late in New Zealand history; the first settlers arrived in July 1886, having been balloted 100-acre sections by the Feilding Small Farm Association.

The men went in first. In July, mid-winter, with bush frosts on the heights. It wouldn't fully thaw until spring, and the altitude meant summer frosts weren't unusual. They bashed through heavy bush; no roads or bridges. Access was mud-mired tracks created by the surveyors, and up shingle creek beds; all supplies packed in by hard-working horses.

Home wasn't built yet. They lived in the mud, under canvas and sacking, with split ponga logs forming the tent walls. Bunks were made from fern trees and wineberry branches, heaped high with surprisingly comfortable springy dried ponga fronds.

The fire was the heart of the camp. A huge, backburner log – long-lasting hinau or rewarewa was best – kept the fire alive and slowly cooked the wood pigeon or kaka stew while the men chopped and burned bush, trying to clear enough land for a slab whare, a garden, a paddock, a few head of stock.

"The match cleared this land," said Apiti farmer and 125th jubilee organiser Hilton Digby. "The bushfires went from here to Beaconsfield, from the late 1880s for the next 20 or 30 years."

Joan Rosenbaum: Jewish Museum

After 30 years as director of New York’s Jewish Museum, Joan Rosenbaum announced in December that she would be stepping down from the post at the end of June. Few would deny that during Rosenbaum’s tenure, the Jewish Museum has become a powerhouse of art and creativity, both in the Jewish world and in the larger New York art world. Since she took the reins of the museum in 1981, it has doubled the size of its physical location on Fifth Avenue and 92nd Street, expanded its permanent collection to more than 26,000 objects, put on innumerable noteworthy exhibits and ensured its own future by building an endowment of about $92 million. The Forward took the opportunity to ask Rosenbaum about the changes she has seen during her career, both at the Jewish Museum and in the wider spheres of art and Jewish culture.

Pope: Joan of Arc a Role Model for Public Officials

Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday that public officials would do well to model themselves on Joan of Arc, the French saint who was tried for heresy and burned at the stake for her convictions.

Benedict highlighted the life of the 15th century mystic in his weekly general audience. For several months he has used his Wednesday catechisms to promote an important woman in the church's history.

Joan of Arc led the French to several victories over the English during the Hundred Years War. She had said she heard voices from a trio of saints telling her to deliver France from the English.

She was tried for heresy and witchcraft and burned at the stake in 1431, though her conviction was later annulled. She was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

"Hers is a beautiful example of holiness for lay people working in public life, particularly during the most difficult situations," Benedict XVI said.

Benedict expressed bitterness at how Joan of Arc had been treated by the church, saying her heresy trial was a "upsetting page" in church history and was due to French churchmen "who had made different political choices" than she.

But he noted that the illiterate farm girl nevertheless went to her death professing a love for the church and Christ.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reading & Writing History

As I have been reading alot lately, it got me thinking about all those books written about history over the centuries.  As time has progressed and modern scholarship improved, these past tomes have been discarded as being not relevant and historically incorrect.  But are they.

Consider: most contemporary sources are now considered flawed (by our modern standards of scholarship) and yet are still a valuable resource for the historian and writer.  They reflect the time in which they were written; often the bias of the author; and the availability of information at hand (often localised).  And these "primary" sources are still considered more noteworthy than some "secondary" sources.

Which brings me to my next point.  Should all "secondary" sources be dismissed outright just because modern scholarship has more to add.  Again, I think these "secondary" sources are just as valuable, reflecting not only the scholarship of their author (as with the "primary" sources) but also prove to be a study of the current values of society at that time.

Yes, we should look to improve upon what was written before - and we today have the advantage of access to so much more than some writers who came before us.  Technology is a wonderful thing - so many previously inaccessable tomes are now available so freely over the internet.  No longer do we have to pore over unwieldly tomes in dimly lit archives, travel miles to the nearest library to access some book only available to scholars at universities - unless we want to.  Much of what we need comes at the touch of a button (or keyboard).

My pet gripe is with authors who poo-poo at works considered "outdated" should actually take a closer look them and not just base their opinions upon those of others.   Doing your own research is one of the joys of history - discovering some little piece of long-hidden information, tucked away in a book considered "out of fashion".  No book should be discounted based solely upon it's age.  Many of these early books provided a great introduction into history - they have their place and their value.

Which brings me to another point - historical fiction.  Have you noticed how much historical fiction has come along.  A few decades ago, artistic license was flourishing - readers didn't demand greater authenticity and attention to detail from their fiction writers - how that has changed today.  More and more authors are bringing the past to life in their tomes of fiction - so much so, it is becoming increasingly difficult to assess what is fact and what is fiction.  Some "non-fiction" actually reads like it should have been deemed "fiction" and vice-versa! 

And we are becoming more critical of our fictional authors - demanding they stick to details and admonish them when they leave the path.  Possibly because history itself has entered something of a renaissance - the more we read, the more we feel the need to read and explore further.  Not a bad thing in my opinion.

A Century of Battling Women

From the Indian Express:
“There are some defeats more triumphant than victories” said Michael de Montaigne.

Indeed, the women candidates who contested in the AMU student union elections got more than victory could have given them. Though there have been some women who have contested the elections in the past — and won too — this was never for the top three positions together. In the 136-year history of union elections, this was the first time that as many as 11 young women expressed the desire to lead. They were followed by hundreds of young men and women that chanted election slogans, who heard their eloquent speeches and clapped for them too.

Also, for the very first time, the undergraduate students of the women’s college (Abdullah College) were allowed to exercise their right to vote for the candidate of their choice, though within the hostel’s four walls. So far they have had a separate union, a separate election and of course a female president elected by them. So, in more ways than one, this election was special for women students at AMU. AMU students, teachers and of course the administration, deserve appreciation for providing a conducive environment for women to present their candidature.

Edmonton Revolutionary: Roberta MacAdams

The Edmonton Public School district announced Friday that it's looking for names for two new schools, one being built in Summer-side-Ellerslie in south Edmonton, the other in the Hamptons-Grange areas of west Edmonton.

Not earth-shattering news, perhaps. But for me, it offers an ideal opportunity to correct a historic injustice, to celebrate the life and contributions of an unsung Edmonton revolutionary: Roberta MacAdams

So why don't we know MacAdams's name? In part, it's because she retired from politics in 1921, after one term. At 40, she married, raised a family, excused herself from public life. She was never one of the Famous Five, who fought the Persons Case. Unlike Nellie McClung or Emily Murphy, she never wrote a book. She was never flamboyant or controversial or ideologically partisan -- just smart, brave, funny, independent and utterly competent.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Vikings: Alive & Well in NW England

The Vikings are alive and well and living in the North West of England! That’s the revelation in a new book on an epic research project into the genetic footprint of the Scandinavian invaders.

‘Viking DNA: The Wirral and West Lancashire Project’ is the culmination of several years of research by biochemists and geneticists, by Wirral-raised Professor Steve Harding from The University of Nottingham and Professor Mark Jobling and Dr Turi King from the University of Leicester. It shows the power of modern DNA methods to probe ancestry using the North West of England as an example.

The North West has long been known to have special links with the Vikings going back over a thousand years, through archaeological evidence, ancient manuscripts, local surnames and placenames such as ‘Thingwall’ from the Old Norse ‘ping-vollr’ meaning ‘meeting place’. It’s believed many of the Vikings, of mainly Norwegian origin, ended up in the region after being expelled from Ireland in AD902.

The new book tells the story of how 21st century genetic methods have been used in conjunction with historical and linguistic evidence to investigate the Viking ancestry of Wirral and neighbouring West Lancashire. Rigorous DNA analysis of samples of the local population, focusing on people who had surnames present in the regions prior to 1600, has scientifically proved that the Vikings settled heavily in the area and left a huge genetic legacy which survives and continues today.

TONIGHT: Mary: From Jewish Maiden to Global Mother

Tonight at 7:00 p.m. in the Flagler College Auditorium located at 14 Granada Street, Historic City News readers are invited to attend a presentation from guest speaker Miri Rubin; medieval and early modern history professor at Queen Mary University of London.

Rubin’s topic will be “Mary: From Jewish Maiden to Global Mother” and is part of Flagler College’s Cecile & Gene Usdin Judeo-Christian Lecture series.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Trotula di Ruggiero – The First Beauty Blogger

The first person to write on the science of beauty was an eleventh century Italian woman called Trotula di Ruggiero (often called just Trotula of Salerno – a bit easier to spell and remember). She worked in Salerno in one of the earliest medical schools. She is most famous as the first person to write about women’s medical problems in De Passionibus Mulierum Curandarum. But her De Ornatu Mulierum (about women’s cosmetics) is just as interesting.

Salerno at the time must have been a fascinating place to operate in. The medical school consciously drew on the traditions of the Arabs, the Jews and the Greeks as well as the local knowledge of herbal beauty treatments. It was also a place where women seem to have played a major role in developing knowledge. The local produce and the sophisticated Mediterranean trade routes also provided a rich variety of raw materials.

Dispelling the Myths of Eleanor of Aquitaine

One of the popular images of the Crusades is the story of Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine taking 300 of her ladies-in-waiting with her on the Second Crusade during the years 1147-49. While this particular tale has long-been debunked, a recent article has shown that many other aspects of Eleanor’s role, and the overall effort of women during the Second Crusade has been emphasized too much.

Conor Kostick’s article, “Eleanor of Aquitaine and the women of the Second Crusade,” which appears in the book Medieval Italy, Medieval and Early Modern Women: Essays in Honour of Christine Meek, shows that female participation was likely much smaller during the Second Crusade than it was for the First Crusade at the end of the eleventh century. Kostick believes that the crusade preaching that took place in the lead up to the march to the Holy Land was more aimed at getting people with a military background to commit to the crusade, and avoided encouraging non-combatants, including women, into participating.

Kostick comments that even several academic writings have mistakenly placed various noble women as taking part in the Second Crusade, when it is clear that they had come to the Holy Land during other events, some of which occurred decades earlier. The author writes that there is “quite strong evidence that the whole idea of a contingent of noblewomen has arisen through a mistaken assembly of certain associations between some of these women and crusading.”

Kostick also writes about a particular episode during the Second Crusade, when Eleanor tried to convince her husband, King Louis VII, to campaign in support of her uncle, Raymond, prince of Antioch. When the French king decided against this idea, Raymond, in the words of the chronicler William of Tyre, “planned, either violently or with secret machinations, to seize from the king his wife (Eleanor) who consented in this same plan as she was a foolish woman.” Another account suggests that Eleanor was planning to divorce Louis during this episode, but the plot was foiled when Eleanor was forcibly removed (effectively kidnapped) from Antioch by Louis’ advisors.

After this episode, the chronicle accounts do not mention any more activities by Eleanor for the rest of the crusade.

Interview with Conor Kostick

US: Bird Woman Remembered

Probably more than any other person in America, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau got to watch history being made firsthand without actually contributing to it. Best of all, he got to do this by the time he was 2 years old. But like most 2-year-olds, his story doesn't end there.

Around 1797, eight years before his son Jean was born, a French-Canadian explorer and trader named Toussaint Charbonneau had purchased two captured Shoshone Indian women and taken them as his wives. One was known as Bird Woman, while the other was known as Otter Woman.

Bird Woman gave birth to Jean Baptiste Charbonneau in 1805 at Fort Mandan, N.D. Fort Mandan was the place where Meriwether Lewis and William Clark stayed in the winter of 1804-05. In fact, Lewis and Clark hired Toussaint Charbonneau to serve as an interpreter to the Hidatsa Indians, and they allowed him to bring along his pregnant wife, Mrs. Charbonneau (aka Bird Woman).

Toussaint Charbonneau spoke no English and did not speak the Hidatsa language very well, but both his wives spoke it well. As a result, one of the wives -- the one known as Bird Woman -- went along on the Lewis and Clark expedition and was of more value to Lewis and Clark than Toussaint was.

Most Americans have never heard the names of Toussaint Charbonneau, Bird Woman or Jean Charbonneau. Bird Woman, though, became so well-known that she didn't even need to use her last name.

The name by which you know her is Sacajawea.

Moora: Bog Woman of Lower Saxony

From The Local:

“It’s a look into the face of a young woman who lived at a time when Rome was still just a small village,” said Stefan Winghart, head of the regional heritage conservation office in Lower Saxony.
German researchers have shed light on life during the Iron Age after examining the ancient remains of a woman found in a bog in what is now Lower Saxony. The body dates back to the pre-Roman era, more than 2,600 years ago.

A team of experts presented their findings on Thursday in Hannover, including facial simulations of the bog woman dubbed “Moora.” Archaeologists first began studying the find six years ago, according to news magazine Der Spiegel.
Experts from the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE) generated a digital model of the bones, which was used to make a replica of the bog woman’s skull. Later, five researchers from Germany and the United Kingdom produced a series of facial reconstructions.

See also this article from ArchNews

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Former Comfort Woman Speaks Out

Lee was just 15 when she was kidnapped by Japanese soldiers in Ulsan. She had just come outside to go on an errand when she was taken. Along with other young girls who were snatched by the Japanese military, Lee was sent to China and spent three years as a comfort woman in the Japanese barracks. According to Lee, on holidays as many as 50 soldiers would be lined up outside her door.

Because of the severe beatings from the soldiers, Lee’s hearing and vision were greatly impaired, so much so that she “came back mutilated.”

In 1996, Lee made the decision to go public with her story.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Met Police marks 40th anniversary of first female Asian officer

NEXT month marks the 40th anniversary of the first Asian woman joining the Metropolitan Police.

Karpal Kaur Sandhu served in Walthamstow and Leyton after joining the force on February 1 1971.

She paved the way for many Asian and women in the force, proving invaluable as an interpreter and was drafted in to deal with CID cases all over London where a female officer was needed.

She was born to a Sikh family in Zanzibar, east Africa, in 1943 and came to the UK in 1962, when she got a job as a nurse.

After joining the police, she served at Hornsey before moving to the Leyton division of the Met.

Why We Should Always Give The Crown To A Women.

From the Mail Online:
Given the impatience with which the Coalition has set about reforming everything from local government to the NHS, perhaps it’s not surprising that ministers have now got their teeth into the monarchy.

As the Mail reported earlier this week, it is considering amending the 1701 Act of ­Settlement so that a first-born girl can succeed the throne. Which means that if Prince William and Kate Middleton’s first child is a daughter, that baby would be our future queen.

Constitutional conservatives are up in arms — yet throughout our long royal history, the female of the species has generally proved far more competent than the male.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Book: Queens and Empresses

Back in November I was given the opportunity to read the lastest tome from Mark Hichens entitled "Queens and Empresses".

From the Press Release: "History is brought to life through the colourful stories of eleven queens and empresses. Their lives were often tempestuous and tragic, ending in execution, suicide, divorce or abdication. Some were child brides, pawns in political games, and most had unfaithful husbands."

My Review of: Queens and Empresses

Friday, January 14, 2011

Decoding Mythology: The Faithful Mandodari

Mandodari, wife of Ravan, is considered one of the most perfect women in Indian mythology. Why?

An upcoming filmstar allegedly raped his maid servant. His wife stood by him. A Police inspector allegedly molested a young sportswoman. His wife stood by him. Are these women Mandodaris of modern times? Media has tried and judged the accused. They are, for the media, Ravan — demon men who do not respect the rights of women. The court is undecided. They are probably Ravan. Or probably Ram.

Mandodari, queen of Lanka, is regarded as a Sati or a pious wife who stands by her hus-band no matter what. She is one of the five great heroines or Panchakanya of Hindu mythology, the other four being: Ahalya, Tara, Sita and Draupadi. All these women have fractured relationships with their husbands. Ahalya is abandoned by Rishi Gautama for having an extramarital affair; Tara marries her hus-band's younger brother Sugriva, after Vali is killed; Sita is abandoned by Ram following street-gossip even though she is faithful and chaste; and Draupadi has five husbands who gamble her away.

Mandodari deals stoically with the fact that her husband is a certified villain. Not much is known about her.

An Ancient & Customary Evil

Rape in war is as old as war itself. After the sack of Rome 16 centuries ago Saint Augustine called rape in wartime an “ancient and customary evil”. For soldiers, it has long been considered one of the spoils of war.

In 2008 the UN Security Council officially acknowledged that rape has been used as a tool of war. With these kinds of resolutions and global campaigns against rape in war, the world has become more sensitive. At least in theory, the Geneva Conventions, governing the treatment of civilians in war, are respected by politicians and generals in most decent states. Generals from rich countries know that their treatment of civilians in the theatre of war comes under ever closer scrutiny. The laws and customs of war are clear. But in many parts of the world, in the Hobbesian anarchy of irregular war, with ill-disciplined private armies or militias, these norms carry little weight.

Wiyohpiyata: Lakota Images of the Contested West

About five years ago, the librarians at Harvard University’s Houghton Library realized they had something special on their hands: a Plains Indian ledger book, filled with drawings made by Lakota Sioux of their battle exploits. Ledger drawings — pictographic art made by Plains Indians in the 19th century, often in accounting books acquired from Euro-Americans — are not uncommon artifacts, but it is unusual to find them bound in their original context.

The book, a goldmine of a historic document, launched research resulting in “Wiyohpiyata: Lakota Images of the Contested West,’’ an exhibit at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology co-curated by the museum’s Castle McLaughlin and Butch Thunder Hawk, a Lakota artist who teaches at the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck, N.D. It’s a riveting dip into Lakota warrior culture, which imbued warfare with spirituality, illustrating how one particular band of Lakota weathered the history of westward expansion sweeping across the Plains, pitting native warriors against US forces.

"Secret" Jacobite Society

From BBC News:
A group that has its roots in a secret society which remained loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie after the Battle of Culloden has opened up its membership.

Until now people have had to receive an invitation to join A Circle of Gentlemen.

Circle commodore Matthew Donnachie said by encouraging general membership, a fund could be created to support heritage and archaeology projects.

The move comes in the 265th anniversary year of the Battle of Culloden.

Established in Edinburgh in 1748, the original secret circle continued to back the prince after the Jacobites' defeat at Culloden, near Inverness, in 1746.

Its members continued to meet late into the 18th Century.

The modern version of the society followed discussions between Jacobite enthusiasts during the 1990s.

For the first time, the group has opened its membership to people living anywhere in the world.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Did Famine Destroy Camelot

From ArchNews:
South Cadbury Castle is well known for its suspected association with King Arthur as the site of his infamous castle, Camelot. Excavations have shown that the site was indeed strengthened in the period formally known as the Dark Ages, at the time of the legendary Arthur. However, there is one question that remains an enigma – why was the site abandoned?

There is no archaeological evidence that shows there was destruction or an invasion at the site of South Cadbury at the beginning of the sixth century – it simply went out of use. Its abandonment is perplexing for it was strengthened and inhabited in the fifth century as evidenced by the pottery sherds, but by the early sixth century it was uninhabited. South Cadbury has undergone some extensive excavations, especially by Alcock (1965-1970), who tells us ‘On the basis of archaeological evidence – and there is no other – the Cadbury II occupation had come to an end before 600AD’ (Alcock 1005, 152).

Tower of London Mural

The Tower of London has allowed scientists to use eye-scanning software and infrared laser technology on a mystery Medieval wall painting which has baffled curators at the royal landmark.

A team led by Nottingham Trent University’s Dr Haida Liang used a portable Optical Coherence Tomographer, which allows them to see layers beneath the surface of paintings, and multispectral scanning – known as PRISMS – to investigate areas of the 14th century Byward Tower wall painting.


Hideko Takamine - Gone But Not Forgotten

From The Age:
OVER the course of nearly 200 films, Hideko Takamine, developed from an endearing child star into an actress who powerfully represented the Japanese woman's search for identity and autonomy in the years after World War II. She has died in Tokyo of lung cancer, aged 86.

Takamine, who often seemed to be gallantly fighting back tears with her famously gentle smile, was widely regarded by Japanese and foreign critics as one of the three great actresses of the classical Japanese cinema.

Her two peers were the aristocratic Kinuyo Tanaka, who worked extensively with the director Kenji Mizoguchi and Setsuko Hara, whose portrayals of modern middle-class women were associated with the films of Yasujiro Ozu (Tokyo Story).

Takamine was most notably the muse of Mikio Naruse, who, although not as well known a director in the west as Mizoguchi and Ozu, is frequently ranked as equally important in Japanese film history. For Naruse, Takamine often played women from rural or lower-middle-class backgrounds who were forced to make their own way in the world, often saddled with weak or unfaithful men.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Herald's First Woman Editor

THE Herald has been published since April 1831, through depressions and wars into the internet age, but until yesterday afternoon never has a woman been its editor. Amanda Wilson is now the first.

Previously deputy editor, she has acted in the role since October, when Peter Fray was made editor-in-chief of the Herald and its sister paper, The Sun-Herald.

Wilson, a journalist for more than 30 years, said she had no idea why it had taken so long for a woman to be appointed to the role given the number of talented female colleagues with whom she had worked. ''We have always had brilliant women journalists at the Herald,'' she said. ''One of the people who helped me here was Lis Sterel and in my opinion she should have been the first woman editor.''

Treason Against the Queen

From the Perogatives of a Queen Consort of England:

Of Its Being Treason To Plot Against Her - Compassing or imaging the Death of our Lady Queen, violating the King's Companion, is Treason.

The following article pertains to the curious case of Anne Boleyn:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Masouda Jalal: Harbinger of Equality

From Gulf News:

Afghanistan's first woman presidential candidate, Dr Masouda Jalal, helps women stand up to the male-dominated society.

Dr Masouda Jalal belongs to a growing number of women who dare to oppose deep-rooted derogatory traditions in Afghan society.

A paediatrician, along with being Afghanistan's first woman presidential candidate and the former minister of women's affairs, Dr Jalal has been working towards improving the status of women in her country. Through her organisation, the Jalal Foundation, she has empowered several women and is a beacon of hope. Her work earned her global recognition, including the UN Watch Human Rights award in 2010.

In an exclusive interview with Weekend Review, Dr Jalal talks about her organisation and life in Afghanistan.

Historic First as Kamala Harris Sworn In

Kamala Harris, former San Francisco District Attorney became the first woman, first African American, and first Asian Indian to become the Attorney General in California. Hundreds attended the historic occasion. Several history makers were in the audience: former speaker of the House Willie Brown, an Assembly members, law enforcement officers and attorneys, business leaders, union leaders, ministers, elected officials, state leaders, national NAACP board members, Black newspaper publishers, and people who wanted to be a part of history. Excitement was high as a large crowd waited in the courtyard of the California Museum for History, Women and the Arts in Sacramento.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Female Torah Scribe

From BBC News:
Avielah Barclay is an Orthodox Jewish woman who aims to live "sincerely and 100%" inside the traditions of her faith.

She leads a fastidiously observant life, wears a head covering and a long skirt - in line with Orthodox views on female modesty - and keeps a kosher kitchen.

Yet she is, in many ways, a most unorthodox Jewish woman.

Avielah is a scribe. She writes and restores sacred Jewish texts, a job traditionally done by men.

In fact, for years she has been wondering whether she is the first female scribe in millennia of Jewish history.

Fully trained and certified, getting commissions to restore the sacred texts, and teaching students, she is aware of the importance of her work.

The scrolls she restores today will be used in ritual for generations after she is gone.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Film: Rebel Queen

The film Rebel Queen tells the remarkable story of the last Sikh ruler of Lahore – a fearless Maharani who waged two wars against British rule in India. She is an inspiring figure for young Asian women today.

An Indian woman wearing a crinoline over her traditional clothes, and emeralds and pearls under her bonnet, walks in Kensington Gardens in 1861. She is the last Sikh queen of Lahore, the capital of the Punjab empire, and her name is Jindan Kaur. She died two years later, in 1863, and was buried in west London.

Maharani Jindan Kaur's life – much of which was spent raging against the British empire for cheating her out of the Punjab, then a vast country stretching from the Khyber Pass to Kashmir – is the subject of a film called Rebel Queen, which premiered at New York's International Sikh film festival and is set to be shown in the UK in February.

Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman

From the Telegraph:
The role of the mistress is as old as love and matrimony, but harder to define than either. Elizabeth Abbott, a Canadian academic whose previous books include a history of celibacy, has taken up the challenge in Mistresses: a History of the Other Woman.

Abbott writes that it was while researching her book on celibacy that “I came to realise that mistressdom is, in fact, an institution parallel and complementary to marriage. Though many people assume that adultery undermines marriage,” she notes, “many others believe that, paradoxically, it shores marriage up.” The material, in short, could hardly be richer or more complex.

In 13 chapters, beginning with illicit love in the ancient world and concluding with the changing role of the mistress after the sexual revolution of the Sixties, Abbott considers the careers of mistresses in a variety of different eras and cultures.

Virgin Mary According to the Qu'ran

One of the most intriguing and touching stories of the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam, is the story of the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus. Mary is a highly revered figure in the Qur'an, not just because she was the mother of Jesus, but also on her own right as a woman of great devotion.

She is auspiciously referred to as chosen, purified and truthful. Mary is depicted in terms that transcend the confines of natural law and as a manifestation of God's blissful grace. Her story is vividly told in two chapters of the Qur'an; first chapter named after her family (Family of Imran) and the second named after Mary herself.

Geraldine Doyle (aka Rosie the Riveter)

From the Washington Post:
Geraldine Doyle, 86, who as a 17-year-old factory worker became the inspiration for a popular World War II recruitment poster that evoked female power and independence under the slogan "We Can Do It!," died Dec. 26 at a hospice in Lansing, Mich.

Her daughter, Stephanie Gregg, said the cause of death was complications from severe arthritis.

For millions of Americans throughout the decades since World War II, the stunning brunette in the red and white polka-dot bandanna was Rosie the Riveter.