Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Demonization of Empress Wu

“She killed her sister, butchered her elder brothers, murdered the ruler, poisoned her mother,” the chronicles say. But is the empress unfairly maligned?

Of all these female rulers, though, none has aroused so much controversy, or wielded such great power, as a monarch whose real achievements and character remain obscured behind layers of obloquy. Her name was Wu Zetian, and in the seventh century A.D. she became the only woman in more than 3,000 years of Chinese history to rule in her own right.

In death, as in life, then, Wu remains controversial. Even her gravesite is remarkable. When she died, she was laid to rest in an elaborate tomb in the countryside about 50 miles north of the then capital, Xi’an. It was approached via a mile-long causeway running between two low hills topped with watchtowers, known today as the “nipple hills” because Chinese tradition holds that the spot was selected because the hills reminded Gaozong of the young Wu’s breasts.

Read entire article by Mike Dash @ The Smithsonian Magazine
Women of History: Wu Chao
Ancient History Encyclopedia: Wu Zetain

Six Ancient Chinese Women

From ECNS:
Here are six talented ancient Chinese women who once impressed in their time, and still affect us in our time.

Li Qingzhao: Praised as the "No.1 talented woman", Li Qingzhao, a poet from the Song Dynasty (960-1279), was born in Shandong province.

Cai Wenji: Daughter of literatus Cai Yi of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). Cai was good not only at poetry and calligraphy, but also mathematics, astronomy, debate and music. Her masterpieces were Hu Jia Shi Ba Pai, or Eighteen Songs of a Nomad Flute, and Bei Feng Shi, or Indignant Poems.

Ban Zhao: Ban was the first female historian in China. Her father, Ban Biao, was an historian during the Eastern Han Dynasty. She was also good at writing poems, yet only seven of her works have survived.

Shangguan Wan'er: Shangguan was famous for being given an important position by the only female emperor, Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

Su Hui: Su Hui, from the Qian Qin (351-394) was famously known for a handkerchief she made. The textile was embroidered with 841 characters that could form 7,958 poems.

Xue Tao: It is recorded that Xue Tao, a talented female entertainer during the Tang Dynasty created this colored paper to write poems. During her time, writing papers were often yellow, yet Xue changed the simple color into different shades of red or green. Later, people made similar colorful paper and named them "Xue Tao Jian".

Unique Goddess Idol Unearthed In Dinajpur

An at least 800-years-old temple has been unearthed in Dinajpur’s Kaharol that has a unique architecture and includes a unique idol, that of the Vishnu avatar Mohini.

This goddess is well-known across South and West India, but the Kaharol temple is the first of its kind discovered in the eastern subcontinent. Experts say the implications of this finding may change predominant ideas about the region’s history and traditions.

Claudine Bautze-Picron, an expert of East Indian iconography, has identified the idol recovered from the eastern part of the temple as that of Mohini, the Vishnu Avatar, he said.

“According to her this is the first stone-made Mohini idol in the eastern subcontinent, which leads us to reconsider the history of this region.”

In Hindu mythology, Mohini is the only female Avatar of the god Vishnu, who appears in the Samudra Manthan myth. The goddess is worshiped widely in South and West India.

Read entire article @ Dhaka Tribune

Queen Tin Hinan - Ancient Ancestress of the Tuaregs

Queen Tin Hinan is renowned in Tuareg history as a fourth century matriarch of great prestige – named “Mother of Us All”. Her monumental tomb was located in 1925 in the Sahara desert, but dramatic archaeological discoveries of the day, such as King Tut’s tomb, somewhat overshadowed her unveiling.

Tin Hinan, whose name literally means “she of the tents”, is regarded as the ancient ancestress of the Tuaregs. According to local legends, centuries ago Tin Hinan arrived in the Hoggar region on a milk-white camel along with her faithful servant, Takamet. They are said to have settled in the mountainous region of Algeria, and she became the first Queen of the Tuaregs.

Read entire article here @ Ancient Origins
See also: Tin Hinan @ Wikipedia and The Tuaregs @ The Bradshaw Foundation

Li Zhao - Female Pioneer of Communist China

Li Zhao is best known in China as the wife of the 1980s liberal reformer Hu Yaobang, who held the country's highest office as general secretary of the Communist Party – until being forced out. It was his death in 1989 that famously sparked the Tiananmen Square student protests.

One of the female pioneers of communist China, Li Zhao joined the revolution as a 16-year-old in 1937. After her father was killed at an anti-Japanese occupation rally, she took inspiration from the classical Chinese legend Mulan and disguised herself as a man – even shaving her head – to travel alone the long and dangerous road to Yanan.

She was laid to rest at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery on Friday, in an ancient hall reserved for Communism's heroes with unblemished careers. Hu hadn't been buried here. But on Friday the white floral wreaths included those from Xi and Premier Li Keqiang.

Read more here @ Stuff dot co dot nz

Medieval Mongolian Noblewoman Found In Compost Pit

Couple unearth remains of 'rich' female buried up to 1,000 years ago with her rare Chinese bronze mirror.

Natalia Filina, 31, and her husband were digging in their garden when they hit stones. In the hole they were digging as a compost pit, they found not only a skeleton but also a bronze mirror some 9.9 centimetres in diameter and 0.5cm thick. Police called in the Institute of Mongolian, Buddhist and Tibetan Studies in Ulan-Ude, and experts found additional remains. 

The medieval woman was lying in a wooden coffin made of log, covered with birch bark. The bronze mirror is believed to date to the 10th to 13th centuries, which perhaps indicates the age of the burial. Detailed tests will be carried out to determine when she lived.

Read Article from December 2015 @ The Siberian Times

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister

Before the term lesbian was even coined, there was Anne Lister – a rich landowner who enjoyed a string of scandalous same-sex affairs during the buttoned-up 1800s.

She recorded her adventures in 26 volumes of secret diaries so saucy that her fearful family kept them hidden long after her death.

Lister also encrypted the sexual detail in a mix of Greek and her own codewords — for fear of the law of the time — and only in the 1980s was this ever translated.

To refer to orgasms, she wrote the word kiss, while diary entries had Xs in the margin for how many climaxes she had that day.

Now, the story of Britain’s “first modern lesbian” will be retold in Shibden Hall, BBC1’s eight-part series written and directed by Happy Valley creator Sally Wainwright.

Read entire article by Kate Jackson here @ The Sun

Egyptian Woman Brought To Life

The face of a young Egyptian woman who lived at least 2,000-years-ago has been reconstructed from a 3D print out of her skull. The forensic techniques employed revealed surprising facts about the beautiful woman, who has been named Meritamun, meaning beloved of the god Amun.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia, in collaboration with the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine, used new technologies, including CT scanning, 3D printing and well known forensic facial reconstruction. Although, the mummy is incomplete, the remains stayed wrapped throughout the process.

The head of a mummy has spent more than 90 years in the basement, which belongs to the University of Melbourne. According to the researchers, she died as a young woman between the age 18 and 25. It was determined due to the width of her mouth and the positioning of her teeth, and her nose shape and size was determined by the width of the nasal aperture. The researchers also found out that she had quite large eyes. Other parts of the body were lost due to unknown reasons.

Read entire article here @ Ancient Origins (from August 2016)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Matilda Joslyn Gage - Forgotten 19th Century Suffragist

It’s easy to say that great strides have been made toward racial and gender equality in the last 150 years, yet one can’t help being struck by the parallel discourse surrounding human rights between then and now. Nowhere is this more evident than in the battles between women’s rights and the religious right. And nowhere is it more clear than in reviewing the works of Matilda Joslyn Gage.

From her first public speech, at age 26, in front of the 1852 National Woman’s Rights Convention in Syracuse, to her culminating thoughts in the 1893 book Woman, Church, and State, Gage used philosophy, theology, biblical studies, and science to rewrite the place of women in socio-political life throughout history.

What Gage saw was that you can’t just “get out the vote.” You have to change the mythologies. New stories need to be told, even if they are the old stories that have been forgotten.

Read entire article by Brent Plate here @ USC Annenberg - Religious Dispatches

Women before, during and after the Russian Revolution

The history of Bolshevism from the very early days right up to the Russian revolution contains a wealth of lessons on how it is the class struggle that provides the final answer to the women’s question. In this article Marie Frederiksen looks at the approach of the Bolshevik Party to the women’s question from its early days, right through to the revolution and after taking power.
She looks at the measures taken by the party to involve women, the progressive measures introduced by the Bolsheviks once in power, but also the negative consequences for women of the later Stalinist degeneration.
Women are  involved in social struggles, and the question of women's oppression is on the agenda to a degree we have not seen in decades. Sexism and the oppression of women is an integral part of capitalism, and they can only be removed by uprooting the system. A socialist revolution is the precondition for women's liberation.
The Russian revolution and the revolutionary energy of Russian women show the powerful reserves of courage and determination which can be mobilised for a socialist revolution. The Bolsheviks in 1917 began the task of the emancipation of women. It is up to us to finish it.
Read entire article by Marie Frederiksen here @ In Defence of Marxism

Monday, March 6, 2017

Mary Beard · Podcasts

LONDON REVIEW OF BOOKS plays host to a couple of podcasts by noted historian, Mary Beard,

London Review of Books - Women in Power
I’ve talked before about the ways women get silenced in public discourse. And there’s plenty of that silencing still going on. We need only think of Elizabeth Warren being prevented a few weeks ago from reading out a letter by Coretta Scott King in the US Senate. What was extraordinary on that occasion wasn’t only that she was silenced and formally excluded from the debate (I don’t know enough about the rules of procedure in the Senate to have a sense of how justified, or not, that was); but that several men over the next couple of days did read the letter out and were neither excluded nor shut up. True, they were trying to support Warren. But the rules of speech that applied to her didn’t appear to apply to Bernie Sanders, or the three other male senators who did the same.

London Review of Books - Public Voice of Women
There are only two main exceptions in the classical world to this abomination of women’s public speaking. First, women are allowed to speak out as victims and as martyrs – usually to preface their own death. Early Christian women were represented loudly upholding their faith as they went to the lions; and, in a well-known story from the early history of Rome, the virtuous Lucretia, raped by a brutal prince of the ruling monarchy, was given a speaking part solely to denounce the rapist and announce her own suicide (or so Roman writers presented it: what really happened, we haven’t a clue).

Mary's blog - A Don's Life
Mary Beard - wikipedia

Female Sporting Pioneers

Women were banned from participating in the ancient Olympics in Greece. When Baron Pierre de Coubertin revived the Games in the late 19th century, he had no plans to accommodate women on the field of play either. At the first Olympiad of the modern era, held in Athens in 1896, every competitor was male.
"As for the admission of women to the Games, I remain strongly against it," said de Coubertin. "It was against my will that they were admitted to a growing number of competitions.  "Their role should be above all to crown the victors."
For all that, there was no shortage of women who wanted to participate. In 1884, Wimbledon held its first tennis championship for ladies. The match was contested in front of "a numerous and fashionable company assembled at the grounds", according to the Daily Telegraph.
Progress remained slow and, frustrated by the lack of opportunity, women started to take matters into their own hands. A women's sport movement set up their own Games in the spring of 1921. This was a five day competition held in Monaco and was organised by Frenchwoman Alice Milliat.
She was described as "the soul of the women's sports movement, a living example of modern woman accustomed to all sports disciplines and fulfilling the role which falls to women in this vibrant 20th century".
The Games were an immediate success and were repeated in 1922 when organisers claimed "they would eclipse the success which attended them last year for entries are more numerous." 

Continue reading article by Phillip Barker @ Inside The Game

Mistress of  Herbs: Saving Uteruses Worldwide

Recently a racket involving the removal of uteruses from healthy women in Kalaburgi hit the headlines. In the city, however, an Ayurvedic doctor has prevented thousands of women from going under the scalpel. 

Dr Gowri Subramanya, has dedicated her life to educating people about the benefits of ancient Ayurvedic medicines and has treated several women ailing for various issues related to the uterus. She is the granddaughter of Pandith Narasimha Murthy, Palace Vaidya of Mysuru royal family. She resides in Banashankari.

She has successfully treated more than 1,300 women and prevent them from undergoing needless surgeries. Not only people in the country, she boasts of patients even from abroad, from countries like Australia and USA. 

Read More Here @ New Indian Express

Friday, March 3, 2017

3,000 years of beauty enhancement in China

Chinese women have been attentive to their physical appearance since the ancient times. As is common with trends related to people's personal appearance, they come and go, only to regenerate and take on new forms when the circumstances are right.

Cosmetics have been used by people all around the world to accentuate their physical features for millennia. In China, this practice of face adornment gradually spread from the ruling class to the general population.

According to historical accounts, women in China were complementing their looks with lipstick, nail polish and perfumes as far back as two or three thousand years ago. During the imperial times, upper class women and traditional yiji entertainers, similar to Japan’s geishas, were the main trendsetters.

Read More Here @ GB Times

Welsh Women

From Wales Online comes these three interesting articles on Welsh women:

Welsh Women & The Vote:
In the summer of 1913 many Welsh women took to the roads. They were usually quite well-off, professional women themselves or married to professional men, and could afford to travel by train or sometimes even by car or carriage. They were walking to make a political point. They wanted the vote and they were using a peaceful way to campaign for it. Read More HERE

Kate Bosse-Griffiths:

Kate Bosse-Griffiths was born in Wittenberg, the German town where Martin Luther had initiated the birth of Protestantism, in 1910. Having studied Archaeology and Egyptology in Berlin, Bonn and Munich, she gained a doctorate for her thesis on the human figure in late Egyptian sculpture in 1936 and was appointed to a post in Berlin, poised for a career curating the world-renowned collections in its museums. Read More HERE about this Egyptologist who fled Nazi persecution.

Women & the National Library of Wales:
The National Library of Wales opened to the public in 1909 in a temporary location at the Assembly Rooms in Aberystwyth before moving to its permanent home on Penglais Hill in 1916. Between the years 1909 and 1912 around 350 individual readers used the library’s reading room and consulted more than 1,300 books, manuscripts, maps and prints.

Unsurprisingly, men were in the majority, but 14% of the readers during this period were women. It was predominantly a younger female generation who used the library, as almost two-thirds of the female readers were under 30 and many were enrolled as university students. Read More HERE and meet the women academics of the 19th Century.

Don't Mess With Historian Mary Beard

In addition to being a classics professor at the University of Cambridge, a fellow of Newnham College, and Royal Academy of Arts Professor of ancient literature, Mary Beard is also a best-selling author whose most recent opus, >SPQR, shines a fresh light on ancient Roman history. She’s also the host of various TV programs, such as Pompeii: New Secrets Revealed. All of which would make you think she’s not one to be messed with when it comes to arguing over the past. But that doesn’t stop game mansplainers from having a crack...

Read More Here @ SBS Guide

‘Daughters of the Forest’

The Mbaracayú forest is located at a remote spot in Paraguay, formed by the upper basin of the Jejuí river and the Mbaracayú Forest Nature Reserve. The place is a sanctuary for a number of endangered species and a hotspot of biodiversity.

But for people living around the area, daily life can be a challenge. Going to school, for instance, is not easy, not only because children have to make their way there by cutting through the thick vegetation that takes over the roads, but also because of a lack of resources for education as well as the prejudices society has against women.

In 2008, Moises Bertoni Foundation, the body that manages the natural reserve, established the Mbaracayú Educational Center as an initiative to offer quality education for teenage girls living in and around the reserve. It offers high school technical degrees in environmental sciences.

This is the focus of the 2015 film “Daughters of the Forest,” directed by San Francisco, California-based Samantha Grant. The documentary will be shown at the 10th Annual Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival, to be held in March 23-27.

Read More Here @ Global Voices

See Also: 

Maria Cunitz - 17th-Century Astronomer

Urania Propitia is a remarkable volume for many reasons. Published in 1650, this work of astronomy demonstrates a command of high-level mathematics and astronomical calculation. It also reveals a deep understanding of Keplerian astronomy; its author both simplified and corrected Kepler's math for locating planetary positions. Finally, the book was written in German as well as Latin, which helped to both establish German as a language of science and make the tables accessible outside of the university. But Urania Propitia lays claim to yet another impressive quality: It was written by a woman astronomer named Maria Cunitz.

Publication (paid for by Maria c.1650) of this work — the earliest high-level printed scientific book written by a woman — caused Cunitz (1610 - 1664) to be aclaimed as the most learned woman in astronomy since the Neoplatonist philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria.

Chhaupadi - monthly exile of Nepali women

The practice is linked to Hinduism and considers women untouchable when they menstruate.
They are banished from the home -- barred from touching food, religious icons, cattle and men -- and forced into a monthly exile sleeping in basic huts.
In some areas, women are also made to spend up to a month in the chhau goth after they have given birth.
Two women recently died while following chhaupadi -- one of smoke inhalation after she lit a fire for warmth, while the other death is unexplained. These incidents have spurred fresh impetus to end the practice.
Chhaupadi was banned a decade ago, but new legislation currently before parliament will criminalise the practice, making it an imprisonable offence to force a women to follow the ritual.
Read More Here @ Daily Mail