Sunday, December 1, 2019

Marilyn Yalom, Feminist Author and Historian, Is Dead at 87

In books about the history of wives, the history of the breast and other subjects, she examined how cultural forces led over time to feminist thinking.

Marilyn Yalom, a prolific feminist author and cultural historian whose subjects included the history of women as partners in marriage as well as the history of the female breast, died on Nov. 20 at her home in Palo Alto, Calif. She was 87.  Her son Reid Yalom said the cause was multiple myeloma.

The author Marilyn Yalom in 2007. Among the subjects she examined were the history of women as partners in marriage, the history of the female breast and the changing role of the queen in chess.

Ms. Yalom was a professor of French language and literature in the mid-1970s, as the women’s movement was gaining steam, when she segued into feminist scholarship at what is now Stanford University’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research.

While she had already written a number of academic works, she did not start writing her more notable books until her late 50s. One of the first was “Maternity, Mortality, and the Literature of Madness” (1985), which suggests a link between madness and motherhood in some female writers, including Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf.

Her best-known works include “Blood Sisters: The French Revolution in Women’s Memory” (1993), “A History of the Breast” (1997), “A History of the Wife” (2001), “Birth of the Chess Queen: A History” (2004) and “How the French Invented Love” (2012).

read more here @ The New York Times

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

The Aberdeen woman who helped the world learn more about ancient Egypt

Stories of tomb-raiders, ancient worlds and mysterious gods can still send a shiver running along the spine but not many people are aware it was an Aberdeen-born woman who helped shape our interest in Egyptian history and archeology, and that even today, experts rely on her work and drawings to help them put together pieces of the puzzle surrounding ancient Egypt.

Aberdeen-born Annie Abernethie
Pirie Quibell (pictured on left )

Annie Abernethie Pirie Quibell was a fascinating, extraordinary woman, says Dr Daniel Potter from the National Museums Scotland (NMS).  Her name may not be too familiar but she’s considered to be so important that she was chosen by NMS to be a woman worth celebrating this year on International Women’s Day.

read more here @ Press and Journal

Historical Reformer: Dorothy Day

Image result for dorothy dayFrom Nations Media
Writer. Activist. Reformer. Socialist. Bohemian. Mystic. Rabble-rouser. Single mother. Pioneer of advocacy journalism. Catholic convert. Servant of God. 

Words so seemingly disparate it’s hard to believe they’re often used to describe one woman and candidate for sainthood: Dorothy Day. 

What to say about Dorothy Day? It’s nearly impossible to synthesize such an expansive life and legacy, but it is easy to trace the message she lived, stunningly simple in its essence: love is the final word. It was love that saved Day’s life. It was love that allowed her to see the face of Christ in her neighbor. And it was love that compelled her to live in alignment with His message.

“Our arms are linked—we try to be neighbors of his, and to speak up for his principles. That’s a lifetime’s job,” she once said. 

And what a lifetime it was! To understand Day’s impact on society and the larger Church, one must look at the kaleidoscope of experiences that compelled Day’s conversion; one must “follow the breadcrumbs” that led her to Catholicism and a life of service and activism. Her path is a winding one, and perhaps its unconventional nature is what makes her a saint for these tumultuous times.

 read more here @ Nations Media

Map of Scottish Witches

logoMap of places of residence for accused Witches from the University of Edinburgh

The Data and Visualisation internship project at the University of Edinburgh had as its core aim to geographically locate and visualise the different locations recorded within the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database.

You can read an excellent summary of the project to date on Anne-Marie Scott's blog here: Some witchy history and a very smart woman in data science

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Gaddafi's special team of female bodyguards: A dark story of rape and violence

At the peak of his power, Gaddafi was unavoidable. Perhaps, what he lacked in words was expressed in the mixed bag of atrocities he masterminded as well as all the good he did for the Libyan people.

The man was what he did not say but showed. And one of the things he showed – a thing that made him the “one to see” on the international scene – was his team of exceptionally trained and dramatically named Revolutionary Nuns.

The group was formed in the early 1980s, after Gaddafi's official resignation as Libyan head of state in favour of the title of "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya".  According to Joseph T. Stanik, Gaddafi reportedly employed a cadre of female bodyguards because he believed that an Arab gunman would have difficulty firing at women. However, it has also been submitted by other authors that Gaddafi's female bodyguards were, in reality, just an aspect of the dictator's well-known eccentric showmanship and his fondness of surrounding himself with young women. Gaddafi would usually travel with 15 of his Amazonian Guards assigned to security or housekeeping.
Revealed: Dirty secrets of Gaddafi's harem
It should come as very little surprise that in selecting who gets to put their life on the line for the president, some moral and spiritual significance is attached to a woman who has never had sex.  In recent times, however, it has been reported that becoming a member of the guard was not optional for some women. They are pried away from their families at the threat of dire consequences should they refuse.

read more here @ Face2Face Africa

see also:
Gaddafi's Harem: The Story of a Young Woman and the Abuses of Power in Libya by Annick Cojean

900-Year-Old 'Grand Lady' Skeleton Emerges from Watery Coffin

From Live Science
An exquisitely preserved skeleton of a woman dubbed the "Grand Lady" has been discovered in a water-filled coffin within a tomb at Tieguai Village in China. The coffin dates back 900 years.

The archaeologists who discovered the remains found that the body was buried with numerous grave goods, including a model house that has tiny furniture inside — a dollhouse of sorts — and a silver pendant depicting two dragons chasing pearls. A banner found on top of the inner coffin (which was in turn buried within an outer coffin) says that the tomb occupant is a "Grand Lady" who lived in "Ankang Commandery." Though her real name was hard to make out on the banner, the archaeologists said that it may be née Jian.

"The skeleton [of the Grand Lady] is essentially preserved, complete with fingernails and hair," a team of archaeologists wrote in a report published recently in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.

Image result for grand lady tomb artefacts   Image result for grand lady tomb artefacts

She still had silver and gold hairpins on her head; "there were silver bracelets on her arm and a string of bronze coins on her abdomen, 83 coins altogether," the archaeologists wrote, adding that "underneath her right hand were two zongzi [which are the remains of two sticky rice dumplings], and embroidered shoes were on her feet."

read more @ Live Science

Poisoning Agnes Sorel

From CrimeReads
On a cold winter’s day, twenty-eight-year-old Agnes Sorel, the most beautiful woman in France, lay dying in the tidy stone manor house of the Abbey of Jumièges, some eighty miles northwest of Paris. She often traveled there to give moral support to her lover of many years, King Charles VII of France, in his ongoing campaign against English invaders. But this journey had an added impetus. Though the details are unclear, Agnes urgently wanted to warn the king of a plot against him. Whatever she told him, however, her royal lover didn’t take it seriously.

Shortly afterward, she went into premature labor and gave birth to her fourth child with the king. While her other three pregnancies had produced full-term, healthy offspring, this child died soon after. Now, on February 9, 1450, Agnes was tortured by a “flux of the belly”—nonstop diarrhea. After two or three days of agony, she whispered of her ravaged body, “It is a little thing and soiled, and smelling of our frailty,” and closed her eyes forever.

Rumors flew immediately that the Lady of Beauty, as Agnes was known, had been poisoned. A 2005 exhumation of Agnes’s mortal remains has revealed off-the-charts levels of mercury poisoning—between ten thousand and a hundred thousand times higher than normal.

read more @ CrimeReads

Hyde Park bridge named for abolitionist, suffragist Grimke sisters

From Universal Hub
Sign with inspirational quote from Sarah GrimkeCity officials and local historians and residents gathered at the former Dana Avenue Bridge in Hyde Park this morning to officially rename it as the Grimke Sisters Bridge in honor of two 19th-century sisters who fought for both the abolition of slavery and for women's rights to vote - and who on March 7, 1870 led a march of women to Hyde Park Town Hall to vote in the town elections, the first time women voted in the US - although the town then discarded their ballots.

The sisters, children of a prominent South Carolina slave owner, fought for ideals "that were dangerously radical, even among reformers," such as that all people are equal and deserve the same rights as white men, Catherine Allgor, president of the Massachusetts Historical Society, said. At a time when "racism ran deep in the United States," even among white reformers, "they were attacked on all sides, they were denounced in pulpits all up and down the East Coast," she said.

She added that Sarah Grimke specified she was not asking for special treatment by men. "All I ask from our brethren is that they take our feet off our necks," words later made famous by then lawyer Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

read more here @ Universal Hub

Abortion Is an Unwinnable Argument

From The Atlantic
In 1956, two American physicians, J. A. Presley and W. E. Brown, colleagues at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine, decided that four recent admissions to their hospital were significant enough to warrant a published report. “Lysol-Induced Criminal Abortion” appeared in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology. It describes four women who were admitted to the hospital in extreme distress, all of them having had “criminal abortions” with what the doctors believed to be an unusual agent: Lysol. The powerful cleaner had been pumped into their wombs. Three of them survived, and one of them died.

Image result for lysol abortion

We will never know how many women had abortions via this method, or how many died because of it. Why was Lysol, with its strong, unpleasant smell and its corrosive effect on skin, so often used? Because its early formulation contained cresol, a phenol compound that induced abortion; because it was easily available, a household product that aroused no suspicion when women bought it; and because for more than three decades, Lysol advertised the product as an effective form of birth control, advising women to douche with it in diluted form after sex, thus powerfully linking the product to the notion of family planning.

read more here @ The Atlantic

The Quandary Regarding Female Genital Mutilation Persists in Kenya

A ritualistic practice dating back to Ancient Egyptian Civilization around the 5th century BCE, female genital mutilation (FGM) has risen among the most hotly contested human rights predicaments over the past hundred years. From vehement condemnation on the part of the international community, to fervent support in practicing countries of retaining a longstanding tradition, legal measures taken to cut or continue the custom have been largely indecisive, ineffective and ambiguous amongst nations of the developing world.

In 2011, the Government of Kenya felt it time to become an exception to this ambiguity. The Kenyan government passed the Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act, unconditionally banning FGM in all parts of the state. Violation of this law carries an obligatory three-year prison sentence for all parties implicated. By prohibiting mutilation, this legislation is perceived by many as a long-awaited escape route for girls and women being coerced into pure barbarism, on the sole basis of tradition. 

Tatu Kamau, a female Kenyan physician, publicly objects to this law and the logic behind it. Currently, Kamau is appealing to the high courts of Kenya, arguing the option of FGM should be made open to females above the age of 18. According to Kamau, once reaching adulthood, the female has a fundamental right to do what she wishes with her body. Nobody, she argues, including the government, should have the authority to make decisions that “infringe on a woman’s right to exercise her cultural beliefs.”

read more here @ IR INSIDER

Will feminism be a crime in Mohammed bin Salman's Saudi Arabia?

This week, feminism in Saudi Arabia was declared to be a crime punishable by imprisonment and lashing. 

The Saudi state security agency’s video announcement defined feminism as an extremist position, imported from the West to assert that men and women have equal rights in economic, social and political matters. 

According to this definition, feminists allegedly aim to eradicate differences between the sexes, abolish marriage and family, and encourage same-sex unions. The Saudi definition lumped feminism in with other forms of “extremism”, including atheism, homosexuality and promiscuity. 

10 Prohibitions for Women in Saudi Arabia That Are Hard to Believe

Facing a backlash, the Saudi regime soon declared that the video had been the result of an employee’s mistaken interpretation, but it is unlikely that such an outrageous announcement was a mistake. 

Could it have been an attempt to embarrass the crown prince by the old deep state of his rivals? Or could there be government employees who genuinely believe that feminism is akin to terrorism? We may never find out, but the confusion reflects the contradictions that beset this regime, amid its ostensible attempts at reform and promote women’s empowerment.

read more here @ Middle East Eye

Sunday, November 3, 2019

POLL - 81% back idea of Japan having female emperor

From Kyodo News

A whopping 81.9 percent of respondents to a Kyodo News survey over the weekend said they are in favor of the idea of Japan having a female emperor, while 13.5 percent indicated they are opposed.

Concerns persist over the stability of Japan's imperial succession, as the 1947 Imperial House Law stipulates that only males of the patrilineage can ascend the throne.

Following the enthronement of Emperor Naruhito, 59, the family now has only three heirs -- the emperor's younger brother Crown Prince Fumihito, 53; the crown prince's son Prince Hisahito, 13; and Prince Hitachi (Masahito), 83, the uncle of the emperor.

Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have a daughter -- Princess Aiko, 17 -- and there are other females in the imperial family, but the Imperial House Law requires women to abandon their imperial status after marrying commoners. 

Regarding whether to allow heirs of female lineage to ascend the throne, 70.0 percent in the poll supported the idea, while 21.9 percent were against it.

read more here @ Kyodo News

'Little Miss Sumo' wrestles sexism in Japan's ancient sport

From Reuters
A young wrestler dubbed “Little Miss Sumo” is fighting sexism in the ancient Japanese sport, hoping to inspire other women to step into the ring and elevate sumo to Olympic status.

Hiyori Kon is the focus of a new Netflix documentary “Little Miss Sumo”, which tracked her attempts to take on sporting inequality in a society that lags on all manner of women’s rights.

Popularly regarded as Japan’s national sport, sumo pits two giant wrestlers, clad only in loinclothes, in a test of brawn and skill waged - with crouches and charges - inside a ring floored with clay and edged with straw bales.

Image result for little miss sumo trailer

But tradition in a sport that began more than 1,500 years ago forbids women from entering the ring as the space is sacred and any female presence is considered a pollutant.

“Even if you are faced with someone who is big and strong - it’s not something to run away from, but engage with - like in the sumo way,” said 22-year-old Kon when asked how other wannabe but wary women wrestlers should take up the sport.

read more here @ Reuters

Scientists reconstruct face of 1,000-year-old Viking warrior woman

Scientists have re-created the face of a female Viking warrior who lived more than 1,000 years ago. 

The woman is based on a skeleton found in a Viking graveyard in Solør, Norway, and is now preserved in Oslo's Museum of Cultural History.

While the remains had already been identified as female, the burial site had not been considered that of a warrior 'simply because the occupant was a woman', archaelogist Ella Al-Shamahi told The Guardian

But now British scientists have brought the female warrior to life using cutting-edge facial recognition technology. 

read more here @ Daily Mail Online

Scientists reconstructed the face of the female warrior who lived more than 1,000 years ago by anatomically working from the muscles and layering of the skin

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Why is Emily Wilding Davison remembered as the first suffragette martyr?

“She paid ‘the price of freedom’. Glad to pay it — glad though it brought her to death (..) the first woman martyr who has gone to death for this cause.” In the context of the women’s suffrage campaign who do you think was the subject of this eulogy? Was it Emily Wilding Davison, the centenary of whose death is being honoured this June?

Mary Jane Clarke.jpgUnlike Emily Davison, Mary Clarke was not merely a member of the WSPU, but one of its inner circle, fully involved in the campaign from its early days, twice imprisoned after taking part in deputations, and, from mid-1909, based in Brighton as a paid organizer. Her final imprisonment came at the end of November 1910; she had thrown a stone through the window of a London police station. On 23 December, on her release from Holloway, she spoke at a WSPU ‘welcome’ luncheon and two days later, aged 48, died of a brain hemorrhage attributed to the strain of her prison sentence. Her sister, Emmeline, was at her side when she died.

read more here @ OUP Blog

Saturday, October 5, 2019

The Purest Choice: the Egyptian mothers standing up to female genital mutilation - Equal Times

From Equal Times
According to the World Health Organization, Female genital mutilation (FGM) “includes procedures that intentionally alter or cause injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons”. Although often associated with the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, some evidence suggests that the practice originated in Ancient Egypt and then spread to the south of the continent. Exactly when it emerged is hard to say, but reference to it is made on papyrus dating back to the 2nd century BC, indicating that it already existed at the time of the Pharaohs.

Today, around 90 per cent of Egypt’s female population aged between 15 and 65 have undergone FGM, a practice that is referred to as “purification” in Arabic and that is deeply woven into the country’s social fabric. Although religious grounds are untiringly used to justify it, both within Christian and Muslim communities, there is no real mention of FGM in sacred texts. In 2008, the Egyptian government passed a law prohibiting the practice, but only three members of the medical profession have since been prosecuted – including one who is still known to be performing FGM today. The weight of tradition and the political instability in the country are hindering any real action, based on concrete initiatives, to tackle the problem.

The idea behind this photo report is to give a voice to the women who, in spite of social pressure, have decided to say “no”. The Purest Choice is a portrait series of women who have suffered FGM, each photographed next to their daughters, who they have refused to subject to genital cutting, giving new meaning to the idea of “purification”. Far from being passive victims, as they are all too often depicted, these survivors have managed to take their own traumatic experience and turn it into a source of positive change. By choosing not to perpetuate this practice, each of these women has become an activist in her own way.

read more here @ Equal Times

Trinity College’s new sculpture: 30 women to put on a pedestal

It has been more than 200 years coming, but better late than never: the provost of Trinity College Dublin wants the first woman to join the 40 men memorialised in marble busts in the Long Room of the Old Library. 

Worthy of honour:  all of these women, from Thekla Beere (top left) to Lillian Bland (bottom right), are ideal candidates for Trinity College Dublin's Long Room bust

Patrick Prendergast has asked for nominations for who should sit alongside Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Edmund Burke and Jonathan Swift, among others. The woman needn’t have a Trinity connection nor be Irish, just be a scholar who is no longer alive. 

To get the ball rolling, here are 30 Irish scholars, writers and thinkers worth considering for the honour. 

read more here @ Irish Times

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Bangladesh bride walks to groom's home in stand for women's rights

From BBC News
When 19-year-old Khadiza Akter Khushi led hundreds of people to the home of her soon-to-be husband, she didn't do it for her guests.

She did it for all the Bangladeshi women she hoped would follow in her footsteps.

The walk is thought to be a first in a country where, for centuries, the opposite has happened: men have walked to the homes of their brides on their wedding day.

Tariqul Islam (right) and bride Khadiza Akter Khushi pose for a photo during their wedding in Meherpur

"If boys can bring girls to marriage, why can't girls?" she asked BBC Bengali in the days after her wedding to Tariqul Islam had gone viral.

But it has both inspired and horrified. One man suggested the couple and their families should be beaten with slippers.

read more here @  BBC News

Mexico’s women protest violent status quo in a ‘feminist earthquake’

They were called vandals and provocateurs.

But Irinea Buendia didn’t mind. She was thinking of Mariana, chanting for an end to gender violence in Mexico, a photo of her murdered daughter hanging by a string around her neck.

This latest demonstration of women was organized under the hashtag #terremotofeminista (feminist earthquake) and controversially called on Sept. 19, the day the city marks two of its deadliest quakes. But it was just one that has gained force – and backlash – here in recent weeks.hey were called vandals and provocateurs.

But Irinea Buendia didn’t mind. She was thinking of Mariana, chanting for an end to gender violence in Mexico, a photo of her murdered daughter hanging by a string around her neck.

This latest demonstration of women was organized under the hashtag #terremotofeminista (feminist earthquake) and controversially called on Sept. 19, the day the city marks two of its deadliest quakes. But it was just one that has gained force – and backlash – here in recent weeks.

In a country where 41% of women say they’ve experienced sexual violence – and nine are killed each day, according to the United Nations – female anger is mounting. But with it has come even greater outrage directed back at them, with critics lobbing sexist slurs. Others support their goals, but not their methods. Yet far from viewing it as a step back, many of these women say the rejection of their movement is a sign that a paradigm shift is underway.

read more here @ Christian Science Monitor

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Frances Willard: Armenia’s Angel on Capitol Hill

Inside the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., each state is represented by a statue of its most honored citizen. While most of the 50 states have chosen men to represent them, it was Illinois, the land of Abraham Lincoln, which became the first state to select a woman. Her name is Frances Elizabeth Caroline Willard.

When she died in 1898, flags flew at half-mast in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Her body was transported by rail from New York to Chicago, pausing along the way for services like a presidential funeral train. In Chicago, tens of thousands of people passed by her casket in one day alone. Biographer Ruth Bordin wrote, “The nation mourned her with grief, admiration, and respect it would have bestowed on a great national hero or martyred president. No woman before or since was so clearly on the day of her death this country’s most honored woman.” The New York Independent wrote, “No woman’s name is better known in the English speaking world than that of Miss Willard, save that of England’s great queen.” Another declared that she was the most influential woman of the age and that her name would become more and more revered in ages to come.” Prominent British newspaper editor, W.T. Stead, went as far as calling her “the uncrowned Queen of American Democracy.”

read more here @ The Armenian Weekly

Medieval 'queen's head' carving discovered

From Fox News
A medieval stone carving of a 12th-century queen has been discovered at an Abbey in southern England. Local officials in Milton Keynes unveiled the stone carving on Monday, explaining that it was found during conservation work at Bradwell Abbey, which dates back to the 12th century.  The carving depicts Eleanor of Aquitaine, a key figure in medieval history who was queen consort of France and, later, queen consort of England.

read more here @ Fox News

The stone carving discovered at Bradwell Abbey.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Student reveals the face of Iron Age female druid

Student reveals the face of Iron Age female druidFrom Phys Org News
A University of Dundee student has revealed the face of one of Scotland's oldest druids, believed to have been more than 60 years old when she died during the Iron Age.

Karen Fleming, an MSc Forensic Art & Facial Identification student, has recreated the head of a woman believed to have been from Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis.

The 3-D wax reconstruction depicts a toothless female, nicknamed "Hilda," believed to have been well into her 60s, an impressive feat itself. Karen says Hilda, although thousands of years old, displays many physical attributes that remain recognizable today.

read more here @ Phys Org News

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Meet Whang-Od, the Oldest Tattoo Artist in the Philippines

At 102 years old, Whang-Od Oggay (who also goes by Whang-od or Maria Oggay) is helping to keep an ancient tradition alive in the Kalinga province of the Philippines. She’s the country’s oldest mambabatok, a traditional Kalinga tattooist. Each morning at dawn, Whang-Od wakes to craft a mixture of ink from pine soot and water in preparation to apply hand-tapped tattoos on the bodies of people from around the world. Although many come to see her, their journey is no small feat. Visitors make a 15-hour drive north of Manila to the mountain village of Buscalan, which is only accessible by hiking a mile from the nearest dirt road through a forest and rice terraces.

Whang-Od inks multiple tattoos a day using a few tools—a thorn from a pomelo tree, a foot-long bamboo stick, coal, and water. The handmade ink is tapped deep into the skin using the thorn and bamboo to push it in. The results are permanent motifs that range from lines to simple shapes to tribal prints to animals. Each carries meanings such as strength, beauty, and fertility.

read more here @ My Modern Met

How to Silence Women

When classics professor Mary Beard tells the story of Tereus who, in Greek mythology, cuts off the tongue of Philomena after raping her, it is to point to a particularly grisly example of how women were silenced in ancient culture. 

That culture persists. Evidence lies in a Delhi hospital where the Unnao rape survivor and her lawyer remain on life support after the car they were travelling in was crushed by a truck, killing two other women in it. 

In Kerala, the Franciscan Clarist Congregation of the Catholic Church has expelled Lucy Kallappura, one of the five nuns who led the protest against bishop Franco Mulakkal, on bail on charges of raping a fellow nun. Sister Lucy’s sins? Publishing poems and learning to drive. The other four nuns have already been transferred. 

From Unnao to Wayanad, the lesson is clear. Women who speak up against sexual assault are sought to be silenced by men who are backed by institutional support.

read more here @ Hindustan Times

The Secret Life of Medieval Female Artists Discovered by Accident

A religious woman living in Germany around 1100AD was likely contributing art to the richly illustrated manuscripts of the era. Analysis of her teeth plaque shows evidence of the rare and expensive lapis lazuli pigment. The research shows women may have played a bigger role in religious art than previously thought.

This may indicate the woman was a painter of these highly sought after manuscripts. The study was examining dental calculus - the plaque that fossilizes on human teeth during life - of bodies found close to the site of a women's monastery at Dalheim in Germany. 

Little is known about the monastery, but a women's exclusive community may have formed there as early as the 10th century AD. 

Written records indicate that a lively community present in 1244 AD. Researchers believe up to 14 religious women may have lived on site until its destruction in a fire in the 14th century.

How The Black Death Caused Medieval Women To Shrink

From Forbes
If people living after the Black Death were healthier than their ancestors, why did women get shorter?

In the middle of the 14th century, the Black Death swept Europe, killing millions of people, but archaeologists have recently discovered that its effects were far-ranging and surprising. People living after the plague were overall healthier than those who lived just before it, but a new study suggests that the Black Death may have caused Medieval women to shrink.

Mass burial trench from the East Smithfield Black Death cemetery from London (MIN86).Writing in the American Journal of Human Biology, bioarchaeologist Sharon DeWitte from the University of South Carolina studied more than 800 skeletons from Medieval London with the goal of investigating "stress, sex, and plague." A bit less salacious than it sounds, the main topic covered in the research is the experience of physiological stress among members of two sexes -- male and female -- before and after the Black Death.

In examining skeletons from the 11th-12th century, the first half of the 13th century, and the mid-14th through mid-16th centuries, DeWitte calculated age-at-death from the bones and also tracked changes in the canine teeth and in the length of shin bones as a way of estimating people's health.

Using a mathematical survival analysis, DeWitte found that survivorship decreased before the Black Death but increased after it, for both males and females. That is, she found a general increase in health after the plague, explaining that "the post-Black Death demographic changes might represent a 'harvesting' effect; that is, an increase in mortality among people with compromised health."

read more here @ Forbes

The Silkwomen of Medieval London

From JSTOR Daily
Two women spinning silk in the 15th centuryA group of skilled women ran the silk-making industry in 15th century London. So why didn't they protect their workers' rights by forming a guild?

Women’s paid work in medieval Europe was limited, to say the least. The options were essentially: domestic service, retail, midwifery, spinning, and sex work. None of these was considered skilled enough to be worthy of a guild. Guilds (also called gilds) were one of the most influential forms of organization and community in the Middle Ages. Organized around trades or crafts, guilds worked for the mutual benefit of their members. By controlling access to skills passed from master to apprentice, guilds could be a real economic and political force—and few of them allowed women members.

But there were some guilds for women. Historians Maryanne Kowaleski and Judith M. Bennett write that “the treatment of working women by medieval gilds is a complex and varied story.” Building on a historically significant article by one of the first women medievalists, Marian K. Dale, Kowaleski and Bennett argue that “gild membership allowed women to participate in some form of community life that offered its members economic security, spiritual comfort and social privilege.” Wives and daughters of male guild members, as well as widows of male members, were the most common female guild members.

read more here @ JSTOR Daily

Museumgoers in Germany can now see 'Snow White's' gravestone

From ABC News
Once upon a time, there was a wealthy woman named Maria Sophia von Erthal. Born in 1725 in the castle of the Medieval German town of Lohr am Main, she was a baroness and the sister of bishops.

PHOTO: The gravestone for Sophia Maria von Erthal, who is thought to be the model for Snow White is on display at the Diocesan museum in Bamberg, Germany.
But she went on to be known culturally as the possible inspiration for the fairy tale "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" written by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm in the 19th century.

Kempkens told the BBC that there are "indications" that von Erthal was the model for Snow White.

"Today when you make a film about a historic person there is also fiction in it. So in this case I think there is a historic basis, but there are also fictional elements" he told the network.

Von Erthal's life did not have an overtly romantic ending. She became blind in her youth and died at the age of 71 in a monastery in Bamberg, according to the museum.

At the time, women did not typically get their own gravestones, which makes von Erthal's historically significant, whether or not she inspired the fairy tale, points out the museum.

Marian statue may be medieval

From Church Times
The most famous Marian image in medieval England, which was believed to have been burned in the 16th century, could be safe and sound at the Victorian and Albert Museum, two historians have said.

The image of Our Lady of Walsingham — a simple wooden statue that stood beside the altar of Walsingham’s Holy House — was believed to have been burned in 1539, in London, either in the courtyard of Thomas Cromwell’s house in Chelsea, or at Smithfield.

But it has long been recognised that a 13th-century statue of the Madonna and Child at the V&A, known as the Langham Madonna, bears a striking resemblance to the image of Our Lady of Walsingham on the priory seal.

In 1931, six years after it was acquired by the museum, Henry Joy Fynes-Clinton, one of the founding guardians of the Anglican Shrine at Walsingham, wrote in The Tablet of the discovery of a carved wooden figure “in an old house near Walsingham”. It could be a copy of the Walsingham image, he suggested, or even the original, “saved perhaps as other relics and holy things, by means of substitution being made for the purposes of satisfying the desecrators”.

read more here @ Church Times

The wealthy widow who made her mark in medieval England

Among the many disasters associated with the fast of Tishah b'Av is the expulsion of English Jewry.

Licoricia was a remarkable Jewess, both because of her love life and her business dealings. But whereas that may apply to many a Jewish woman today, she stands out as being one of the few of whom that could be said in medieval England.

Her story also epitomises the prosperity and gradual decline of the Jewish community, which culminated in one of her sons being hanged and the others banished in the expulsion of the Jews from England, one of the many tragedies connected with Tishah B’Av, which begins next Saturday evening.

The story of the Jews as a settled community starts after William I conquered England in 1066 and invited them over to help colonise his new kingdom.

This was the core factor behind both their rise and downfall: on the one hand they had the king’s protection; on the other hand, they were seen as interlopers, both foreign and the king’s agents. They were also of a different faith in a society where there was only one right faith.

In addition to this toxic mix, many Jews were moneylenders. This was because Christians were banned by canon law from offering loans with interest and so there was a vacuum in society. It enabled many Jews to make a living, but it came at the high cost of unpopularity when the debtors faced mounting interest, or could not repay their loans and had to forfeit their deposits.

This was the world into which Licoricia was born. We are not sure when, or where, but thanks to the painstaking research of the late Suzanne Bartlet, we know that she first appears in 1234 as a young widow, known as Licoricia of Winchester.

read more here @ The Jewish Chronicle

Monday, July 22, 2019

Polish researcher identified possible grave of Slavic warrior woman in Denmark

gróbMilitant Viking women have been popularised in recent years in mass culture by the popular TV series Vikings. Dr. Leszek Gardeła from the Department of Scandinavian Languages and Literatures at the University of Bonn decided to take a closer look at this little researched issue.

According to the researcher, both the form of the burial - a chamber grave with an additional coffin - and the discovered weapon suggest that the deceased woman could originate from the territory of present-day Poland, therefore she could be a Slav. It is known that the burial is just over a thousand years old, as evidenced by an Arab coin from the 10th century found in the grave. The scientist emphasizes that it was the only grave in this cemetery that contained weapons.

"The presence of Slavic warriors in Denmark was more significant than previously thought; this image emerges from new research" - adds Dr. Gardeła and points out that the presence of a possible Slavic woman buried in a Danish cemetery is not necessarily surprising. "During the Middle Ages, this island was a melting pot of Slavic and Scandinavian elements" - the researcher emphasises.

read more here @ Science in Poland