Sunday, October 30, 2011

Begum Nusrat Bhutto

From The Nation:
Born Nusrat Ispahani, the young woman from an Iranian Pakistani family, who grew to love her adopted country, rests today in the soil of Sindh.
Begum Nusrat Bhutto’s political role does not start with Ziaul Haq, but it was during his rule that her determination was forged of an unbreakable iron. With her eldest daughter, Benazir, Begum Bhutto fought fearlessly to save her husband, Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, whose life was stolen by the most vicious military dictator in our nation’s history; a dictator, who denounced democracy, abrogated the Constitution, cynically toyed with religion, and denied the basic rights of the people.
Too strong to be easily intimidated, Begum Nusrat Bhutto was motivated by the depth of Zia's tyranny to put her heart and soul into the fight for the restoration of democracy, the Constitution and basic human rights. She stood steadfast against a usurper and dictator not out of any desire for personal gain, but out of an unwavering dedication to her principles. Many were intimidated by General Ziaul Haq and quickly acquiesced to his rule; but for Begum Nusrat Bhutto there was never a moment of doubt. The fundamental rights of the Pakistani people could not be sacrificed at the altar of dictatorship.
Dubbed the “Iron Lady of Pakistan,” Begum Bhutto was the backbone of the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy (MRD) - a coalition comprising PPP and other democratic political parties determined to restore the democratic order on which Pakistan was founded.

Women in Tunisia

From the Financial Times:

Suad Abd al-Rahim, a tall, elegant, 47-year-old Tunisian woman with dyed red curls, is no one’s idea of what an Islamist politician should look like.
Yet the businesswoman, who says she has no plans to don the Islamic headscarf, has just been elected to Tunisia’s new constituent assembly on the ticket of Nahda, the Islamist party that has emerged as the strongest political force in the country.
After 22 years of repression under the regime of Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali, the former president ousted by a popular uprising this year, Nahda has staged a powerful comeback, winning 90 out of 217 seats according to final results of this week’s election.
Now the largest party in the new assembly that will write the country’s democratic constitution, it is poised to lead a coalition government.

Wallis Simpson - That Woman

ALMOST everyone knows the story of King Edward VIII's abdication to marry the American divorcee Wallis Simpson but few have read the mountain of books about the saga. That Woman, the first biography by a woman of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, is for them.
Anne Sebba's intention "to humanise not demonise" the woman works, no doubt to the chagrin of those who still detest her.
It works because of the material discovered in the King's Proctor's files at the National Archives in London but most of all because, as a woman, Sebba could get into Wallis's mind the way male authors could not. So hats off to Sebba for turning a complex slice of history into a gripping yarn.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stephanie Dray - Song of the Nile

Sorceress. Seductress. Schemer. Cleopatra’s daughter has become the emperor’s most unlikely apprentice and the one woman who can destroy his empire…

Having survived her perilous childhood as a royal captive of Rome, Selene pledged her loyalty to Augustus and swore she would become his very own Cleopatra. Now the young queen faces an uncertain destiny in a foreign land.  Forced to marry a man of the emperor’s choosing, Selene will not allow her new husband to rule in her name. She quickly establishes herself as a capable leader in her own right and as a religious icon. Beginning the hard work of building a new nation, she wins the love of her new subjects and makes herself vital to Rome by bringing forth bountiful harvests.  But it’s the magic of Isis flowing through her veins that makes her indispensable to the emperor. Against a backdrop of imperial politics and religious persecution, Cleopatra’s daughter beguiles her way to the very precipice of power. She has never forgotten her birthright, but will the price of her mother’s throne be more than she’s willing to pay?
Visit Melisende's Library for an excerpt from Stephanie's book.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Rogues Gallery of Restoration Actresses

The emergence of the actress on the Restoration stage was revolutionary. As every pupil of Shakespeare knows, it was men in drag who took the ladies' parts before. Imagine the frisson, then, when Nell Gwyn first showed herself aged 14 to a packed house at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, in 1664. This unprecedented female exhibition provoked salacious frenzy, which theatre companies hoped to harness to their profit.

The showcasing of beauties in "breeches roles" exploded ideas of decorum. Actresses welcomed the chance to demonstrate the virtuosity demanded by parts such as Viola and Rosalind. But the display of their shapely legs was condemned as an exercise in "brazenness" which confirmed the shameless immodesty and sexual availability of the actress. That both theatre-land and prostitution had their metropolis in Covent Garden was not lost on the press. From the first, the "actress" of popular imagination was a shimmering mixture of whore, coquette, talent and celebrity.

A new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, The First Actresses: Nell Gwyn to Sarah Siddons, investigates the concept of the "actress" in all its troubling contradictions. The artists include Reynolds, Gainsborough, Hoppner, Lawrence, Zoffany and Gillray.

The exhibition is the brainchild of Gill Perry. When she was writing her book Spectacular Flirtations: Viewing the Actress in Eighteenth Century Art and Culture, she realised that the NPG had an exceptional collection of early actress portraits – "And not only that they are in Covent Garden," she says.

When modern critics rate a female performance on whether it's theatrical Viagra or doubt that a woman is thin enough to play Juliet, they invoke a long and dishonourable tradition. "Modern actors should see the first actresses as trailblazers, fighting prejudice and innuendo," Perry concludes. Certainly women today might take comfort that so many of their forebears managed to seize the public relations initiative and shape the culture that so objectified them.

From Sex Trade To Second Chance

From the Daily Beast:
“There was no way to go back and erase a criminal conviction in New York,” says Sienna Baskin, co-director of the organization the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center. SWP is a legal advocacy organization that helps sex workers of all kinds, from trafficked individuals to those who freely engage in commercial sex. In 2007, SWP helped create the New York Anti-Trafficking law, which made human trafficking a statewide offense.

“We wanted to have as part of that law a remedy for people who’ve been convicted of prostitution,” said Baskin, but it wasn’t included in the final bill. So in 2010, they drafted and were instrumental in passing Criminal Procedure Law §440.10(1)(i), which allows judges to vacate convictions directly related to an individual’s history as a trafficked person. This law, the first of its kind in the nation, gave Maria and other survivors the chance to truly leave their pasts behind. It also sparked a wave of similar organizing around the country.

Historian Marjorie Reeves

The nephew of a renowned historian and educator, who grew up in Bratton and went to Trowbridge Girls’ School, is bringing her memoirs to the reading public.

Medieval history specialist Marjorie Reeves, the daughter of Robert Reeves, the owner of R&J Reeves and Son ironworks, achieved great renown in the academic community for her work on heretics and mystics.

Although based in Oxford as a fellow at the Society of Oxford Home Students from 1938 to 1972, she never lost touch with her Bratton roots.

Anthony Sheppard, 62, of Claygate in Surrey, found his aunt’s memoirs after she died in 2003, at the age of 98.

Who Was Gladys Porter?

Due to repairs on the Gladys Porter Bridge in Port Williams, many motorists waiting for the light to change are wondering, who was the namesake?

According to the Women's Institute history of the village, the current bridge is named after Porter because she was the MLA responsible for securing provincial funding for its construction. The bridge was opened in 1968, at a cost of $650,000, 50-feet west of earlier bridges over the Cornwallis River.

Although the bridge is more than 40 years old and undergoing a two-year repair project, the sign indicating Porter's name was only installed by the transportation department about a year ago.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Japanese Warrior Women

'The archaeological evidence, meager though it is," writes historian Stephen Turnbull in "Samurai Women 1184-1877" (2010), "tantalizingly suggests a wider female involvement in battle than is implied by written accounts alone."

Armor and weapons have been found in the tombs of 4th-century female rulers. Do they support the historicity of the legendary Empress Jingu? They might — or might not; scholars disagree.

Burma: Endemic Sexual Violence

From Mizzima:
Three Chinese women were gang-raped last week by Burmese government troops in northern Kachin State, the Kachin News Group (KNG) reported on Monday.

According to witnesses, the women were raped on October 7 by about 10 Burmese soldiers in Shadan Pa, located between the Namsan Hka River and Munglai Hka River, west of the Myitkyina-Manmaw (Bhamo) Road.

One of the three women was unconscious for hours at a public hospital in Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization, hospital sources told the KNG.

The gang-rape was committed by Burmese troops under the Mogaung (Mugang)-based Military Operation Command-3 (MOC-3) led by Brig-Gen Myat Kyaw under the Northern Regional Command (NRC) based in Myitkyina, local residents and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) officials said.

Beauty Beyond Ego

Gallery Watatu presents master photographer Giulio d’Ercole in his lyrical ode to the women of Africa in 'Beauty Beyond Ego', showing from Sunday October 16th – October 30th 2011. You are invited to attend the opening day, Sunday October 16th, 2011 at 2pm. The guest of honour shall be Hanna Grapinski , Polish Ambassador.

Giulio D’Ercole is a photographer and filmmaker born in Rome, Italy in 1961. Since 1989 Giulio works internationally in TV, Film and Media production. In 2003 he came to Kenya and, captivated by the unique and unprecedented interplay of the social and geographical features of this region of the world, decided to found his own media company, Canvas Africa Productions.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Northern Women's History Online

From the Yorkshire Post:
A new website providing information about Yorkshire’s women in history goes online this week. Chris Bond reports.

HISTORY, it has often been said, is written by the victors.

That may well be the case but it has also usually been written by men, at least until recently, which has meant the sterling work carried out by women over the centuries has often been pushed to the sidelines or forgotten altogether.

There are some women, of course, whose names and exploits have lingered long in the memory, such as Charlotte Brontë, aviator Amy Johnson and Barbara Hepworth. Now their lives, along with those of scores of unsung women from the past, are being brought to the public’s attention thanks to a new website which goes live tomorrow.

The History to Herstory project, run by Huddersfield University and developed alongside West Yorkshire Archives Service, is free to use and means people around the world will be just a click away from more than 80,000 historical documents that shed light on the lives of Yorkshire women, particularly in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Online visitors will be able to explore a vast archive of diaries, letters, journals and photographs that tell the fascinating story of women’s lives at home and in the workplace.

The History to Herstory website goes live this Friday.

Exhibition: Prague & Her Daughters

The Czech name for Prague, “Praha,” is grammatically feminine – but the city’s history is usually depicted from a male point of view. Emphasis is placed on warfare, rulers, inventions and significant events. Prague and Her Daughters, a new exhibit at the City of Prague Museum, seeks to change that by tracing the city's history from prehistoric up to modern times through the perspective of women.

“This year the 130th anniversary of the museum, and this exhibit is to help celebrate that event,” museum director Zuzana Strnadová told Czech Position. “At this time, half of the people who work at the museum are women, and that is why we prepared the exhibition,” she said, adding that the name museum is related to the temple for a muse, one of the mythical goddesses who inspire art.

Prague and Her Daughters (Praha a jeji dcery)
To April 15, 2012
City of Prague Museum (Muzeum hl. m. Prahy)
Na Poříčí 52, Prague 8
Daily except Mon. 9 a.m.–6 p.m.; last Wed. of the month to 8 p.m.
Tickets: Kč 120; Kč 108 with OpenCard; Kč 50 for seniors; Kč 10 first Thurs. of every month /

Nobel Prize Winning Women

History was made yesterday when Liberian and Africa’s first democratically elected female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, led two other women to win the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.

The others are: a Liberian peace activist, Leyma Gbowee and a woman who stood up to Yemen’s authoritarian regime, Tawakkul Karman. Tawakkul is the first Arab woman to win the prize.

The trio won the Nobel Peace Prize for their work to secure women’s rights, which the prize committee described as fundamental to advancing world peace.

The 10 million kronor ($1.5 million) award was therefore split among them.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee honoured the three women “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work. We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women obtain the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society,” the prize committee said.

Johnson Sirleaf, the 72-year-old Harvard-trained economist, became Africa’s first democratically elected female president in 2005.

Gbowee, who organised a group of Christian and Muslim women to challenge Liberia’s warlords, was honoured for mobilising women “across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure women’s participation in elections.”

Karman is a 32-year-old mother of three who heads the human rights group, Women Journalists without Chains. She has been a leading figure in organising protests against President Ali Abdullah Saleh that kicked off in late January as part of a wave of anti-authoritarian revolts that have convulsed the Arab world.

Read more at the Guardian:

Diane Cilento

Diane Cilento, the actress, who died on Thursday aged 78, appeared in films, television shows and stage productions, but was perhaps best known as the first wife of the actor Sean Connery.

Her heyday came in the late 1950s and 1960s, with her most memorable film part being that of Molly Seagrim, the lewd gamekeeper’s wench in Tony Richardson’s 1963 production of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones.

Throughout her life, one Australian newspaper noted in 2006, Diane Cilento was sustained by a mix of rebelliousness, humour, independence and spirituality. Her try-anything-once approach included an early job modelling sports clothes in a Brisbane shop, playing bit parts in films and on television, and riding an elephant in a circus. “I wore the traditional fishnet stockings, incredibly high heels, a bum-revealing little green flared skirt, a pillbox hat and gloves that were shocking pink and sequinned,’’ she recalled of the circus gig.

In 2001 she was awarded the Australian Centenary Medal for “distinguished service to the arts, especially theatre”.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Afghan Womens' Rights Threatened

From BBC News:
Women's rights in Afghanistan are under threat after 10 years of progress, two leading British aid agencies have said.

Oxfam and Action Aid said many Afghan women were worried that improvements could be sacrificed to secure a political deal with the Taliban.

An Action Aid survey of 1,000 Afghan women found that 86% were worried about a return to a Taliban-style government.

The UK government said it was working hard to support Afghan women's empowerment "through transition".

Womens' Rights Campaigner Warns of Yemani Uprisings

A campaigner for women's rights in Yemen has claimed that key figures in the anti-government protest movement are abusing human rights and have been responsible for some of the worst atrocities during the unrest.

"To those who talk of a pro-democracy Arab spring in my country," she told the Observer in London, where she is seeking asylum, "I would say that it was not President Saleh who threatened my life or made me too frightened to carry on with my work or stay in Yemen, it was the opposition."

"Sara" does not want to give her real name out of fear for the consequences for her family and colleagues back in Yemen, but she is anxious to highlight what she believes is a profound misunderstanding in the west of what is really going on in her country, where over 400 people have died since the start of the uprising.

"I welcomed the protests when the young people first starting gathering in Sana'a in what they have renamed Change Square. Yemen needs change and an end to the corruption, but when the shooting and shelling started in March, the people in the square were the innocents caught in the middle of the real battle for power that is still going on."

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Proof: Women Are Tougher Than Men

From The Star:
Researchers have pieced together strong evidence as to why women are born tougher than men.

Science has long believed the “male flu,” or men’s higher susceptibility to infections, colds and disease, is real. The reasons pointed to the basic genetic difference: two X chromosomes in women and one X and one Y in men.

Now molecular biologists at the University of Ghent in Belgium have looked inside those genes and found the microRNA molecules, one of the most important regulatory mechanisms in human cells, could very well explain the difference.

“The microRNA field is quite a new field,” Dr. Iris Pinheiro told the Toronto Star on Thursday. “What is remarkable about the X chromosome is that it has so many microRNAs.”

And what is so remarkable about the Y chromosome is that it has none.

“That is striking to me,” said Pinheiro. The Y chromosome has evolved through history to shed almost all of its important genes and now has only one biological function: to make men male and to produce sperm.

Scientifically, she said, “it’s just a piece of junk DNA.”

Fortune's 50 Most Powerful Women

It’s Friday and it’s lunch time, so you’re probably done with the heavy work load and already thinking about watching the most illegal move in wrestling history. Or maybe that’s just us. Either way, it’s a good time for a list, and Fortune’s 50 Most Powerful Women in Business for 2011 is worth checking out.

The issue hits newsstands Monday, but here’s a couple quick notes: Oprah Winfrey is an unfamiliar spot, having fallen 10 slots to number 16 because OWN hasn’t worked out yet, and one-third of the newcomers on the list are from India or China. Interesting, right?

Check out the list at Fortune.

Loretta C Ford - Hall of Fame Inductee

When Loretta C. Ford was a pediatric public health nurse in the 1960s, she was often the sole medical practitioner available in rural areas near Boulder, Colo.

It prompted her to co-develop the nurse practitioner model at the University of Colorado in 1965.

In 1972, when the University of Rochester department established its School of Nursing, Ford — the school's founding dean — further changed the way nurses are trained by pioneering and implementing the unification model, an expanded combination of education, practice and research.

There are now more than 140,000 nurse practitioners in the United States today, and about 400 nurse practitioners at UR Medical Center's Strong Memorial Hospital.

On Saturday, Ford will be one of 11 women inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls.

Nigeria: Women Seek Relevance

The journey so far marks 51 years of Nigeria's independence. Looking at the prospects available to the society, men glaringly appear to be privileged and advantaged. And the women? Their song has been that of marginalisation in all spheres.

As Nigeria celebrates its 51st Independence Day, the cry of women, most especially professionals, is that of equal opportunities with men. 'We want not only to be seen, but to be heard,' they sing.

Saint Katharine Drexel

She was an assertive Philadelphia debutante who dreamed of changing the world and had the family fortune to make it happen.

In a time before women could vote, she built more than 60 schools and founded Xavier University for blacks in the segregated South.

Katharine Drexel became a nun only after founding her own religious order to control how the money was spent. And 11 years after being named a Catholic saint, she is to take her place among the most famous women in American history.

Drexel will be inducted this weekend into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, N.Y.

Members of her order, based in Bensalem and founded in 1891, were overjoyed this week at the news, hoping it will allow Drexel’s life mission to inspire a new audience. The sisters will travel this weekend to Seneca Falls for ceremonies in the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement.

“I think she would accept this award only if it gave her an opportunity to draw more attention to her mission for justice and the cries of the poor in our society today, especially among people of color and among the Native American communities,” said Sister Suchalski, president of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament.