Saturday, December 31, 2011

Notable Women of 2011

Rebecca Kadaga: The Ugandan lawyer and politician is on this list for being the first female to be elected Speaker in the history of Parliament in Uganda.

Susan Muwonge: commonly known as Super Lady won the National Rally Championship (NRC) beating Ponsiano Lwakataka the Independence Rally.

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: In 2011, Sirleaf stood out for being awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, jointly with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakel Karman of Yemen.

Justice Julia Sebutinde: is remembered as the tough judge who made corrupt police officere shake in their shoes in the famous Commission of inquiry into corruption in the Uganda Police

Just to name a few.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: Pope Joan (Lawrence Durrell)

This work by Lawrence Durrell is a 1954 translation of the Greek Papissa Joanna of Emmannuel Royidis which was written in 1886.  As such, the review is really covering the original work and is not a critique of Durrell's translation of the original work.
Joanna’s story begins with her humble antecedents – the daughter of an unnamed English monk (who is never named) and a buxom Saxon goose girl called Judith. Her father-monk is inspired to leave England and preach in the land of the great Charles (whom I am presuming to be Charlemagne), which he did as a wandering missionary for eight years until his “every hope of paternity” was cruelly removed. Whether through miraculously conception or rape, Joanna was born sometime in the year 818. And eight years later, following the passing of Joanna’s mother and a curious incident with a bare-breasted Abbess, Joanna’s father once more embarks on the missionary trail, this time with Joanna to accompany him.

You can read more of my review at

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Saudi Women in Elections 2015

From the Washington Post:
Women in Saudi Arabia will not need a male guardian’s approval to run or vote in municipal elections in 2015, when women will also run for office for the first time, a Saudi official said Wednesday.

The change signifies a step forward in easing the kingdom’s restrictions against women, but it falls far short of what some Saudi reformers are calling for.

Shura Council member Fahad al-Anzi was quoted in the state-run al-Watan newspaper saying that approval for women to run and vote came from the guardian of Islam’s holiest sites, the Saudi king, and therefore women will not need a male guardian’s approval. The country’s Shura Council is an all-male consultative body with no legislative powers.

Panda is UK "Woman" of the Year

In a move that is sure to go down in adorable bear history, the BBC has named a female panda named Sweetie one of its female Faces of the Year.

2011 was either lacking severely in girlchievements or a banner year for lady pandas. So what was Sweetie's glorious achievement that elevated her, a bear, over that of all female humans who did stuff?

She got off of an airplane in Scotland, to great fanfare. That's it. Hooray for Sweetie the panda, woman face of the year.

Not only is a bear deemed to appropriately fit the "woman" category, the rest of the list will leave people who were hoping for a progressive set of female movers and shakers disappointed.

Women on Wall Street

From Bloomberg:

Siebert wasn't the first woman to rise above gender discrimination in the world of finance. One of the earliest documented female investors in the U.S. was Abigail Adams, who ignored her husband John's instructions to invest in land while he was stationed overseas, and instead made a much larger return investing in U.S. government bonds. Contemporary accounts describe Abigail's foray into the investing world as the one source of contention in the couple's otherwise happy marriage, despite her success.

There are also abundant examples of women who went out of their way to de-emphasize or even hide their gender to foster their careers in finance. Among them were the first women to own a Wall Street brokerage, sisters Victoria Woodhull and Tennessee Claflin, who had custom-made business dresses designed to hide their femininity and blend in with their male colleagues. Even so, the New York Times headline that announced the firm's opening in 1870 read "Wall Street Aroused," and the story's reporter concluded that "A short, speedy winding up of the firm of Woodhull, Claflin & Co. is predicted."

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Canada's Bomb Girls

From the Toronto Sun:
This hardly is explosive news, but Meg Tilly didn’t spend a lot of time thinking about where bombs were made before she was cast in Bomb Girls.

“I didn’t even know there were bomb factories, I just thought they magically appeared,” said Tilly, referring to the World War II era in which Bomb Girls is set.

“And I wasn’t aware of how many people I know whose parents, or aunts, or grandparents worked in them.”

In Canada the dangerous art of making of bombs fell largely to women, with so many men fighting overseas. The personal and professional politics of this together-by-necessity work environment is at the heart of Bomb Girls, a six-part Canadian mini-series that debuts Wednesday, Jan. 4 on Global.

Egypt: Virginity Tests Illegal

Forced "virginity tests" on female detainees were ruled illegal in Egypt on Tuesday, after a court ordered an end to the practice.

Hundreds of activists were in the Cairo courtroom to hear the judge, Aly Fekry, say the army could not use the test on women held in military prisons in a case filed by Samira Ibrahim, one of seven women subjected to the test after being arrested in Tahrir Square during a protest on 9 March.

Fekry, head of the Cairo administrative court, decreed that what happened to Ibrahim and six other detainees was illegal and any similar occurrence in the future would also be considered illegal.

The court is expected to issue a further injunction against such tests and decree that the test was completely illegal, opening the door for financial compensation.

After the verdict Ibrahim, 25, posted on Twitter: "Thank you to the people, thank you to Tahrir Square that taught me to challenge, thank you to the revolution that taught me perseverance."

The 25-year-old marketing manager, who said she faced death threats for bringing the case, told CNN: "Justice has been served today.

"These tests are a crime and also do not comply with the constitution, which states equality between men and women. I will not give up my rights as a woman or a human being."

The Great Female Pilot – Pancho Barnes

Barnstormer, world speed record holder, crash survivor, stunt pilot, founder of a pilot union, and owner of a fly-in ranch depicted in The Right Stuff and frequented by friends like Chuck Yeager, Buzz Aldrin, and Jimmy Doolittle.

Pancho Barnes was an unconventional character that had a big effect on aviation and aviators during some of the most dynamic years in aviation history.

Though living through pain, prejudice, and the Great Depression, she maintained a love of life.

Born Florence Leontine Lowe, Panch was renowned as a unique, dynamic, humorous, talented, and generous individual.

Pancho was a very respected pilot in the Golden Age of Flight: an era that began with Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 flight across the Atlantic Ocean and ended twenty years later in Long Beach Harbor with Howard Hughes’ giant flying boat, the “Spruce Goose,” pulling itself out of the water.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Was Dickens Anti-Women?

From the Mail Online:

For all his genius, the writer was an abusive husband who seduced a woman 26 years his junior and virtually abandoned his children
For all his genius, the writer was an abusive husband who seduced a woman 26 years his junior and virtually abandoned his children.

Yet, as we near his bicentenary, we should remember that this was a man tortured by the memory of poverty as a child, thin-skinned, cruel to his wife (Catherine Hogarth), dismissive of his children, a slave to overwork and, ultimately, victim of an early death, worn out not least in the effort to support himself, his estranged wife, and his mistress (Ellen Ternan)and her family.

His is a very Victorian story of social mobility, sexual hypocrisy, and tortured genius.

Of Interest:

Babara Koob - Saint Marianne Cope

Barbara Koob moved from Utica to Syracuse in the summer of 1862, when she was 24, to enter the convent of the Sisters of St. Francis.

Twenty-one years later, the woman the world now knows as Saint Marianne Cope left Syracuse to work as a missionary among the lepers in Hawaii. Even during her lifetime, many considered her a saint for her bravery, compassion and leadership. She spent 35 years ministering to hundreds of people so feared that the Kingdom of Hawaii banished them to a remote, desolate peninsula of Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai.

In a Christmas present, the Sisters of St. Francis learned Monday that Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed Mother Marianne a saint in the Roman Catholic Church, and she will be canonized next year. The designation came after an intense, detailed process of nearly 40 years. The Franciscan sisters gathered thousands of pages of research about their heroine, toured the places she lived and worked and collected information about possible miracles, including two the Vatican ultimately ruled were healings of people whose recovery doctors could not explain.

The long journey to sainthood began with a modest life in Central New York. From 1862 to 1883, the future saint walked the streets of Syracuse in her roles as Franciscan leader and administrator of St. Joseph’s Hospital. She was among the Franciscan sisters who opened the 15-bed hospital in 1869 in a former dance hall and saloon on Prospect Hill.

Great set of links at the bottom of the article.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Smita Jadhav - Increase in Dowry Deaths

From DNA India:
The new head of the women grievance redressal cell of the Pune Police, Smita Jadhav, handles a sensitive posting. As an incharge of the cell, Jadhav and her team have to counsel warring couples to try and bridge the gap between them. A student of history from the Fergusson College, Jadhav has plans to make the women aware of their rights. Chaitraly Deshmukh spoke to Jadhav to know about her future plans for the women’s cell.

As many as 48 married women in their 20s have fallen prey to the greed of their in-laws following mental and physical harassment over dowry in the last 11 months. What is your opinion on this?

"It is a shocking figure as we are in the 21st century and the city is witnessing increasing number of dowry deaths. Most of the women are in the age group of 20 to 30.

Women have fallen prey to dowry demands. Most of them are educated and belong to good families. Many women do not come forward despite knowing that laws have been made to protect them. Yet, they choose to remain silent and silence kills them. They sometimes approach us but later disappear. We cannot keep a track of each and every case but we make it a point to follow-up serious cases."

See also:

Yocheved Horowitz - Israel's Rosa Parks

On a sunny afternoon early this week, an ultra-Orthodox woman boarded a bus in the enclave of the Gur Hasidic community in Ashdod and took a seat in the second row. The bus, Egged line 451, was headed for Jerusalem. It quickly became clear that this simple, everyday act - choosing a seat to her liking - was enough to transform her presence in the bus into a palpable challenge to the rest of the passengers. I sat down across from the woman, fearing the worst.

Not only did the woman, whose name is Yocheved Horowitz, blatantly ignore the tacit agreement among the bus' riders to adhere to the most stringent religious practices - in this case, an unwritten rule that men sit in the front and women in the back. And not only did she not conform to the seating arrangements dictated by men - that is, those in authority. This was also a woman who, judging by her appearance, seemed to come from within the community.

Now Horowitz turned around and said loudly and clearly: "What do you mean by 'men's area'? A geographical area?" she wondered. "What is mehadrin? Are you talking about an etrog, a lulav?" she queried, referring to two of the principal symbols used during the festival of Sukkot. "Nowhere in rabbinical law does it say that it is forbidden to sit behind a woman, not in the Shulchan Arukh and not in the Yoreh De'ah [two classical compilations of Jewish law]. What is written in the Torah and in rabbinical law is that it is forbidden to humiliate sons and daughters of Israel."

Sanghamitta Theri - Liberation of Lankan Women

From LankaWeb:
No other historical event impacted on the status of Lankan women as the establishment of the Bhikkuni Order by Sanghamitta Theri. Her arrival in Sri Lanka on a Unduwap full moon Poya day 2245 years ago gave new directions to Lankan women taking them out from cultural wilderness and bringing them into the socio-cultural mainstream as literate persons. This led them to play a role in matters of historical significance.

The Kuveni episode in early history reveals the acceptance of a woman as a political leader by the indigenous Lankan society. But there are no clues that shed light on the kind of position occupied by women in general at that time.

Religionwise, there may have been varied faiths of Indian origin floating around as well as indigenous beliefs practiced by an agricultural community, a scenario which Mahinda Thero may have studied prior to his mission to Sri Lanka. In India, although the Bhikkuni Order had been established, by and large, women’s role was insignificant under a rigid Brahminic society which Buddhism was attempting to break through. Mahinda Thero perhaps expected a similar situation in Sri Lanka.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Walter Raleigh - Pirate Who Bewitched Elizabeth

From the Mail Online:

You could not be alive in Elizabethan England and not feel that it was a young country, full of vigour and possessing the capacity to reinvent itself. There was a palpable sense of rebirth, of creative energy, of newness and expansion. 

This was the age of glory when our nation put civil wars behind it and emerged into the broad, sunlit uplands. 

It is no exaggeration to say that modern history began with the Elizabethans. British explorers went out to every corner of the known world to form the foundation of power and prosperity for future generations.

Central to this vision of an expanding British domain was the fervently ambitious and multi-talented soldier, sailor and poet Walter Raleigh. He was from an old West Country family that had come down in the world. 

Very interesting article from the Times Online, which speculates that Sir Walter Raleigh may have adopted a young native boy who returned with him from his voyages to the Americas.

"Much less known is Sir Walter Raleigh’s kinship with a young black boy from Guyana, whom he brought back with him from the Americas and who became ensconced in the explorer’s household, according to newly discovered records.

The register, uncovered by archive staff and The Times, records the baptism of a young Guyanan boy in the Parish of Saint Luke, in Chelsea, on February 13, 1597. It reveals that the boy, named Charles and estimated to be aged between 10 and 12 years old, was brought to the church by “Sir Walter Rawlie” – a common spelling of the explorer’s name at the time. "


The Wool Trade in England

From the 12th to 18th Century, wool was the most important item in English trade. In the Middle Ages, the best English wool was the most prized in Europe and in later centuries, English cloth gained the same fame. In the 13th century, there was a rapid development of cloth manufacture in Flanders, and a resultant boom in English sheep farming.

The trade was organised by merchant guilds which operated an exclusive monopoly. By the 14th Century, wool merchants had become increasingly wealthy - some were so wealthy that they replaced Italian financiers who underwrote royal debts. In return, Edward III gave a small group of wool merchants an absolute monopoly on wool exports. However, this lasted only until 1350.

Over the next few years, a staple was organised. This was a fixed point through which all wool exports passed. From 1363, this was Calais - which proved to be very convenient for the Flemish markets. A Company of Merchants of the Staple was set up to manage the staple and pay taxes. It had a very large membership of approximately 300 to 400 merchants. The Company used its monopoly to transfer the heavy burden of royal taxation upon wool growers instead of the merchants themselves. This meant that the Company reduced the price paid to English wool growers.

An unexpected side effect was that the English cloth manufacturing industry was now able to purchase wool much more cheaply than its Flemish and Italian rivals. As such, English wool exports dropped from approximately 35000 sacks per year in the 14th century to 8000 sacks per year by the mid-15th Century. The export of cloth increased from approximately 9400 (1356-1360) to 56000 (1437 - 1440).

Sheep farming went through a decline until the mid-15th Century, but recovered during the reign of King Edward IV. It was not until much later, in the 17th Century, that English cloth was of such a quality as its Continental rivals.

Further Sources:
"The English Medieval Wool and Cloth Trade" by Dr. Margaret Bonney

"Medieval Wool and Cloth Exports" - a database compiled by Dr. Margaret Bonney on England's Export Trade from 1275 - 1547 (website: ).

The Wool Trade in English Medieval History - Lecture by Prof. Eileen Power (1941)

Articles: Anglo Saxon Textiles

From the Archaeology Data Service comes an article by Francis A Pritchard - "Late Saxon Textiles From the City of London":
Archaeological investigations in the City of London have produced an important collection of late 9th- to early 12th-century textiles manufactured from wool, goat hair, silk and flax. The production processes associated with the different types of cloth are here described, together with details of weaving techniques and dyeing practices. Changes in the types of cloth used in the 11th century are related to the introduction of new technology and the decline in use of the warp-weighted loom. Evidence is examined for the local manufacture of cloth and for the import of foreign silks. Lastly, attention is drawn to the similarity of the London textiles to those found in other regions of northern Europe.

Readers may also be interested in:

BBC Series - Wolf Hall

The BBC and HBO are developing a TV drama mini-series adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Man Booker prize-winning historical novel Wolf Hall.

Peter Straughan, whose writing credits include the recent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy movie, is working on scripts for a four-parter which, if commissioned, would be broadcast on BBC2, the BBC has confirmed.

Wolf Hall is a fictional biography set in the first half of the 16th century, charting the rise to power of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII.

Cromwell was involved in arranging Henry's divorce from Catherine of Aragon and his marriage to Anne Boleyn, and the English church's break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries. He later fell out with Henry and was executed.

Mantel revealed earlier this week that she is planning a Tudor trilogy, with a second novel, Bring Up the Bodies, to be published next year focusing on Anne Boleyn. The third book, The Mirror & the Light, will see Cromwell's story through until his execution in 1540.

The TV adaptation is being developed by Company Pictures, the UK independent producer behind Shameless, Skins and The Shadow Line, and Playground Entertainment, the US company set up by former HBO Films president Colin Callender.

Monastic Orders in Medieval England

Here is a short list of the various Monastic Orders that were to be found in Medieval England.

The Black Monks founded by St. Benedict or Benedict of Nursia (c.480 - 543). Benedict founded many monasteries, the most notable being at Subiaco.

Websites: Order of St. Benedict and St. Benedict on Wikipedia.

Foundations began at Cluny in France (910) by Abbot Berno and Count William of Auvergne. Their Rule was stricter than that of the Beneditines. The Cluniacs also supported the reforms of Pope Gregory VII. Widespread throughout England and France.

The White Monks were founded by Stephen Harding of Dorset and St. Bernard of Citeaux. They tended to inhabit lonely areas and toiled the land. The Order was considered austere and their Rule was considered strict.

Also called the Order of St. Bruno founded 1084 in the French Alps. Followed the Rule of St. Benedict but lived a more solitary life (strictly cloistered), meeting only in Church, in silence. Not particularly widespread in England.

Websites: Carthusian Monks & Nuns and Carthusians on Catholic Encyclopedia

The Black Canons were founded by St. Augustine of Hippo (d.430). They were considered to be priests rather than monks, and preached in public. There was also a stricter Order of the White Canons or Premonstratensians.

Websites: Augustinians and Augustinians on Wikipedia

Founded by Gilbert, a Lincolnshire priest (1130) for monks and nuns with separate cloisters. This was a purely English Order.

Websites: Gilbertines on Catholic Encyclopedia and The Gilbertines

Other Websites:

Elizabeth I & Her Toyboy Essex

In his major new examination of the Elizabethans, historian A.N. Wilson details the passionate love Queen Elizabeth I felt for several men throughout her reign. Here, in the final part of the Mail’s exclusive serialisation, Wilson reflects on the Queen’s later years — and her disastrous infatuation with a courtier young enough to be her grandson . . .

By the time she was in her mid-60s, the Virgin Queen had grown prematurely old, with a ‘goggle throat’ and ‘a great gullet hanging out’.

But if Elizabeth was long past her springtime, so was her once dynamic country. The new French ambassador travelled from Dover to London in 1597 through a landscape he described as ‘wild and untilled’.

In her palace in Whitehall, he was taken to meet her as she sat in a low chair, all by herself and melancholy, almost as if she had been abandoned. Her long, thin face was lined. Her ‘teeth were very yellow and unequal’. On either side of her ears, two great curls hung from beneath a somewhat fantastical red wig.

Luca Pacioli - Renaissance Magician

Have you ever wanted to wash your hands in melted lead? Or maybe, you have always wanted to make an egg walk. Meet Luca Pacioli ~~ the Renaissance's own David Copperfield!

Luca Pacioli, a native of Tuscany, was a good friend and sometime artistic collaborator of Leonardo da Vinci.

He is also the author of one of the oldest magic books - De viribus quantitatis (On The Powers Of Numbers). And for the past 500 years, this unpublished book has been hidden away in the archives of the University of Bologna.

"It was written in Italian by Pacioli [a Franciscan monk] between 1496 and 1508 and contains the first ever reference to card tricks as well as guidance on how to juggle, eat fire and make coins dance. It is also the first work to note that Da Vinci was left-handed."

Reporter Lucy McDonald of the Guardian has the full details of this magical story from her 2007 article.

Venetian Lazaretto

A lazaretto or lazaret is a quarantine station for maritime travellers. Lazarets can be ships permanently at anchor, isolated islands, or mainland buildings. Between 1348 and 1359 the Black Death wiped out an estimated 30% of Europe's population, as well as a significant percentage of Asia's population. The original document from 1377, which is kept in the Archives of Dubrovnik, states that before entering the city, newcomers had to spend 30 days (a trentine) in a restricted location (originally nearby islands) waiting to see whether the symptoms of plague would develop. Later on, isolation was prolonged to 40 days and was called quarantine.

Venice took the lead in measures to check the spread of plague, having appointed three guardians of the public health in the first years of the Black Death (1348). The first lazaret was founded by Venice in 1403, on a small island adjoining the city – the island of Santa Maria di Nazareth (also known as Lazaretum or Nazaretum). Today this island is known as the Lazzaretto Vecchio.

Originally, the “Lazzaretto Vecchio” was home to hermits who had erected a church dedicated to St. Mary of Nazareth and a shelter for pilgrims going or returning from the Holy Land (c.1240s). When the monks and novices died out, and on the advice of San Bernardino of Siena, the Senate voted to allocate the island as a shelter for people and goods from infected countries.

The Lazzaretto even then consisted of two islands joined by a bridge to the smallest housed the garrison whilst the larger housed the hospital which incorporated the original monastic buildings. Originally built of timber, these would be later rebuilt in stone. In 1468, the Lazzaretto Nuovo or new settlement was established. The Lazzaretto was enlarged with the adjacent lagoon being reclaimed in 1580s; and a boathouse entrance was built from the canal (1586).

In November, 1631, the plague was definitively eradicated, but at a terrible cost: almost 47,000 died in the city (more than a quarter of the population) and 95,000 in the area comprising Murano, Malamocco and Chioggia.

I was inspired to find out more from this article that appeared in the Independent in 2007:
Archaeologists are now exploring "the graves of Lazzaretto, an island in the Venetian lagoon which became the world's first isolation hospital."

The Independent reports that: "Following an outbreak of the plague in 1348, the Doge and his advisers put their minds to thinking up a way to prevent a recurrence. The upshot, at the beginning of the 15th century, was the world's first isolation hospital occupying the entire small island."

" .. archaeologists have uncovered more than 1,500 skeletons of Lazzaretto patients. Luigi Fozzatti, who is in charge of excavations, said: "It wasn't difficult to imagine that some people would have been buried on the island but we had no idea we would find so many." "

Research is continuing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Writers & Their Books

From Maria Popova at The Atlantic:
As a hopeless bibliophile, an obsessive lover of bookcases, and a chronic pursuer of voyeuristic peeks inside the minds of creators, I'm utterly spellbound by Unpacking My Library: Writers and Their Books—a vicarious journey into the personal libraries of thirteen favorite authors, who share their collections of childhood favorites, dusty textbooks, prized first editions, and beloved hardcovers, along with some thoughts on books, reading, and the life of the mind.

Alongside the formidable collections—featuring Alison Bechdel, Stephen Carter, Junot Díaz, Rebecca Goldstein and Steven Pinker, Lev Grossman and Sophie Gee, Jonathan Lethem, Claire Messud and James Wood, Philip Pullman, Gary Shteyngart, and Edmund Whit—are short interviews with the authors about the books most important to them (including their top 10), their style of organization, and their thoughts on what the future of books might hold. (Cue in writers on the future of books.) The interviews are prefaced by Leah Price's fascinating brief history of bookshelves, from the rise of the vertical book on a horizontal shelf to how social bookmarking services are changing our relationship with tagging and indexing information.

Politics & Asian Women

From Gulf News:
India's Indira Gandhi, Sri Lanka's Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Pakistan's Benazir Bhutto, Bangladesh's Shaikh Hasina, Philippines' Corazon Aquino and Indonesia's Megawati Sukarnoputri — these women leaders dominated South and South East Asia for much of the past four decades.
Each belonged to a special class of women whose husbands or fathers were their country's recognised founding father or long-standing political leader. But, while their dynastic links brought them to power, they were not the sole factor keeping them there.

When first elected, none of these women had any serious professional or political qualifications. For some, this ‘shortcoming' was seen as an advantage, enabling some of them to project an image of innocence and purity, even martyrdom, as they stood in the place of their deceased husbands or fathers. None was particularly focused on a women's agenda (at least not in their first terms in office), and studies show that rural women did not fare particularly well under their rule.

But something very different emerged in Asia in 2011. A growing number of women are reaching for the highest political echelons in their countries by dint of their political talents alone.

Women of Faith in the Latter Days

The first book in a series dedicated to highlighting the inspirational lives of Mormon women is finally hitting bookshelves. “Women of Faith in the Latter Days,” the first of seven volumes, features the biographies of women born between 1775 and 1820. Each biography was submitted by a contributor and edited by Richard E. Turley Jr. and Brittany A. Chapman of the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“The women who appear in Volume 1 … were generally first-generation Latter-day Saints who experienced characteristic trials of their day, including abandonment by family or friends when they joined the church, persecution after joining, and the hardships of pioneering again and again as they moved from one location to another,” the editors wrote in the preface.

The realization that little has been published regarding the faith and dedication of the women in the church, both past and present, sparked the idea for the series. Approximately half the people in the history of the church have been women, Turley said in December 2010. “Most of history we’ve created focuses on men. We’ve recognized a huge gap that needs to be filled,” he said.

Plans for the series were announced in May 2010. Subsequent volumes will follow at about one-year intervals and each will cover a 25-year time span. Volume 2 includes women born between 1821 and 1845; Volume 3 from 1846 to 1870; Volume 4 from 1871 to 1895; Volume 5 from 1896 to 1920; Volume 6 between 1921 and 1945 and Volume 7 from 1946 to 1970.

Top Women of 2011

From Barbara Lee of Huffington Post:
Women are being left off the page of every best-of-the-year list I have read so far. For starters, you have to be a princess to make it onto TIME's list of runners-up for "Person of the Year." Kate Middleton appears again on People magazine's "Most Intriguing" list and her younger sister, Pippa, is among the women on Barbara Walter's list of "10 Most Fascinating People." The others? Pop icons Katy Perry and the Kardashians, followed by Amanda Knox, who won her appeal in a high profile murder case. Somehow, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the only woman who ranks for Forbes' top 10 "Most Powerful People in the World" and is one of very few women to be recognized for leadership ability rather than lifestyle and looks in these year-end superlatives lists.

In an age of reality TV, it has become clear that voters expect candidates to entertain and perform. This is potentially dangerous territory for women who have to work harder to prove themselves as "serious" candidates in the first place. "In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms," as Writer/Director Jennifer Siebel Newsom describes in her provocative documentary, "Miss Representation," "the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman's value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader." Let's not dismiss the accomplishments of women; let's celebrate them instead.

Kitti Green & the KGB

THREE women were stripped naked and an Aussie filmmaker was kidnapped as the KGB broke up a feminist protest.

Kitti Green spent more than six hours being interrogated by the local KGB security service, who freed her only after the Australian embassy in Moscow intervened.

The KGB dumped Ms Green at the Lithuanian border, but three Ukrainian women who were travelling with her - Inna Shevchenko, Oxana Shachko and Alexandra Nemchinov - were beaten after being seized at a Minsk railway station.

"They were blindfolded and driven around in a bus all night," the feminist group Femen said.

"They were taken into the woods, had oil poured on them, were forced to take their clothes off, were threatened to be set on fire.

"They threatened them with a knife, which they later used to cut off their hair. Then they threw them out into the woods naked and without documents."

The women were protesting to mark President Alexander Lukashenko's disputed re-election a year ago.

From Salon:
A group of women from a Ukrainian topless-protest group on Wednesday recounted their ordeal in neighboring Belarus, where they claimed they were kidnapped, beaten and abused by local security officials.

Oksana Shechko told the Associated Press that she and two fellow activists with Femen were interrogated on a bus for 12 hours, made to undress in the woods in freezing temperatures, punched in the head and back, threatened with death and rape, smeared with paint and had some of their hair cut of.

Shechko charged that the Belarusian authorities were punishing them for a protest in Minsk on Monday in which they bared their breasts to bring attention to President Aleksander Lukashenko’s crackdown on the opposition.

“It was a real fight for survival,” Shechko said after returning to Kiev, her voice trembling. “We ended up in the hands of the butchers who kill and terrify the Belarusian people.”

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Film: The Flowers of War

Epic tale of young women desperate to survive the Japanese invasion of Nanking in 1937. China's Oscar entry for Best Foreign-Language Film offers powerfully realistic and inventive war scenes. Alas, some of the dialogue may register as a bit too saccharine for Western ears.

Adapted by Liu Heng from the novel by Yan Geling, The Flowers of War offers two distinct species of "flowers”: One group consists of beautiful courtesans on the run, while the other encompasses cloistered schoolgirls who sing in the church choir and who deeply mourn the recent death of their Catholic priest. To save both the prostitutes and the adolescent girls—who recoil from any association with fallen angels—Miller must put on the Father's black robes and emulate priestly behavior. Gradually, he acquires a new dignity and compassion. He stops trying to bed the sultry leader of the courtesans, Yo Mo (Ni Ni), and begins to treat her like the clever, formidable survivor that she is.

Christian Bale in China from China Buzz

Egypt's Women Protest

Thousands of woman marched through downtown Cairo on Tuesday evening to call for the end of military rule in an extraordinary expression of anger over images of soldiers beating, stripping and kicking a female demonstrator on the pavement of Tahrir Square.

"Drag me, strip me, my brothers' blood will cover me!" they chanted. "Where is the field marshal?" they demanded, referring to Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military council holding onto power here. "The girls of Egypt are here."

The event may have been the biggest women's demonstration in Egypt's history, and the most significant since a 1919 march led by pioneering Egyptian feminist Huda Shaarawi to protest British rule.

The women's chants were evidently heard at military headquarters as well. On Tuesday evening, the ruling military council offered an abrupt apology.

"The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces expresses its utmost sorrow for the great women of Egypt, for the violations that took place during the recent events," the council said in a statement. "It stresses its great appreciation for the women of Egypt and for their right to protest and to actively, positively participate in political life on the path of democratic transition."

Although no one in the military has been publicly investigated or charged in connection with any misconduct, the statement asserted that the council had already taken "all the legal actions to hold whoever is responsible accountable."

Just two hours before the women massed, a coalition of liberal and human rights groups unveiled a plan to try to break the state media's grip on public opinion by holding screenings around the country of video capturing recent military abuses.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus

Jocasta is the story of one of the many much maligned women of Greek mythology.  A young noble-born girl is thrust onto the stage of politics when she is married to the new ruler of Thebes.  Her marriage is cursed; her once loving husband has turned away from her and the responsibility of ruling and has taken refuge in drink and frivolities; her only child cruelly taken from her arms.

Jocasta rises to the occasion and takes upon her young shoulders the burden or ruling this great city of ancient Thebes.  With guidance from her family she transforms into the ruler that the citizens of Thebes come to love and respect.

Fate - or the Gods - step in and her husband of many years is killed.  As queen she must now take a new husband or risk Thebes becoming victim to the ever circling threat from envious rulers abroad.  But whom should she choose - the answer comes in the form of a riddle.

Her second marriage brings to Jocasta that which she has long desired - love and children.  But again, the Gods are cruel.  Again, Thebes is beset by misfortune and the Gods demand a greater sacrifice.  But has Jocasta and Oedipus done enough to appease the Gods - no they have not.

Soon the prophecies forecast for both Jocasta and her husband Oedipus began to unravel at an alarming rate - and the sacrifice now demanded of the Gods can no longer be put off - and the consequences are tragic.

Jocasta: The Mother-Wife of Oedipus was written by two outstanding authors, Victoria Grossack & Alice Underwood.They have together written a series of novels set in the Late Bronze Age, mostly in ancient Greece. Not once was I tempted to put this book aside due to lack of interest - the story of Jocasta gradually builds until it reaches its climax in the last few chapters.

About the Authors:
Victoria Grossack: Dartmouth graduate Victoria Grossack leads an international life, with homes in Switzerland and Arizona and a professional career in the financial industry that has spanned the Atlantic. She is fluent in German and French (and English of course) and has an MBA. Her last full-time position was as a Senior Vice President in New York City for a reinsurance company, but she is currently writing full-time and living with her husband who is a professor at the University of Arizona. Her writing has been published in Contingencies, Woman’s World, I Love Cats, and The Journal of Actuarial Practice. She was a regular columnist for Fiction Fix, writing monthly articles that have been used in several writing classes. She teaches writing courses at Coffeehouseforwriters on historical fiction, creating characters, and the levels of structure in fiction. She also tutors mathematics, as solving problems in algebra and geometry make a nice break from creative writing.

Alice Underwood: Alice Underwood studied classics at The University of Texas and Princeton University while earning her degrees in mathematics. Her passion for antiquity has taken her from the shadowed catacombs of Princeton’s libraries to the ruins of Pompeii and the sunny shores of Crete and Santorini. Her work has been published in Consortium, Networks, and The Journal of Actuarial Practice. Currently an Executive Vice President at one of the world’s top insurance brokerage firms, Alice lives and works in New York City.
In 1998, Victoria and Alice tied for first place in an international short story contest. After collaborating on several nonfiction pieces, they decided to apply their complementary strengths and perspectives to a work of fiction. 

Tapestry of Bronze: The Tapestry of Bronze is a series of interlocking novels set in ancient Greece, starting several generations before the Trojan War. Archaeological evidence indicates that this “Golden Age of Heroes” aligns with Bronze Age dates. Our series forms a tapestry, because the books tie together, though each novel focuses on one strand of story. Jocasta, Children of Tantalus, The Road to Thebes and Arrows of Artemis are available for purchase today. And more are in the works!

Useful Links:
Oedipus The King: The city of Thebes wants its rulers to fix its current problem, an outbreak of divinely-sent pestilence. Prophecies reveal the means to the end, but Oedipus the ruler, who is committed to the cause of Thebes, doesn't realize he is at the root of the problem. The tragedy shows his gradual awakening.

The Mother of Oedipus: Jocasta (Iokaste) was the queen of Thebes and mother to Oedipus, Antigone, Eteocles, Polynices, Ismene, and Menocenes. She was sister to Creon, who also figures prominently in Sophocles' play, "Oedipus the King". She was married to King Laius and bore him a son, Oedipus, who was destined to kill his father and marry his mother: Jocasta.

Dangerous Ambition

Press Release:

Born in the early 1890s on opposite sides of the Atlantic, these brilliant and ambitious women, Rebecca West, an English journalist, novelist, and critic, and Dorothy Thompson, an American journalist and first female head of a U.S. news bureau in Europe, defied convention to achieve unprecedented fame in a male-dominated era. Susan Hertog—author of the critically acclaimed Anne Morrow Lindberg, Her Life—delves deep into the complex life and legacy of two early feminists who tried to have it all in her new remarkable dual biography DANGEROUS AMBITION, Rebecca West and Dorothy Thompson: New Women in Search of Love and Power (Ballantine Books Hardcover; November 8, 2011).

By the mid-twentieth century, West and Thompson both reached astounding levels of professional achievement. Thompson was considered by FDR and Churchill to be the most influential woman in America. West, a formidable journalist, literary critic, and biographer by the age of 20, and a novelist and literary theorist by 30, was hailed across the English-speaking world for her literary genius. But even as their careers prospered, their personal relationships shattered. Drawn to men equally ambitious and hungry for love—Thompson to Sinclair Lewis, West to H. G. Wells—their relationships with their husbands and their sons would be sacrificed for the sake of their work. They broke the old rules and charted new waters; their lives tell the story of the price women paid for ambition and success.

The first book to impressively link the lives of West and Thompson, DANGEROUS AMBITION introduces readers to two women who were hugely important and respected in their day, and speaks to 21st century women and men as they struggle to reinvent their roles as parents and professionals.

About the Author:
Susan Hertog was born in New York City and graduated from Hunter College. After earning her MFA from Columbia University, she became a freelance journalist and photographer. She is the author of one previous book, Anne Morrow Lindberg, Her Life. She lives in Manhattan with her family.

Magdalena Grodzka-Guzkowska - A Lucky Woman

From CBS News:

Magdalena Grodzka-Guzkowska's journey of self-discovery is pieced together from interviews with her and people close to her, emails made available to The Associated Press, information provided by Yad Vashem, her memoir "Lucky Woman," and documentary footage.

Decades after she helped save the rabbi and about a dozen others, mostly children, by teaching them Christian customs, Grodzka-Guzkowska discovered documents in an old suitcase showing that her father and other close family members were Jews. Growing up she knew vaguely that one of her great grandmothers was Jewish but nothing more about those roots.