Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ancient Peruvian Priestess

From Sky News:

The reconstructed face of a high ruling Peruvian priestess has been unveiled by researchers from Utah Valley University.
They revealed the reconstruction during a presentation at the Bruning Museum in Lambayeque, Peru.
Priestesses were very powerful in ancient Peru and this one is said to have governed in around 1200 AD.
"This was probably one of the most powerful people in Lambayeque 800 years ago, so she was a central person in the political and religious structure," said Haagen Klaus one of the project's land researchers.
The ruler's mummified remains were discovered in a tomb last year near the city of Lambayeque, at the Chotuna Chornancap archaeological site.

The discovery of a 13th-century priestess at a ritual site in northern Peru is forcing a reassessment of the role of women in Lambayeque culture.
The 25- to 30-year-old woman was buried at Chotuna-Chornancap, adorned with elaborate jewellery, ceramic offerings, and gold and silver ritual objects proclaiming her elite status.
‘This has revolutionised our thinking,’ Project Director Carlos Wester La Torre told CWA. ‘It shows wealth and power were not a male privilege in this culture; this is categorical evidence of women involved in the political and ideological apparatus of the time.’ He added: ‘Her youth indicates the post was hereditary, and her grave goods suggest she performed rituals such as sacrifices, receiving offerings, and celebrating changes of the seasons, the moon, and tides.’

Queens, Concubines & Ordinary People

Did you know that there are no women fighting for crowns, and very few women are named in the Chronicles of the Kings of Man and the Isles?
Women are not entirely absent from the record, but their description is often far from complimentary.
The Chronicles state that when rumours spread of an imminent attack on the church at Maughold, the ‘weaker sex with disshevelled hair ran about…uttering lamentations and crying at the tops of their voices’.
In the kingdom monogamy was not expected and although the church disapproved, many of the ruling elite took a liberal view to marriage.
The Chronicles tell the stories of the Kings of Man and the Isles but, like Queens, very little mention is made of ordinary people.

Origins of Female Genital Mutilation

United Nations Member States recently approved the first-ever draft resolution calling for a global ban on female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C).

Hailed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as a major step forward in protecting women and girls and ending impunity for the harmful practice, the text is expected to be endorsed by the UN general assembly this month.

How did the practice begin anyway?

Although theories on the origins of FGM abound, no one really knows when, how or why it started.

"There's no way of knowing the origins of FGM, it appears in many different cultures, from Australian aboriginal tribes to different African societies," medical historian David Gollaher, president and CEO of the California Healthcare Institute (CHI), and the author of "Circumcision," told Discovery News.

Used to control women's sexuality, the practice involves the partial or total removal of external genitalia. In its severest form, called infibulation, the vaginal opening is also sewn up, leaving only a small hole for the release of urine and menstrual blood.

While the term infibulation has its roots in ancient Rome, where female slaves had fibulae (broochs) pierced through their labia to prevent them from getting pregnant, a widespread assumption places the origins of female genital cutting in pharaonic Egypt. This would be supported by the contemporary term "pharaonic circumcision."

The definition, however, might be misleading. While there's evidence of male circumcision in Old Kingdom Egypt, there is none for female.

Epidemic of Rape in Peru

Peru, while famous for its modern culinary delights and ancient civilizations, also has a far less flattering distinction: it has more reported cases of rape and sexual violence than any other country in South America. Eight in ten of these victims are minors.
Researchers estimate that 35,000 pregnancies occur every year in Peru as a result of rape. Women and girls in this situation are faced with two options: seek an illegal abortion and risk going to jail or carry the pregnancy to term and suffer the psychological and physical trauma that go along with giving birth to your rapist’s child. Women who can prove that a pregnancy is the result of rape receive a “reduced” sentence of three months in jail (the standard prison sentence for illegal abortions in Peru is two years). Perversely, this reduced sentence does not apply to married women who are raped by their husbands, even though marital rape is a crime under Peruvian law. Doctors who perform abortions in cases of rape face up to six years in prison.
A coalition of women’s rights groups have launched a campaign to challenge this cruel violation of human rights. The campaign, Dejala Decidir (“Let her decide”), seeks to introduce a new law that decriminalizes abortion in cases of rape (currently, abortion is only permitted when the woman’s life or health is at risk). The groups, led by partners of the International Women’s Health CoalitionPROMSEXDemusCatholics for the Right to Decide-PeruManuela RamosCLADEM-Peru, and Flora Tristán—need to collect 60,000 valid signatures to petition Congress to consider the bill.

The Scream

At the peak of the uprising against now ousted Yemeni strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, Khadija al-Salami left her diplomatic post in Paris to film the mass participation by long-marginalized women in the revolt.

In her documentary “The Scream,” screened at the Dubai International Film Festival, Salami -- who was forced to marry aged just 11 -- focuses on the role women played during the year-long uprising in the impoverished Arab state.

“Traditionally, a woman’s voice must not be heard, just as her hair must remain covered,” said Salami, who herself does not cover her long dark hair.

“I chose this title for my film because women have shouted out through their uprising and movement that they exist” in Yemen’s male-dominated society, she said.

New Delhi Gang Rape Outrage

From Time World:
Last Sunday in New Delhi, at around 9.30 p.m., a 23-year-old woman was gang raped for almost an hour on a moving bus and then thrown semi-naked on the road to die. Hideous violence against women is nothing new in India, but this particular outrage has caused widespread anger. Perhaps it was the casual ferocity of it. Or the fact that it took place on some of the teeming capital’s busiest streets. Or perhaps a nation at great pains to modernize is finding it hard to stomach what feels like an increasingly predatory sexual culture.

Experts say blaming survivors of sexual assault is common in India. Rather than prosecute perpetrators, many say the fault belongs to rape survivors, who are shamed for, say, daring to walk alone, taking public transportation or wearing certain clothes. “Blaming the victim has been in some way also part of the larger design of the system, where you want to push the women to say they are responsible for what happens to them,” says Ranjana Kumari, a member of the National Mission for Empowerment of Women. “It is like saying men are not responsible but it is the women who lured them into this.”

Ancient Female Statue Found

A 2,500-year-old statue of a woman from the late Hellenistic period has been unearthed during the excavations at the Metropolis ancient city in İzmir’s Torbalı district.

According to a written statement made by the Sabancı Foundation, new artifacts are being unearthed during the excavation of the ancient city, which has been ongoing for 22 years as part of a collaboration between the Culture and Tourism Ministry, Trakya University, the Metropolis Association, the Torbalı Municipality and sponsored by the Sabancı Foundation. 

Legacy of Begum Akhtar

Once the toast of cultural circles, artistes and musicians often slip out of public memory as soon as they quit the stage. The late Begum Akhtar still rules hearts in the world of classical music, but in her home State, Uttar Pradesh, her soul-stirring voice has all but faded from the minds of music lovers. In fact, even as preparations are on nationally to celebrate her centenary year - in 2014 - the place of her birth and musical taleem (education) remains oblivious to her legacy.
But that may change soon if 80-year-old Shanti Hiranand has her way. A student of the great vocalist, Shanti has teamed up with fans of Begum Akhtar to revisit her work and has even restored her grave, which once lay forgotten in old Lucknow’s Thakurganj area.
Born in Faizabad, Begum Akhtar later moved to Lucknow and made it her home. She passed away here in 1974 aged 60 and is buried at a two-grave cemetery next to her mother, Mushtari Sahiba.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

FBI Files On Lana Peters

From the Huffington Post:

Newly declassified documents show the FBI kept close tabs on Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's only daughter after her high profile defection to the United States in 1967, gathering details from informants about how her arrival was affecting international relations.
The documents were released Monday to The Associated Press under the Freedom of Information Act following Lana Peters' death last year at age 85 in a Wisconsin nursing home. Her defection to the West during the Cold War embarrassed the ruling communists and made her a best-selling author. And her move was a public relations coup for the U.S.
When she defected, Peters was known as Svetlana Alliluyeva, but she went by Lana Peters following her 1970 marriage to William Wesley Peters, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright. Peters said her defection was partly motivated by the Soviet authorities' poor treatment of her late husband, Brijesh Singh, a prominent figure in the Indian Communist Party.

Maids Rescued From Captivity

From The Star:

Immigration officers rescued 105 foreign women found locked in a four-storey maid agency in Bandar Baru Klang here during a 7.47am raid on Saturday, said Amran Ahmad, Port Klang director of the Selangor Immigration Department.
The women, aged between 18 and 25 years, were locked up at level three and four of the premises, located above the maid agency.
"All the women - 95 Indonesians, 6 Filipinos and 4 Cambodians had only social visit passes and are believed to have entered the country in the last one to six months," he told reporters here.
Police arrested 12 people, including three local men, believed to be employees. The rest were women - five Indonesians, three Cambodians and a Filipino - who were believed to be supervisors of the rescued women, he said.

Women In Post-Taliban Afghanistan

Just before she leapt from her roof into the streets of Kabul, Farima thought of the wedding that would never happen and the man she would never marry. Her fiance would be pleased to see her die, she later recalled thinking. It would offer relief to them both.

Farima, 17, had resisted her engagement to Zabiullah since it was ordained by her grandfather when she was 9. In post-Taliban Kabul, where she walked to school and dreamed of becoming a doctor, she still clawed against a fate dictated by ritual.

After 11 years of Western intervention in Afghanistan, a woman's right to study and work had long since been codified by the U.S.-backed government. Modernity had crept into Afghanistan's capital, Farima thought, but not far enough to save her from a forced marriage to a man she despised.

Farima's father, Mohammed, was eating breakfast when he heard her body hit the dirt like a tiny explosion. He ran outside. His daughter's torso was contorted. Her back was broken, but she was still alive.

In a quick burst of consciousness, Farima recognized that she had survived. It was God's providence, she thought. It was a miracle she hadn't prayed for. But it left her without an escape. Suddenly, she was a mangled version of herself, still desperate to avoid the marriage her family had ordered.

Books & Reviews

It seems today every man and his dog has a blog reviewing books - some are professional reviewers, many are amatuers.  Many blog / review on a regular basis - others infrequently.  I would tend to lump myself in the latter of the two categories - an infrequent amatuer.  I don't get paid to review, I don't actively seek out works to review (I have on a couple of topics that have interested me), and I don't often post a review on every book I have read (I just don't have the time!). I have been approached to review books - some just don't interest me so I don't accept - occasionally one will spark my interest and I will accept.  Trouble is, once publishers (mainly located in UK and USA) realise that I am located in Australia, they quickly lose interest - like we don't read down under!

Anyway, I have posted a few reviews of books I have read here on this blog, Women of History, but now I will post mainly on my other blog, Melisende's Library (and also on Goodreads).

Melisende's Library will feature articles on authors I like, reviews of books I have read, posts on books / collections I own or on books or all things book-related that interest me.  To this end, I am going to collate those reviews I have posted here and send them over to the Library.  

You may find my taste rather eclectic - my favourite genre is history (and the women who have featured) but it is not limited to any particular time or country; however, having developed a passion for reading at an early age, I have gone through reading "phases" - eg: crime, mystery, historical fiction, biography, fantasy, sci-fi, series.  I have probably covered a lot of genres and my own personal Library reflects this.

I also have a passion for collecting books - okay I might be a bit OCD in this area - I collect (or hoard) books - can't throw away anything, even from childhood.  New or old books; printed or e-books; the good, the bad, the ugly - I have them all - and have read about 50% of what I actually own (like I said, not enough time!).

Hope you might spare a few moments and drop into the Library.

Monday, November 19, 2012

18th Century Birthing Chair

From io9:
From the ancient times until the 1800s, many women gave birth with the aid of parturition chairs, specially designed seats that allowed women to sit upright or recline while giving birth. This particular chair had padded leather rests for the mother's legs, but the parturition chairs came in a number of flavors. Some had extendable leg rests that aren't a far cry from modern gynecological stirrups. Others were much simpler, simply giving those assisting with the birth easy access to the infant while the mother remained somewhat upright.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Iran: Four Women Stoned To Death

Varying reports are surfacing that four Iranian women have been stoned to death.

Read More Here -: MFS - The Other News:
Based on reports received by the Melli-Mazhabi  (Religious-Nationalist) website (English translation can be read here), security agents from the Iranian Judiciary transferred the bodies of four women who had been stoned to death to the Tehran forensic medicine department. The bodies are currently in freezers at this department.

The stoning executions occurred two days after the Chair of Judicial and Legal Committee of the Iranian Parliament announced that the act of stoning had been replaced by alternative forms of punishment. According to Allahyar Malekshahi, conditions of adultery, the burden of proof, and the punishment for the offence were discussed in the Committee. According to Mr. Malekshahi, “In Iran’s [Islamic Penal] Code, adultery is punishable by death, but conditions on how to prove the act of adultery has taken place are not mentioned. In order to clarify the law, a separate section was added to distinguish the conditions under which a relationship is qualified as adultery.

Warning: the above links contain images many will find distressing.

Indigenous “Grandmother” Shamans

From Republica:

Hundreds gathered at Boudhanath Stupa on Sunday to welcome 13 indigenous “grandmother” shamans from across the world to Nepal for their first visit as a group.

The spiritual elders - including Nepal´s Tamang healer, Aama Bombo - are touring Nepal for the 12th gathering of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers.  The Council was formed in 2004 to promote alternative medicine, shamanism, indigenous culture, and the urgent need for social change across the globe.

Shamanism is becoming controversial in some sections of the country as more and more people embrace Western medicine.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Inventive Translations of Mary Sidney Herbert

It's hard to imagine a modern family as prominent in as many ways as Philip Sidney and his sister, Mary Sidney Herbert, Countess of Pembroke were. In addition to the social and political prominence of the Kennedys and the wealth of the Kochs, beyond their personal glamour and estates and Philip Sidney's heroism in war, the brother and sister were at the center of scholarship and art—two realms that were less separated in their time than in the present.

Mary Sidney, proficient in Latin and ancient Greek as well as modern European languages, was a brilliant translator as well as a writer in prose and verse. Active as a patron of the arts and a host to artists, she was the center of a circle that included, in addition to her brother, poets Michael Drayton, Edward Dyer, Fulke Greville, and Edmund Spenser.

Her translations of the Psalms (continuing a project of her brother's, after his death) are said to have influenced, in a following generation, her cousin once removed George Herbert and John Donne.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Kateri Tekakwitha - Native American Saint

Some traditional Mohawks are treating the naming of the nation's first Native American saint with skepticism and fear that the Roman Catholic Church is using it to shore up its image and marginalize traditional spiritual practices.

They see the story of Kateri Tekakwitha as yet another reminder of colonial atrocities and religious oppression.

A Catholic convert at 20, she settled in Kahnawake, a Mohawk settlement south of Montreal where Jesuits had a mission and where she and other women performed mortification rituals such as self-flogging as part of their faith. At her death at the age of 24, Kateri's smallpox scars reportedly vanished and later she was reported to appear before several people. She is buried at a shrine on Kahnawake.

Obits For Notable Women

Maria Rosa Menocal, 59, formerly of Philadelphia, a Yale University professor and scholar who studied the interactions of Jews, Christians, and Muslims in medieval Spain, died Monday, Oct. 15, at the home of a friend in Killingworth, Conn., after a three-year battle with melanoma.

Dr. Menocal was born in Havana. When she was 7, a year after the Cuban revolution, she came to Philadelphia to join relatives.

Her family eventually settled in Wayne, and she graduated from Radnor High School. She earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1973; a master's degree in French from Penn in 1975; and a doctorate from Penn in 1979 in philology, the study of language as used in literature.

Early in her career, Dr. Menocal lived in Cairo and studied Arabic. She also lived in Spain and France, her husband, R. Crosby Kemper III, said.

A fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, she was a visiting lecturer or professor at Bryn Mawr College, the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, and the American University in Cairo, among others.

From the Irish Times:
At a time when it was very unusual for people in their 50s to enter university for the first time, Sheelagh Harbison undertook an undergraduate degree in general studies at Trinity College Dublin, which included history.

Her talent was spotted by the great professor of medieval history Jocelyn Otway-Ruthven, who arranged for her to have special tuition in Latin so she could enter the honour school, and study for a moderatorship BA degree in history and political science.
She took her degree in 1972 and went on to complete an M Litt on William of Windsor, an English justiciar of Ireland in the later Middle Ages, subsequently published in a festschrift for Prof Otway-Ruthven.
She continued to work in TCD as a tutor until the 1990s, working also under Prof Jim Lydon. When he retired, she contributed also to his festschrift an essay on Colony and Frontier in medieval Ireland.
Another important work was her study of Rinndoon Castle on Lough Ree for the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Janet Johnson & Demotic Egyptian

From the Chicago Tribune:
Long before Facebook posts and tweets, long before letters with postage stamps, ancient middle and upper-middle-class Egyptians scrawled notes on pieces of clay pots and handed them to children who ran across the village to deliver the messages.
The language these Egyptians used from about 700 B.C. to A.D. 300 is called demotic Egyptian — from the Greek demos, meaning tongue of the common man — and was written in a cursive script during the same period when hieroglyphs were being used to memorialize pharaohs on monuments.
University of Chicago scholar Janet Johnson recently completed a 37-year project compiling the Chicago Demotic Dictionary, which has tens of thousands of words, some of which became "ebony," "adobe" and the name "Susan," surviving the trek across several centuries and cultures.

Ancient Female Oracles Seen As Divine

All ancient societies looked to prophecy and divination to ensure that their beliefs and activities were consistent with the will of the gods. Cosmic order could only be maintained by living a life in harmony with God.
Among the Romans, no prophetic oracle was more important or famous than the Sibyl, the prophetess of Cumae. The Sibyl was an office — like a high priestess — rather than a specific individual.
Throughout the ancient world at different times there were many women who were said to have been Sibyls, including a legendary Jewish Sibyl, the daughter-in-law of Noah, who is said to have lived at the time of the Tower of Babel.
For the Romans, however, the most venerated Sibyl prophesied from a sacred cave-temple at Cumae, near modern Naples in Italy.
The appearance of Sibylline oracles in Roman society dates back to the beginning of Roman history. 

The remarkable history of the Sibyls is recounted in H. W. Parke, "Sibyls and Sibylline Prophecy" (Routledge, 1988). The surviving 14 books of Christianized Sibylline oracles have been translated in James Charlesworth, "The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha" (1983), 1:317-472.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Girl Challenges Taliban

From the Post Gazette:

The Taliban's attempted murder of a 14-year-old girl simply because she campaigned for the right of Pakistani girls to go to school is extreme even by that group's barbaric, medieval standards.

Malala Yousufzai, a young activist who defied the Taliban by pursuing an education and encouraging other girls to do so, was shot Tuesday in the head and neck by an assailant as she sat in a school bus in Mingora, a town in the Swat Valley.

Tribal Tradition Broken In Bihar

From NDTV:
Santhal tribals in a Bihar village have added a new chapter to their ancient custom of young men and women living together - allowing an unwed mother to marry her dead partner's body to make her children legitimate and give them property rights.

Gotul - practised in the tribal regions of Bihar and Jharkhand - allows young adults to cohabit till they are sure that the partner he or she has chosen is good enough for marriage.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Bronze Age Female Metalworker

Archaeologists have discovered remains of a woman believed to be a metal worker from the Bronze Age, a finding that challenges ideas about the division of labour in prehistoric times. Researchers are confident that the skeleton found in Geitzendorf, north-west Vienna, Austria belongs to a woman despite the fact that the pelvic bones are missing. 

The woman was buried with an anvil, hammers, flint chisels and some small pieces of dress jewellery. The choice of funeral artifacts hints at her being a metal worker - the first indication that women did such work thousands of years ago, the Daily Mail reported. She was between the ages of 45 and 60 when she died, researchers said.

See also: 
Ernst Lauermann, director of the prehistory department at Austria's Museum of Ancient History

Lady K'abel - Lady Snake Lord

From the Herald Sun:
Considered one of the greatest queens of classic Mayan civilisation, Lady K'abel ruled with her husband K'inich around 670-690AD. Her title, Kaloomte, translates to "Supreme Warrior" of the Wak kingdom for her royal house - the Snake Lords. Co-director of the expedition.

Washington University in St Louis' Dr David Freidel, said this title gave her greater military authority than her husband.  Excavations in the royal Maya city of El Peru-Waka uncovered the tomb filled with fractured funerary pots, jars and objects earlier this year.

For more news:
From International Business Times: "Lady Snake Lord" Tomb Found
From National Geographic: Tomb of Mayan Queen Found
From Washington Post: Tomb of Maya queen discovered

Monday, October 1, 2012

Iranian Warrior Woman

DNA tests on the 2,000-year-old bones of a sword-wielding Iranian warrior have revealed the broad-framed skeleton belonged to a woman, an archaeologist working in the northwestern city of Tabriz said Saturday.

“Despite earlier comments that the warrior was a man because of the metal sword, DNA tests showed the skeleton inside the tomb belonged to a female warrior,” Alireza Hojabri-Nobari told the Hambastegi newspaper.

He added that the tomb, which had all the trappings of a warrior’s final resting place, was one of 109 and that DNA tests were being carried out on the other skeletons.

Hambastegi said other ancient tombs believed to belong to women warriors have been unearthed close to the Caspian Sea.

Web Links:

Polyandry In The Himalayas

From the China Post:
In ancient times, the sons of almost every family in the region of Upper Dolpa would jointly marry one woman but the practice of polyandry is dying out as the region begins to open up to modern life.

But polyandry prevents the practice of each generation of a family dividing their holdings, and food supplies just manage to cover the locals' basic needs.

Marriages are typically arranged, with a family picking a wife for their oldest son and giving the younger brothers the chance to wed her later.

In some cases the wives will even help raise their future husbands, entering into sexual relationships with them when they are considered mature enough.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Women in Advertising

In the "Mad Men" view of the world, women were just beginning to make headway in the industry in the 1960s and Peggy Olson was an anomaly for a gender stuck in the steno pool. While it may be true that women's presence was limited in the ad world during that era, it's also true that they played a huge part in the development of the U.S. industry far earlier.

"Nothing is more proof that women are important in advertising than the plain fact that they have been in advertising, in one capacity or another, almost from the very beginning of the profession," said Christine Frederick, the founder of Advertising Women of New York.

That was in a speech Ms. Frederick gave in 1938.

In fact, though AWNY was founded a century ago, the first female-owned agency predates the organization by decades. Mathilde C. Weil opened the M.C. Weil agency in New York in 1880. She divided her clients into three categories: entertainment, education and profitable proprietary medicines.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Women Warriors of Mossad

From Globes:

They are one of the State of Israel's most important assets. If we sleep soundly at night, it's in large part thanks to them. If we win the next war, they will have a considerable share in the victory. Our security is entrusted to their hands, but, despite their importance to the country, you won't read about them in the newspapers, you won't see them on television, you can't applaud them. Recognition and glory are not their lot. You can't identify them, because they operate under cover. The women of the shadows.

Their brains invent daring and ingenious operations that make the difference between success and failure. They bring to bear a capacity to improvise, rare expertise, sophisticated weaponry, command of languages, and psychological insight. They have to get inside the mind of the other.

These women working in secret are senior operatives of Israel's intelligence agency, the Mossad, an organization that needs no wordy introductions about the cunning and boldness of its operations.

They live under threat to their lives, to their families, and to their freedom. They disappear from their homes, emerge under various identities, conceal themselves, rub shoulders with the enemy. It's hard to grasp the price they pay. A spy who is captured in an enemy country can expect tough interrogation, torture, and execution.

See also:

Sarah Losh: Forgotten Heroine

In The Pinecone: The Story of Sarah Losh, Forgotten Romantic Heroine—Antiquarian, Architect and Visionary, Jenny Uglow has brilliantly researched web of connections—of friends and family, ideas and influences. Losh left little of herself beyond the stone, wood and glass of her astonishing church and a few other local structures—a mausoleum, a cross, the schoolhouse, some cottages. Ms Uglow believes a diary will emerge one day.

From Amazon:
In the village of Wreay, near Carlisle, stands the strangest and most magical church in Victorian England. Jenny Uglow’s The Pinecone tells the story of its builder, Sarah Losh, strong-willed and passionate and unusual in every way. Born into an old Cumbrian family, heiress to an industrial fortune, Losh combined a zest for progress with a love of the past. In the church, her masterpiece, she let her imagination flower—there are carvings of ammonites, scarabs, and poppies; an arrow pierces the wall as if shot from a bow; a tortoise gargoyle launches itself into the air. And everywhere there are pinecones, her signature in stone. The church is a dramatic rendering of the power of myth and the great natural cycles of life, death, and rebirth.

Losh’s story is also that of her radical family—friends of Wordsworth and Coleridge; of the love between sisters, and the life of a village; of the struggle of weavers, the coming of railways, the findings of geology, and the fate of a young northern soldier in the Anglo-Afghan War. Above all, though, it is about the joy of making and the skill of unsung local craftsmen.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hunger Fuels Child Marriage

In Hawkantaki, it is the rhythm of the land that shapes the cycle of life, including the time of marriage.  The size of the harvest determines not only if a father can feed his family, but also if he can afford to  keep his daughter under his roof.
Even at the best of times, one out of every three girls in Niger marries before her 15th birthday, a rate of  child marriage among the highest in the world, according to a UNICEF survey.
Now this custom is being layered on top of a crisis. At times of severe drought, parents pushed to the wall  by poverty and hunger are marrying their daughters at even younger ages.
A girl married off is one less mouth to feed, and the dowry money she brings in goes to feed others.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tikva Levi & Mizrahi

From Haaretz:
Tikva Levi was only 52 when she died on August 1, but during her short lifetime she wielded a great influence on Israeli society. She was an active presence on a variety of important battlefronts: feminist, Mizrahi, educational, political.

"The ability to combine these battles, the awareness of the fact that they are not separate from one another, was one of the things I admired and loved about her," says Prof. Ella Shohat, a preeminent cultural studies scholar and Levi's fellow traveler and soulmate.

Levi is now recognized as one of the prime movers who managed to connect issues concerning Mizrahim, feminists and Palestinians. Indeed, as far as Shohat is concerned, "Tikva is a metonymy for these battles and a metaphor for a different future space. I admired her ability to connect ideas and to connect to people, and to try to convey these ideas even to those from whom there was presumably no such expectation - those who had been rejected, whether by the left or by feminism.

Further links:- Interview with Rachel Smith

WWII Female Marine Honoured

After training at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, Campbell was sent to Camp Pendleton in San Diego, where women Marines operated the military bases while every able-bodied Marine man was engaged in combat.

“Without women stepping up to the plate in WWII, there was no way those stations could have stayed open,” James said.

During the WWII era, women soldiers had catchy nicknames like “WACS” or “WAVES,” which are both acronyms for women in the Army and Navy respectively.

Campbell was one of the 18,000 women Marines who were enlisted during WWII between 1943 and 1946, James Martin said.

That number was reduced to just a few thousand near the end of the war, until 1948 when Congress voted to give women “full-fledged status in the military,” he said.

Three Women & Hadassah

A hundred years ago, New Yorker Henrietta Szold traveled to Palestine and saw they had no access to medical care. She returned to the United States and started Hadassah, now the largest Jewish women’s organization in the world.
More recently, when Marlene Levine moved from Columbus, Ohio, to Minnesota for her husband’s job, she called on the Hadassah membership to help her make friends. After a move to Naperville, she is now the president of the DuPage/Will Hadassah chapter.
And Melanie Benjamin wanted to, “Tell the stories of strong women, who tried, but not always succeeded to live the lives they were told they couldn’t live because of their gender, the time or their condition.”

Obit: Joan Uebelhoer

From the News Sentinel:
When no one else spoke against inequality, Joan Uebelhoer did. Uebelhoer, longtime activist for the rights of women and the poor, died Saturday at 83 years old. Formerly a petite woman who did not appear as one to stir up debate, Uebelhoer often marched herself into battle for the rights of others.

Some of Uebelhoer’s platforms included advocating a woman’s right to have an abortion, legalizing birth-control pills, and fighting for equal pay among men and women.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

History of Nylon Stockings

From Threaded:

Nylon stockings made their debut in my hometown, Wilmington, Delaware, on October 24, 1939. That’s because Wallace Hume Carothers, the chemist who invented the synthetic material in 1935, worked for the DuPont company, which is headquartered there. In fact, the first test sale to DuPont employees’ wives took place at the company’s experimental station, just up the street from my childhood home. Not long before the 4,000 pairs of stockings sold out—in only three hours!—DuPont had had women modeling nylon hosiery at the 1939 New York World’s Fair, touting nylon as a synthetic fabric made of “carbon, water and air.” A prototype of that initial run (get it?) can be found in the Smithsonian’s collection.

First Female Kiowa Leader

While Kiowa women have always been integral to the workings of the tribe in political, cultural, and social spectrums (regardless of their at times absence from some historical and contemporary records), 37 year old Ah-Keen-Geah-Ah-Lay (Charging After the Enemy) was recently sworn in as the tribe’s first female leader.  Her legal name is Amber Toppah and she is the great-great-great granddaughter of Chief Satanta (White Bear).  Ah-Keen-Geah-Ah-Lay is the daughter of Carol Bearbow Toppah (Kiowa/Cheyenne) and the late Byron Toppah (Kiowa). She is one of a growing number of younger Kiowas to be obtaining higher education degrees and choosing to work within the at times difficult field of tribal governance.