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Friday, 9 March 2012

Awesome Women of History

March is Women's History Month in the US, and this past week has been International Women's Week.   So in honor of that some members of the Hive Mind at the Feminist Armchair Regime have decided to write a little about their favorite women from history (or should we say Herstory).

Insidious Beast - Jeanne d'Arc! 

Liberate Zealot - One of my favorite women is Mary Frith (alias Moll Cutpurse).  She was born poor in the 16th century, stayed lower class her whole life, and never attached herself to powerful people.  By rights she should have never been noticed and long forgotten, and yet she's had several plays and stories written about her and remains discussed to this day.  And it's all because she was badly-behaved and refused to follow societal norms and gender roles about women.  Mary was a pick-pocket, cross-dresser, pimp, fence, asexual woman and all around Roaring Girl!

Malanka Sveta -  I like Catherine the Great. Stole the throne from her weak inneffective husband and then made her guards her male concubines. Sex positive, expanded her borders, was a patron of the arts, pro education for all, and totally kick ass at almost everything she did.

Suk Maklitt - I have to chose Mary Wollstonecraft, an eighteenth-century author and feminist philosopher. In her most famous work, 'A Vindication for the Rights of Women', she argued that women deserved the same human rights as men including the right to an education. Mary moved to France during the French Revolution and it was there she gave birth to her first daughter (out of wedlock which, during a period where women feared to show an ankle, lost her friends and respect). After moving back to England, Mary fell in love with William Godwin - the father of anarchy - whom she married whilst pregnant so their child wouldn't be illegitimate, unlike her first. It was, however, an unconventional marriage: Mary and William chose to be neighbours rather than live together so they could both retain their independence. Considering the attention Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter received for doing the same, you can imagine the tutting that occurred almost two hundred years earlier for Mary and William. Tragically, Mary died from complications after giving birth to her second daughter, Mary Shelley, the future author of Frankenstein. For over a century, Mary Wollstonecraft's work was ignored or thought to be of ill repute due to her nonconformist lifestyle. Nowadays, thankfully, Mary Wollstonecraft is deservedly recognised as intelligent, courageous and forward-thinking.


  1. I'm going with the idea of people who only entered historical records because of their defiance of gender norms. And in that way one person I find very interesting is Thomas(ina) Hall a genderqueer and intersex Virginia Colonist.

    Hall was born in England in the late 1500s, was christened Thomasina and lived the first part of hir life as a woman. Hall's brother was pressed into the military, at 22 Hall called hirself Thomas, presented as a man, and joined the military. Upon finishing service Hall again lived as Thomasina (making lace) until ze moved to the colonies as a man. A little later Hall again presented as a woman and became a servant.
    Somehow it came out that Hall had slept with "Great Bess" and members of the town became interested in what hir true gender/sex was. Various men and women accosted Hall, and went into hir bed room (while Hall was sleeping), to see hir genitals.
    Eventually there was so much interest (and Hall's master wanted to know for rooming and work purposes) that the courts and governor took an interest. The smaller local court ruled Hall was a woman since that was how ze was living and had identified for the majority of hir life. However, the local midwives disagreed since they couldn't "read" Hall's genitals. The Governor of Virginia Colony eventually ruled Hall was both a man and woman, since hir genitals were "both" and Hall had lived as a man and woman at different times. The governor told Hall ze had to dress as a man, with a woman's head covering and apron. Hall also had a pay a bond against hir good behavior (not sleeping with people for changing hir gender presentation).

  2. I've just read this letter in the Radio Times. Has anyone heard of this woman?
    "I'm sad to see possibly England's greatest "She-Wolf" abandoned and forgotten again. I am, of course, speaking of Aethelflaed, Lady of the Mercians and Alfred the Great's illustrious daughter. Without her, England may very well never have come into existence, and she deserves to be remembered.
    When her husband Aethelred died, Aethelflaed ruled Mercia in his place, and by working with her brother Edward, King of Wessex, they were able to open up two offensive fronts against the Danelaw. Vast swathes of land were taken back from the Danes and defensive towns (burhs) were built A true "She Wolf" and worthy of a greater part in English history than she has been given."


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