Qiu Jin – “Don’t tell me women are not the stuff of heroes”

Qiu Jin is sometimes called the Chinese Joan of Arc; she was a feminist revolutionary who became a national heroine in China after she was martyred.

Qiu was born in 1875 in Xiamen, Fujian into a time where women in China were believed to be lesser than men, and were treated as such. When she was five, as was the norm for girls at the time, her family began binding her feet. She came from a wealthy family and as such was lucky to have access to a good education. She loved reading and began writing her own poetry from a young age. She also enjoyed more physical activities, which were less conventional for girls at the time, such as horse riding and sword fighting! Despite this, the expectations put upon her were the same as for any young woman of the time: that she marry and become an obedient wife and mother.  Continue reading Qiu Jin – “Don’t tell me women are not the stuff of heroes”

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Agrippina the Young

Agrippina the Younger was the first Roman empress, but you will almost never hear anyone call her that. She is best remembered as the mother of the emperor Nero, but she was also the wife (and niece) of his predecessor Claudius, and the sister of Caligula, Claudius’s predecessor. She was much more than a companion for male rulers, however. Although women were forbidden from having any official power in the Roman world, Agrippina ruled the Roman empire in everything but name. Continue reading Agrippina the Young

Rachel Carson and the Paradigm Shift

In 2007, a member of the United States Senate drafted a resolution to honor the 100th anniversary of the birth of a famous biologist; a woman who had been most at home with her nose in a book or on the shores of the sea. Things didn’t go as planned. Havoc ensued as a senator from Oklahoma mounted an outraged resistance against the woman’s memory. The controversial woman was Rachel Carson.

Carson grew up in Pennsylvania and was born with a gift for words—she talked early and had a story published in a St. Nicholas magazine when she was eleven . Continue reading Rachel Carson and the Paradigm Shift

Babe Didrikson Zaharias: the Most Prolific All-Around Athlete in Sports History

For young women with athletic aspirations, life before the enactment of Title IX was vastly different. Primary physical activities for women included cheerleading and square dancing, and a mere 1 in 27 girls played sports in their high school years. Scholarships for female athletics were virtually unheard of, and women received a mere 2 percent of a school’s overall athletic budget.

Despite the limitations placed on women in the decades before the enactment of Title IX, many women had successful athletic careers. One such woman was Babe Didrikson Zaharias, who is arguably one of the most accomplished all-around athletes of our time, who accelerated in nearly every sport she tried: basketball, track, golf, baseball, tennis, swimming, diving, boxing, volleyball. Handball, bowling, billiards, skating, and cycling. Continue reading Babe Didrikson Zaharias: the Most Prolific All-Around Athlete in Sports History

Sheila Kitzinger

Sheila Kitzinger was a British natural childbirth advocate who campaigned for women to have more say in their birth choices. She was an anthropologist and author who was referred to as ‘the Birth Mother of the nation’ and the ‘high priestess of natural childbirth.’

Sheila was born in Taunton on 29th March 1929. Her father, Alec, was a tailor, while her mother, Clare, was Sheila’s inspiration – working for a family planning clinic, campaigning for access to birth control and counselling women from the family living room. It was observing her mother fulfil these roles that sowed the seeds of Sheila’s own passion to support expectant and new mothers. She said about her mother,  Continue reading Sheila Kitzinger