Category Archives: Europe

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich (approx. 1342-1416) is thought to have been the first woman to write a book in the English language.

Very little is known about her, not even her real name. She was an anchoress (a kind of religious hermit, someone who retires from the world for spiritual reasons) and got her name from living in a cell at the Church of St Julian in Norwich. Some believe that she may have come from a rich family in the area and that she might have lost her family during a plague epidemic, but almost no definite information about her personal life still exists. Continue reading Julian of Norwich

Margaret More

Margaret Elizabeth More was born in Harlech on June 26th 1903, to parents William Henry More and Alice. She had much older siblings, Constance, Jack, Frank, Evelyn and eventually a younger brother, George. The family home was Crown Lodge, in Harlech on the rugged Welsh Coast. Margaret was a great deal younger than the next eldest sister Evelyn, and was undoubtedly an unplanned child. As the girls did not attend school, they instead had a governess, with whom Margaret studied music. Margaret was a natural rebel, and the boredom of life away from a big city necessitated that the siblings created their own entertainment.

Continue reading Margaret More

Matilda of Flanders

October 2016 saw the 950th anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, the event in history during which England gained a new King and a new Royal family. English Heritage led the way with a series of Twitter accounts set up to reveal the thoughts and actions of a collection of people affected by the invasion. One of those accounts was for Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William the Conqueror. I was incredibly relieved that English Heritage included her from the start, not just because history should show the perspectives of women as well as men, but because without Matilda, William’s reign as King of England probably wouldn’t have lasted very long. Continue reading Matilda of Flanders

Sappho

Sappho was the original female singer-songwriter, an Ancient Greek Carol King or Joni Mitchell, whose songs were so memorable that people were still writing about them and passing them on centuries later.

Today her name is synonymous with lesbianism – indeed the very word ‘Lesbian’ comes from the name of the island where Sappho lived, Lesbos – due to the many lines of her poetry where she expresses strong, and sometimes sexual, feelings for other women. But there was more to Sappho than just her interest in women. Continue reading Sappho

Julia Varley: champion of the woman worker

In September 2016, as part of Birmingham Heritage Week, Sheroes of History organised an event about Birmingham Sheroes at The Library of Birmingham. It was a pleasure to hear Dr Cathy Hunt speak about Julia Varley. Below is a transcript of her talk. [Not to be cited without the author’s permission.]

The woman I am going to talk about this evening was not a native Brummie. She was born in Bradford in 1871, but I think that the fact that there is a blue plaque on the house in which she lived in Bournville for a large part of her adult life, highlighting the work that she did for women’s suffrage and for trade unionism gives her at least honorary Brummie status – and well deserved it is too. Continue reading Julia Varley: champion of the woman worker

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

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