Eleanor Marx has been called the ‘mother of socialist feminism’. She was a political agitator, literary translator, actress and campaigner for workers’ rights – deserving of accolades in her own right as more than just the daughter of her more well known father. Continue reading Eleanor Marx: ‘Mother of socialist feminism’
Dame Freya Stark is legendary for her daring and unorthodox travel throughout the Middle East. She was an observant and prolific writer who became an accomplished cartographer mapping previously uncharted territory in the deserts of Southern Arabia in the 1930’s. Continue reading Freya Stark: a life of daring travel
Margaret, Lady Rhondda, lived a life of wealth and privilege but she was not afraid to stand up for her beliefs as well as support them financially. An only child, she was strongly influenced by her parents Sybil Haig – an active suffragette and David Thomas a Welsh businessman and long standing liberal MP. She was Secretary of the Newport branch of the Women’s Social & Political Union (WSPU) and she joined in with a number of militant and even violent actions, including protest marches and attempting to blow up a postbox. She spent a brief spell in prison before being released after going on hunger strike. Continue reading Margaret Haig Thomas, Lady Rhondda
Christine de Pizan has a strong claim to being the first professional author of any gender. Born in 1364, she was the daughter of an astrologer at the court of Charles V of France. She grew up in a highly cultural and intellectual society, and could have made use of the royal library. She married a court secretary and had two children by him, but was widowed at just 25. It was at this point that her writing career began, with ballads dedicated to her husband’s memory. These drew the attention and patronage of the French aristocracy. For the rest of her life she would be obliged to continue writing in order to support herself and her family. Continue reading Christine de Pizan
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
Who was Catharine Montour? No one really knows. We know that she was an Iroquois woman with a white great-grandfather. We know that she lived in what is now Upstate New York sometime between 1710 and 1804. After that, the stories get confusing, but her legacy lives on.
Her grandmother was also named Catharine Montour, and history often conflates the two. Not to mention all the Noble Savage, or just plain savage, tales that grew up around the younger Catharine. Continue reading Catharine Montour
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