Penelope Queen of Ithaca

Penelope was the daughter of Icarius of Sparta and his wife Periboea. Although she is the cousin of Helen of Sparta/Troy her lineage is not what she is famous for, Penelope is famous for being the wife of the Greek hero Odysseus, together they were king and queen of Ithaca, they also had one son together – Telemachus.

In the ancient world, particularly Greece, women were ‘seen and not heard’. Men would marry women specifically for the purpose of having children, preferably a boy. Women could not attend assemblies or be a council member, they could not have an education, they did not have jobs or even the right to marry who they wanted, arranged marriage was what would be expected in the ancient Greek world. The women’s main jobs were to provide male heirs and to look after the household (the household being the slaves, cooks and farm hands).

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Frances Power Cobbe

Frances Power Cobbe dedicated her life to fighting for the rights of women, children and animals. She spoke out about domestic violence and founded the first organisations to campaign against animal testing.

Frances Power Cobbe was born in Dublin in 1822. She came from a well known family with quite a religious background; her ancestor, Charles Cobbe, had been the Archbishop of Dublin in the 1700s, a very important position at the time.

Frances was the only girl in her family and had four older brothers. While they were allowed a proper education Frances remained at home for most of her childhood, reading everything she could lay her hands on and educating herself. She was sent to a school in Brighton for a couple of years when she was 14, but this was more of a finishing school for girls and she said it did her no good whatsoever. She was pleased when she returned home and could once again return to her books.

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Mairi Mhor Nan Oran

Skye Gaelic bard and Highland Land League shero, Mairi Mhor Nan Oran.

Mairi Mhor Nan Oran was many things; a nurse and midwife, a one-time prisoner and most notably a gaelic poet and songstress. It was through this work that she earned her shero status and, due to her body type, the name Mairi Mhor Nan Oran, meaning Big Mary of the Songs.

Mairi Mhor was born in Skeabost, on the Isle of Skye in 1821. She was born Mary MacDonald, into a crofting family. Her early life was characterized by the rural and domestic arts typical of her gender and social class, crofting work and home textile production. In her 27th year she moved to Inverness and married a shoemaker by the name of Isaac MacPherson. Around the age of 50 in 1872, Mairi Mhor, whilst engaged in domestic work, was imprisoned for stealing clothes from her mistress. The charge was widely considered to have been unjust.

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Remembering the Munitionettes of the First World War

On Rememberance Day this week thousands stopped for 2 minutes to mark the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month; commemorating the end of the First World War and remembering the millions who lost their lives in that, and other conflicts since.

During that two minutes silence this year my mind was drawn to remember the women who bravely played their part in the Great War, and those who sadly lost their lives in the process.

This week’s post is a little different, instead of focusing on one named Shero I want to write a about the sheroes who worked in the munitions factories during the First World War, whose names have been forgotten; the Munitionettes. I have recently been able to look into the role these women fulfilled and find out more about what their lives were like.

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Mathilde Hidalgo de Procel – First in Everything

Ecuador was the first Latin American state to enfranchise women, in 1929.  The pioneer who symbolised women’s striving for emancipation in a cruelly conservative society was Mathilde Hidalgo de Procel.

She was born Mathilde Hidalgo in Loja, Ecuador in 1889 in a family of six children.  Her father died when she was young and her mother was obliged to work as a seamstress to keep the family.  Mathilde attended a convent school, and she was an academic child but her education was soon to stop as senior schools were reserved for boys in Ecuador.

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Djamila Bouhired – Algerian Freedom Fighter

*Trigger warning; rape & torture*

Djamila was born in Al-Qasaba neighbourhood in colonial Algeria in 1935 to an Algerian father and a Tunisian mother. Her family was a middle class family and she was the only daughter amongst seven sons.

Djamila started her national struggle against the French colonisation from a very young age. She went to a French school where they were forced to sing the anthem ‘France is our Mother’ whereas Djamila would say instead ‘Algeria is our Mother’, which ended up in her getting punished.

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Karolina Widerström – Sweden’s First Female Physician

Karolina Widerström, born in 1856, enjoyed a long and productive career not only as a physician but also as a politician and a champion of women’s rights. Her father, a physiotherapist, encouraged his daughter to follow in his footsteps, which she did. However, Widerström soon realised that she wanted to go into medicine.

Women were given the right to obtain an academic degree in Sweden in 1873, and Widerström began her medical studies in Uppsala in 1879. She received a licentiate degree in medicine from the Karolinska Institute in 1888.

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