Yennenga – Warrior Princess

Yennenga was an African princess who lived over 900 years ago. She was known as a brave warrior and famous for her strong spirit. Today she is considered to be the mother of the Mossi people of Burkina Faso and is has become a cultural icon.

Much of what we know about Yennenga today comes from oral tradition; stories that have been passed down through history. In some stories Yennenga is known as ‘Poko’ or ‘Yalanga’.

Yannenga was the daughter of King Nedega, who ruled over the Dagomaba Kingdom (which is now part of Northern Ghana.) Yennenga’s three brothers all commanded their own battalions, and as she grew Yennenga also learnt the skills of a warrior. She was an expert horse rider and learnt how to use a javelin, spear and bow. She was a match for any of the men in her father’s armies, and soon she led her own command.

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Lorna Wing

Lorna Wing (1928 – 2014) became one of the world’s leading experts in autism; she died in June this year.

Lorna was born in Kent and trained as a medical doctor, specialising in psychiatry.  She met her future husband while studying medicine and they had a daughter, who was diagnosed in 1962 at the age of three with autism.  This led Lorna to change the focus of her work to childhood developmental disorders and her work was ground-breaking.

As a researcher she refined the sub-groups within a diagnosis of autism, coined the term Asperger’s syndrome (to describe behaviours observed by the Austrian psychiatrist, Hans Asperger) and contributed to the eventual development of autism as a spectrum condition.  She also described the “triad of impairments” which all people with autism show.  Researchers following Lorna owe a great debt to her work.

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Helen Keller

At the Visitors Center to the United States Capitol in Washington, DC, there is a statue of Helen Keller as a young girl, next to a water pump. The statue depicts the famous ‘eureka’ moment when she first connects the word water that her teacher was trying to teach her in sign language, to the water itself. This is the enduring image of Helen Keller, the little blind and deaf girl who learned how to interact in the world through the patience of her teacher and overcame her obstacles to eventually go to Harvard. All of which is true, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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The Women of the Special Operations Executive

During the Second World War the UK’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) had around 50 agents who were female. A small number of these women became fairly well-known, the best examples of these are Violette Szabo, Odette Sansom- Hallowes, and Noor Inyat Khan.

Many of the other female agents can be considered as fairly unknown characters in our history. Some agents found a little fame after the war that had nothing to do with their wartime service for example Lorraine Adie Copeland, wife of CIA agent Miles Copeland, mother of Stuart Copeland and brilliant archaeologist.

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Emilie du Chatelet

This week’s post is written for us by Eileen Tull, who is directing a workshop of a play about Emilie du Chatelet’s life.

I’ve always been something of a history nerd. I come from a long line of history teachers, so I grew up watching Ken Burns’ documentaries, voraciously consuming books about historical figures, and enduring my father’s repetitive jokes about the battle strategies of the French. What most fascinated me, though, was the ever-evolving role of women in history, from Queen Elizabeth to Sacajawea to Carrie Nation to Eleanor Roosevelt.

As I grew up, I began to pursue my creativity passions: the theatre! Through my career, I have created a handful of theatrical projects stemming from history or relating to historical figures in some way.

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Anne Bonny & Mary Read – Swashbuckling Sheroes!

Anne Bonny and Mary Read are two of the most well known female pirates who ever lived! They sailed the seas of the Caribbean, gaining a reputation for how fearsome they were.

Anne Bonny (then Cormac) was born in Ireland in 1702, while Mary Read was born in Plymouth around the same time (no-one knows the exact year she was born.)

Anne’s father was a wealthy man who had left his wife for her mother, who was a servant. When Anne was a child her father dressed her up as a boy and said that she was his nephew, to avoid the shame of having a child with a woman he wasn’t married to. Eventually, when Anne was a young child, their family left Ireland to travel to the ‘New World’: America.

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Caroline Norton

*Trigger warning* Domestic Violence
Caroline Norton, came from a privileged and politically connected family, was a society beauty and was a celebrated writer of poetry.

After the death of her father in South Africa, her family became penniless and she was pressurised into a marriage to support her family. In 1827 she married George Norton who was the Tory MP for Guildford, but Caroline was a Whig who wanted social reform and was interested in improving the lives of factory workers. The pair were political opposites and did not get on with each other.

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