Women’s History? It’s International Women’s History Day today and Women’s History Month in March!
I have read from several different sources that many of the actions of women in history up until now have not been recorded in much detail. Hmmmn. From this blog post by award-winning historian, author and broadcaster Dr. Bettany Hughes “Why were women written out of History?” Bettany says in response to this interviewer
Do you think women have featured less in history than men have?
Absolutely, it’s the inconvenient truth that women have always been 50% of the population, but only occupy around 0.5% of recorded history. Clearly something has gone wrong here, the maths just doesn’t work.
Why do you think this is?
To solve that particular problem I think we need to go right back to pre-history. When we go back into the pre-historic world, we see the polar opposite.
If you look at all the figurines made between about 40,000 BC, until around 5,000 BC – a period which really sees the flourishing of the modern mind- at that time around 90% of all these figurines are of women. So women are very present in the archaeological record, but then start to disappear once pre-history turns into history.
(Sarah) Perhaps that’s because historically we were focused on surviving childbirth, young marriage and the lack of even personal ownership and having a vote! Not that I’m bitter, or anything. 😉
Somewhere along the way, concurrent with the introduction of Christian practice into the Western picture, women started to lose their places in public office and spiritual practice. That was definitely part of it. But women’s history is part of the evolution of the human race!
Two wonderful reads for Women’s History Month
Somehow though I must have picked up on this Women’s History meme subconsciously. My picks from the library during the last week or so definitely fall into this category and cover subjects surprising enough and enthralling enough to include in a blog post.
The first – Nowhere’s Child by Kari Rosvall
At the same time that Hitler’s terrible Nazi regime was gassing families and attempting to wipe out its’ Jewish population, Hitler also had another awful dream related to world domination – the creation of a ‘pure’ Aryan race.
I knew that Hitler organized ‘Youth Groups’ to indoctrinate young children, but I didn’t know about the Lebensborn until I read this book.
Lebensborn translates from the German as ‘Spring of Life’. As families were dying in the gas chambers, Hitler came up with the idea of encouraging Nazi soldiers to have children with Scandinavian women in order to create an Aryan race.
Kari Rosvall’s mother was one of the women forced into this program. If women’s face and body measurements passed muster, they were approved to become pregnant by a Nazi soldier and have a baby for Germany. Over 10,000 children in all were affected by this program.
Created or taken forcibly from families
Some babies were forcibly taken from families and even young children were kidnapped off the street in front of their families, others were ‘created’ by this awful idea. All 10,000 children were taken to Germany and raised in orphanages as the seed children for Hitler’s future race.
Kari Rosvall was one of those babies. She didn’t find out the complete truth until she was 64. Her traumatized mother was never able to have an authentic relationship with her. Kari was lucky to be sent to Sweden when the war was over and as a baby was adopted by a Swedish couple.
It’s interesting to note when you read the book that Kari was traumatized by all of these actions even though she was consciously unaware of them. She suffered a number of health issues and always knew that something was different about her. This book is a life changer and very moving. Never, never again we hope!
Empress Dowager Cixi – the concubine who launched modern China by Jung Chang
This book by Jung Chang (author of the amazing Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China – and if you haven’t read that, read it I command you!) is an account of the true story of a Chinese Emperor’s concubine who on her husband’s death was able to become a ruler until her son took the Chinese throne (1861-1875) – and then she was able to rule again, even after that (1875-1889).
Historically I had some vague perception that China only really modernized after Chairman Mao
But no. Empress Dowager Cixi succeeded in overcoming centuries of tradition during her rule, introducing foreign trade to China, creating a national flag, paving the way for telegraph lines and more modern forms of transport.
Even ruling from behind a yellow screen of silk (initially it was forbidden for an Empress to be seen by anyone other than court Eunuchs) Cixi was able to ride the wave of court intrigue and politics and embrace China’s first wave of industrialization.
If you are interested in an amazing woman of history, Cixi is your lady. There are portraits and actual photographs of her also.