Monday, June 30, 2008

Blog Beef

Yes, I have a beef about Blogs - not so much the Blogs themselves - but their descriptions. I mean, have you ever searched for a Blog that uses certain key words and come up empty. I did - yesterday.

Take for instance my interest - medieval history. I came across a list of 234 Blogs listed under "medieval interests". Did all 234 have medieval interests - dare I say it - NO!

Simple break down: about half dozen I had already come across which did have medieval / history content - no arguements there. But as for the rest - about another dozen did not exist anymore; about 100 had the barest amount of visible medieval / history content whatsoever (eg: a sentence here and there but not even in context); and the rest had nothing (and I just couldn't be bothered going through more than one year's worth of blogging).

Yes, I spent my time reading blogs about gardening, cats, dead cats, even more cats (cats seemed to be the most popular theme) - and no they weren't medieval or even historical cats!

So, just how true to a Blog's "key words" should a Blog be???? Now me, my Blog is listed under the following key words: women, medieval, history, biography - so I can cover quite a bit without seeming to run off-topic (which I am known to occasionally do). But should a Blog that uses the key words "medieval law" actually contain something akin to medieval law or since the author consistently Blogs about their cat, should it's key words thus be "cat"??? Don't get me wrong - even I couldn't find something in medieval law to Blog about day in and day out - but you would think that there would be the occasional topic - I failed to find one (as I said, one years' worth was enough for me - I just couldn't stand reading about the darn cat or the plumbing or the frozen stock cubes anymore.

I have a list for "women's history" - there's only 15 in that list - I'll let you know how I get on - or not!

Ban on Jirga

From: Dawn

HYDERABAD: MPA proposes village-based committees, ban on jirga: Violence against women
HYDERABAD, June 27: Pakistan People’s Party MPA Humera Alwani has said committees with women representatives should be formed at the village level to curb violence against women and shelters homes should be formed for women victims of violence at district level.

Speaking at a news conference at the press club here on Friday, she said that soon a women protection bill will be presented in the Sindh Assembly.

Ms Alwani said that it was the state’s responsibility to bring about appropriate changes in social and cultural patterns and eliminate prejudices, customs and practices based on the idea of inferiority or superiority of either sex.

The MPA called for banning jirgas and punishing violators and barring them from holding public office.

She said there was a need to repeal all discriminatory laws against women and enact new ones to protect them from all kinds of violence, including domestic, besides sensitising police and judiciary.

Ms Alwani said political representation of women should be strengthened at local, provincial and national levels by providing them with due powers.

She suggested terminating police officer involved in declining to register FIR of honour crimes.

She said there was a need to create awareness among men about the impacts of violence against women and children. She also recommended making aware children of bad impact of violence through curriculum at school level. She said we needed to create financial resources to make women economically independent.

She said extraordinary power used against women or a girl with regard to physical or sexual action was violence against women.

She said in these cases accused were male family members like husband, father, brother, father-in-law and brother-in-law, cousin, close relative, same caste person and in rare cases mothers and daughters-in-law who directly or indirectly were found involved in murder or injuries to women.

Ms Alwani said at least one out of three women around the world had been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused by usually someone known to her. Pakistani women faced crimes as there was room for legislation and implementation to provide safety, liberty and honour to them.

MPA Alwani said their goal was to provide relief, justice and honour to women for living a respectable life.

She said education was a human right but unfortunately female literacy in Pakistan stood at 28 per cent, much below the Third World average of 66 per cent.

She said without literacy there was no hope to help them in understanding religion and outdated tribal and feudal customs and traditions.

She called upon religious scholars, political leaders and other segments of the society to play their active role for elimination of violence against women.—APP"

So, you may ask (and I certainly did) - what is a "jirga"???

Apparently, according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia: "A jirga is a tribal assembly of elders which takes decisions by consensus, particularly among the Pashtun but also in other ethnic groups near them; they are most common in Afghanistan and among the Pashtun in Pakistan near its border with Afghanistan."

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Glasgow Women's Library

From 24Hour Museum:

Scotland's Feminism Archive To Be Given New Home
"Scotland’s long and distinguished history of feminism is to be preserved in a new dedicated Women’s Archive.

The Glasgow Women’s Library currently has material in storage filling 500 packing boxes, containing material documenting the social history of women over the last ten decades.

Now, thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £410,000, the boxes will be unpacked, catalogued and properly archived to form the core collection of a new purpose-built facility within the city’s Mitchell Library.

Containing thirty thousand publications, letters, drawings, recordings, film and photographs the collection illustrates women’s experiences and activism and includes material on family planning, the Suffragette movement and the second wave of Feminism (1960’s – 1980’s).

It also includes rare materials such as the first edition of the 1928 Lesbian novel, the Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall, which despite containing no explicit sexual references, was seen to defend homosexuality and, as such, was instantly banned. Nearly all copies were recalled by the publisher and subsequently figured in an obscenity trial."

Library Details:
2nd Floor, 81 Parnie Street, Glasgow, G1 5RH, Scotland
T: 0141 552 8345

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Women in Sierre Leone

I was reading the article "Women urged to put on veil to maintain respect" - in which women attending the celebrations in Freetown, marking the anniversary of the birth of Fatima Zahra (daughter of the Prophet), were urged to don the veil in order to protect themselves from any unwarranted sexual harrasment.

One of the women attending, "Rugia Marrah said putting on the veil is an age-old tradition even in Roman times before the birth of Christianity. The occasion was also used to extol the virtues of the Virgin Mary who was equated with Fatima Zahra. The two were declared as role models of societies at all times.

The wife of the Iranian ambassador to Sierra Leone Mrs. Fatima Maliki spoke on the virtues of Fatima Zahra who she said is a role model for all women.

The Chancellor of the Iranian Cultural Consulate Mohamed Reza Ghezel Sofla said "Fatima is the brightest example for all women" He added;" Humanity is still in the wilderness and therefore cannot prevail. The current global problem is that humanity has failed to emulate role models like Fatima".

Another female participant Mrs. Nyallay spoke on the virtues of the virgin Mary whose birth and life are also narrated in the holy Quran She urged women to emulate the virtues of Mary so that they would be assets to society.

The occasion attracted people from over the country and was characterized with joy. It provide a forum for the discussion of gender issues of contemporary times and for encouragement for a shift from traditional African perceptions that hinder women's empowerment."

However, it was another comment attributed to Rugia Marrah that startled me: "out of every 100 women 33 acquire AIDS, which she said could be acquired through promiscuity."

Hmm, AIDS can also be acquired through various other means, not just promiscuity - and whose promiscuity is Rugia Marrah referring to. Men are promiscuous - not just women. I do hope that her comments do not naively imply (as they seem to do) that women who do not wear the veil are promiscuous??

And her statistics are also quite startling - 33 out of every 100 women have AIDS. That's one third of all women in Sierra Leone!! The mind boggles at such a thought - can this be true???

Some articles of interest (pdf form):
AIDS in Sierre Leone
Tackling HIV / AIDS in Post-War Sierre Leone

Reform for Nigerian Women

Posted on from Daily Trust:

"A women's group, Gender Electoral and Constitution Memoranda Committee will today present a memoranda to the Justice Muhammadu Lawal Uwais led electoral reform committee which will start public hearing in Abuja today.

Ms. Beni Lar, chairman House Committee on Women Affairs who spoke to journalists in Abuja at a meeting on validation of the memorandum, said a women rally will take off today from the Protea hotel at Asokoro to the International Conference Centre.

While reading the memorandum, Maryam Uwais said that the committee recommended the amendment of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 and the Electoral Act 2006 in order to make it gender sensitive in language, structure and content.

It also recommended that a new subsection should be inserted to section 15 (2) to provide a 35% affirmative action for women that will address historical imbalances and injustices against women. This would include adopting the quota system in appointive positions.

Other recommendations made by the committee include the replacement of the provision for the Federal Character Commission with an Equal Opportunity Commission so that beside geography and ethnicity, gender and disability are reflected in representation, to insert in section 154 that a person shall be either a retired Chief Justice of the Federation or Chief Judge of a State to be qualified for the post of INEC Chairman and a public hearing shall be conducted before confirmation of the appointment."

Education & Women In India

A proposal is being put forward by India's President Pratibha Patil for an all-girls' "engineering and technology-orientated insititute" and to increase the number of positions available in the current Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

This is not the first time the suggestion has been put forward - however, nothing came of the previous suggestion.

It is claimed that Patil is "concerned about fewer girl students making it to the IITs" and has undertaken to take this matter up personally with India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and HRD Minister Arjun Singh.

A problem may arise with what could be perceived as reverse gender discrimination. However, as there are currently many single-sex educational facilities world-wide, this should not be an obstacle in the path of opening up education or increasing the access to educational facilities for women.

You can read the full story at India's "Economic Times"

Protection of Muslim Womens' Rights

From Malaysia's "The Star":
"Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has ordered the setting up of a special secretariat to formulate strategies, visions and development programmes for Muslim women and families.

The Prime Minister, who is aware of the many challenges faced by Muslim women and their children when facing legal matters, wanted the secretariat to address these problems so that their rights will be protected.

Abdullah ordered for the secretariat to be established during a dialogue session with women and Muslim welfare non-governmental organisations (NGOs) yesterday, after hearing the views and suggestions of participants.

Special Adviser to the Prime Minister for Women and Social Development Affairs Datuk Seri Shahrizat Jalil said this was a significant moment for women in the country, particularly Muslim women.

Shahrizat said she would work closely with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Ahmad Zahid Hamidi on the matter.

She said that once formulated, the strategic plan and other programmes would be submitted to the Government and other relevant parties for further action."

This subject bears further watching to see what new programs will be introduced.

Inequality In The Workforce

Are women being unfairly treated in the workplace when it comes to promotion and / or demotion??

Take, for example, a recent story from Baltimore, USA where a woman claims she has not only been discriminated against due to her sex but also her race. Are we still in the cycle of sexism and racism in the workplace??? Have we not yet risen above gender and racial inequality???

The Examiner reports that Rene Swafford was demoted from her local government position due not only to her gender but her race. Swafford claims that the racism is obvious from the fact that many of her duties were given to "a white employee". Swafford also alleges that here appointment was resented and that efforts to carry out her duties in a satisfactory manner were being thwarted.

Yet the County counters Swafford's arguements by commenting that approximately "18 percent of the county government’s 45 top level positions are black, and 62 percent are women". So why is Swafford's not the only case being investigated???

Whilst a Utopian society of gender and racial equality is not a current reality, surely it cannot be that far off.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

News On Women

I came across an excellent blog: "News On Women" - Simply, it highlights the achievements of women technology, the arts, science and especially business.

"NewsonWomen celebrates these women and their hard work. NewsonWomen wants you all to know the career paths of these women as well as what companies are promoting women and the industries where women are succeeding. NewsonWomen reports the news about women achievers every day. The news posted includes promotions, board appointments, honors, awards, job opportunities, and conference information. We all will benefit by sharing information. Sharing is key to success in this new economy."

So, be sure and stop by.

Canada's First Female Muslim MP

From "CNW Group":
"ORONTO, June 24 /CNW/ - "What drives me is social justice," says Yasmin Ratansi, the first Muslim female member of Parliament in Canadian history. "I do not like injustice. I do not like thuggery. I do not like bullying. I like peaceful resolution."

In "Public Interest," the Liberal MP for Don Valley East describes her lifelong fight for social justice, from the prejudice of Tanzania to the partisanship of Parliament Hill: her flight from compulsory intermarriage in Tanzania, her determination to succeed as an immigrant in Canada, and her current status as the chair of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women as a member of the Official Opposition.

A certified general accountant (CGA) by training, Yasmin's profile is accompanied by profiles of fellow CGA politicians Bruce Crozier, Ontario Liberal MPP for Essex, and Carl Zehr, the longstanding mayor of Kitchener, Ontario.

Did the media miss the story of Canada's first Muslim female member of Parliament? How did Yasmin Ratansi change the look of the CBC's hit comedy Little Mosque on the Prairie? What does this Ismaili-Canadian have to say about the immigrant experience in Canada?"

In the June - July 2008 issue of Statements, the bimonthly newsletter of the Certified General Accountants Association of Ontario, Ms Ratansi is profiled by Editor, Colin Ellis.

Here's a little snippet:
The Politics of Prejudice
"Yasmin Ratansi was born in 1951 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, father Abdullah and mother Sherbanu. Originally from India, the Ratansi family was part of a colonial diaspora of Indian immigrants to Africa, an ethnic group that many Africans still classify general terms as “Asian.” The family settled first on the island Zanzibar before moving to mainland Tanzania. Abdullah and Sherbanu’s seven children were third-generation Tanzanians when the post-colonial government of Tanzania began a disastrous flirtation with the politics of prejudice."

After fleeing Tanzania and studying in England, Ms Ratansi arrived in Canada. "With her accounting and financial skills, her community service, and her experience in both the private and public sectors, it was only natural that she would be asked to run for public office. In 1988 she ran as the federal Liberal candidate for Don Valley East and came within a narrow margin of defeating the incumbent Conservative. She served the party in a number of accounting and finance positions before winning election to the House of Commons in 2004. In 2006 she was re-elected as the member of Parliament for Don Valley East.

As a professional accountant her skills have been utilized on a number of standing committees, most notably public accounts, but also environment and sustainable development, human resources, skills development, social development and the status of persons with disabilities, and Canadian heritage. She has also served as the official Opposition critic for national revenue. While she notes that, as an accountant, you can too often be elected to accounting and financial positions, she admits to some surprise when Liberal leader Stephane Dion asked her to chair the standing committee on the status of women.

The first Muslim woman elected to the House of Commons, Yasmin is a member of the Ismaili faith, a branch of Islam that is the second largest in the Shia community. “I’ve been involved in ecumenical work with a number of different religious communities,” she says proudly, “including the Ismaili Council. I understand pluralism and I respect the point of view of others. It has held me in good stead when I go canvassing.”

Abdullah Ratansi died before his daughter embarked on her professional career, though Sherbanu Ratansi lived to see her daughter become a CGA. Proud proponents of education for young women, they would be proud to know that their daughter is not only the chair of the standing committee on the status of women, but is a pioneer in Canadian parliamentary history."

You can view the entire 4 page article at:
June - July 2008 Statements - pages 10 - 14

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Maria Comnena

Queen of Jerusalem

Maria was the grandniece of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel I Comnenus of Constantinople (d.1180). Maria was also related to Theodora Comnena, who had been married to Baldwin III, brother of Maria's furture husband. Maria went to Tyre where she was married to King Amalric of Jerusalem (29 Aug 1167). Maria was given Nablus as her dower lands.

However, Maria only gave birth to daughters - one died young (prob bc.1171), and Isabella aged 2 on father's death (1173). Maria was the stepmother of King Baldwin IV (her husband's son by his first marriage of Agnes of Courtenay). Maria was hated by Amalric's first wife Agnes. After the death of her husband, Maria married again, this time to Balian of Ibelin, brother of Hugh who married Agnes (confused yet??).

Maria bore Balian a son, John of Ibelin, Lord of Beirut. Maria and Balian were happily married - an unusual occurrance for that day and age when marriages were arrange soley for policitial reasons and not for love. Maria played a substantial role in her husband's party against the machinations of the opposing party led by Agnes. Maria's daughter Isabella married Humphrey IV of Toron (1183). Whilst at Nablus drumming up support for her husband, Sibylla (daughter of Agnes) pronounced herself Queen of Jerusalem (1186). Though not part of the royal political party, her husband Balian urged Maria to send knights to go to the aid King Guy (1187) at the battle of Hattin.

Maria then went to Jerusalem, but the city was then besieged by Saladin, who gave her given safe conduct to Tyre with children and her household. Maria persuaded her daughter Isabella to divorce the weakling Humphrey of Toron and instead marry Conrad of Montferrat (1190). Maria spent her live in the Holy Land, where she constantly worked to the advantage of her family. Her daughter Isabella eventualy succeeded the the throne of Jerusalem.

As the grandmother of Alice of Champagne, Maria conducted the marriage negotiations with Cyprus (1208). This is the last time Maria is mentioned.

Theodora Comnena

Queen of Jerusalem

Theodora was the niece of Emperor Manuel I Comnenus of Constantinople (d.1180). At the age of 13, Theodora was married to King Baldwin III of Jersualem. She arrived at Acre (Sept 1158) then went to Jerusalem for the marriage ceremony. Theodora's marriage was of short duration - she was widowed aged 16 - no children (c.1162).

Theodora retired to her dower town of Acre. It was here that 21yo Theodora was visited by cousin Andronicus, aged 46 - she at height of her beauty, and it was a case of love at first sight on both sides (c.1167). Theodora and Andronicus went to Beirut and she lived there as his mistress.

But the Emperor got wind of their little love-nest, and public pressure forced the two to seperate. But they had other plans: Andronicas prepared for his return to Constantinople and Theodora went to Acre - there they abandoned all and fled to Damascus. Andronicus and Theodora visited Baghdad, and were given a castle near Paphlaganian border of Empire by the Moslem Emir. Both were excommunicated by church. To support both Theodora and himself, Andronicus lived the life of a brigand.

What happened to Theodora after this is unknown but what is known is this: Andronicus was living in retirement in Pantus (c.1180); he was forgiven by Emperor Alexius, on whose death he was put forward as a national leader by his friends in Constantinople; he marched across Anatolia (1182), and on entering Constantinople (1182); he assumed the role of regent for Emperor Alexius II, and had himself crowned co-Emperor. Andronicus initiated the killing of Alexius (1183), and there followed the mysterious deaths of Maria Comnena and her husband Ranier of Montferrat (Maria was the heir-presumptive of the young Alexius); the Empress, Maria of Antioch was comdemned to be strangled. Aged 62, Andronicus married 12yo widow Agnes of France (wife of the young Alexius II), therefore we can assume that Theodora was dead prior this marriage - how and when she died is unknown.

Margaret of Anjou

Queen of England

Queen of Henry VI of England. Margaret was born (23/3/1429) at Pont-a-Mousson, Lorraine. She was the daughter of Duke Rene of Anjou (King of Naples and Sicily) by his first wife Isabelle, Duchess of Lorraine. She was also the niece of Charles VII of France. Margaret was promised to Henry when she was still young - they were married by proxy (24 May 1444) . Aged 15yo, Margaret was married to 24yo Henry (22/4/1445) at Titchfield Abbey. Then she was crowned at Westminster Abbey (30/5/1445).

Margaret had been educated at the French court, and was an intelligent, pretty, and strongminded young woman. As a result, Margaret tended to dominate Henry and was very determined to keep him on throne (remembering that this was the period in English history known as the War of the Roses between the Lancastrians and Yorkists). As Queen of England, Margaret headed the Lancastrian forces. She also controlled the government of England and husband during his fits of insanity (1445 - 1453). After many years of childlessness, Margaret gave birth to a son, Edward of Lancaster (1453) - to whom she was devoted. Henry was deposed by Yorkists (1461): after the Lancastrians defeated Warwick at St. Albans, they hesitated and lost chance. The Yorkist won a victory at Towton, which put Edward IV on the throne of England.

Margaret, with her young son in tow, fled to Scotland and thence to France (1461). She was not long there when she returned to England and invaded Northumbria (1462). But this did not achieve anything so Margaret once again returned to France. Gathering her forces, Margaret again landed in England (1470); this time she was strong enough, her army prevailed and Henry was replaced on the throne of England. But her success was shortlived and the Lancastrian forces were defeated by Yorkists at Tewkesbury. It was in the battle that Margaret's son was killed.

When Edward IV regained the throne, Henry VI was soon put to death in Tower of London - said he was killed whilst at prayer (21/5/1471). Margaret herself was captured and imprisoned in Tower. Edward IV eventually ransomed her to King Louis XI and she was allowed to return to France. Margaret spent rest of her life in seclusion. She died (25/8/1482) at Chateaude Dampiere, near Saumur, and was buried in Angers Cathedral.


Queen of Halicarnassus

Named after Artemis, the Goddess of Hunting, Artmesia was the daughter of Lygdamis, a wealthy Greek Halicarnassian and a Cretan mother.

After the death of her husband and till her young son was old enough to rule in his own right, Artemisia was Queen-Regent of Halicarnassus (modern day Turkish Bodrum). Though a culturally Greek kingdom, Harlicarnassus lay within the bounds of the great Persian Empire and thus owed allegiance to Xerxes. As a vassal of Persia, Artemisia was obliged to recruit her own small force when Xerxes invaded Greece (c480 BC) - in fact, Artemisia commanded five ships in her own right.

Artemisia alone of his commanders, advised Xerxes against a naval battle with the Greeks. But Xerxes, however, chose to follow the advice of his male advisors, and met the Greeks on the sea in the channel of Salamis> on 20th September 480 BC. Artemisia was not an idle spectator, she was actually aboard one of her ships, commanding their movements. After the initial confusion, the Persians took the offensive.

Though she only had one ship left, Artemisia herself disabled the ship of King Damasithymus of Calynda, with whom she may have had a personal grudge. Artemisia was so successful on the sea that the Athenians offered a prize of 10,000 drachma to any who captured her - not necessarily alive, for she embodied the spirit of the Amazons, whom the Greeks had defeated once before. Although the victor, Xerxes wanted to end the war with the Greeks, but foremost he wanted to save face.

At a council, Artmesia spoke her mind - she had opposed the war from the beginning and opposed its continuation. Artemisia advised Xerxes to leave his trusted commander Mardonus to pursue the Greeks whilst Xerxes himself return home. He would still maintain his dignity, whether in victory or defeat. For her wisdom, Xerxes entrusted Artemisia with the care on his sons, and returned home to a kingdom racked by rebellion and conspiracy, to which he ultimately became a victim.

Artemisia is said to have returned to Halicarnassus and ruled till her own son was of age, her kingdom prospering from her good relations with Persia. Artemisia's popularity and fame was such that many of the wives of the Kings of Halicarnassus were named after her till well into the 4th century BC.

Galla Placidia, Empress

Daughter of Roman Emperor Theodosius the Great. She was the sister of the eastern Emperor Arcadius and the Roman Emperor Honorius. Aged 7 (395), her mother died in childbirth and this was followed by the death of her 49yo father at Milan. Galla was in Rome under the care of her father's niece Serena when this sad news reached her. She remained in Rome with Serena.

Aged 21, Galla was in Rome when the Visigoths besieged the city (410) and she was taken hostage. When Alaric, the Visigoth King died, the Imperial court at Ravenna demanded the return of the Princess Galla - she was not returned immediately but treated with courtesy by her Christian captors who kept bargainning for her release. Still an honoured captive, the Visigoth King Atahaulf decided he wanted to marry her and make her Queen of the Visigoths (412). Galla herself appeared to be receptive to this but her brother Emperor Honorius was appalled and demanded her return. Defying her brother, Galla married Atahaulf at Narbonne (414) and moved to the Visigoth capital at Barcelona. This marriage barely lasted one year for Atahaulf was murdered (415) - his dying wish was for Galla to be returned to the Imperial court at Ravenna - she was aged 27.

Unfortunately for her, the new King Sigerice mistreated her but he himself was murdered only a week after his accession. Sigerice was succeeded by the Goth Wallia, who agreed to send Galla back to Ravenna. Two years after her return, Galla was married - against her will - to Constantius (417) though she had done her best to fend off his advances. That same year, she gave birth to a daughter Justa Grata Honoria, and a son Flavius Placidus Valentinianus (418).

Galla was made Augusta/Empress by her brother the Roman Emperor Homorius (421) and her husband was made co-Emperor. Shortly after, her husband died of pleurisy and 33yo Galla was ordered to return to Rome by her Emperor brother. Fearing for her own safety and that of her children, Galla fled to Constantinople, where her nephew (the son of her brother Arcadius) ruled as Emperor Theodosius II (421). Life at the eastern court was not all that easy for Galla - she was disliked and distrusted by her nephew. Roman Emperor Honorius died at Ravenna (423) and Eastern Emperor Theodosius II grudgingly granted Galla and her son Valenntinian imperial rank. The following year (424) Theodosius organised the invasion of the Western/Roman Empire - he was accompanied by Galla and her two children. Galla's 6yo son was hailed as Roman Emperor Valentinian III (425) and 36yo Galla effectively controlled the Western Empire for the next ten years, although as a woman she was unable to enforce her will through control of the Roman Legions but instead used her wiles to manipulate rival generals, bu shrewdly playing them off against court officals. Galla acted as effective regent for her son until court intrigue, rebellion and invasion sapped her of her power.

Galla's daughter Honoria, sister of Emperor Valentinian, fled Rome and sought protection fro the Hun leader Attila in order to avoid marriage (449) - though Attila claimed that this act constituted a marriage proposal and so he accepted Honoria as an affianced bride and demanded half the Western Empire as her inheritance. Galla didn't live long enough to see the conclusion of this (the eventual Hun invasion of Rome), dying at Ravenna aged 68 (450) - her nephew, the Eastern Emperor Theodosius II dying the same year.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Rehabilitation for Swiss Miss

From: Europe's Last Executed Witch to be Cleared
"Swiss authorities are preparing to exonerate the last woman in Europe to be executed for witchcraft.

Anna Goeldi, a maid in the small alpine region of Glarus, was beheaded in 1782 for being a witch after she confessed under torture to conversing with the devil and poisoning the daughter of the house. Campaigners claim she was the victim of a conspiracy between the eastern town's judical and Protestant church authorities.

Goeldi was employed by the family of a rich married politician, who after having an affair with her denounced her for witchcraft claiming she made his daughter spit pins and suffer convulsions. The trial and beheading in the village of Mollis was carried out at a time when witch trials had disappeared from most places in Europe.

She was executed even though the law at the time did not impose the death penalty for nonlethal poisoning, it added. Goeldi's torture and execution was even more incomprehensible as it happened in the Age of Enlightenment when "those who made the judgment regarded themselves as educated people," the government said in a statement.

Several thousand people, mainly women, were executed for witchcraft between the 14th and 18th centuries in Switzerland, as they were elsewhere.

The ruling will be referred to the Swiss Parliament for final approval."

Monday, June 9, 2008

Saudi Women

This is an old article - from 2003 - but I found it still quite pertinent today.

Bright Future Awaits Saudi Women" by Samar Fatany
"Young women today are more aware of their strengths and capabilities. They are no longer intimidated by the male-dominated culture that continues to marginalize their role in society. The status of women in the Kingdom is slowly changing, and women remain determined to assert their position as contributing citizens in all fields: Socially, economically and politically.

The government has provided more opportunities for women in the work force. The latest statistics show that 54 percent of university graduates are women. Employers seek these well-qualified women due to their determination and professionalism.

Saudi women are slowly learning to take advantage of the newly introduced laws, as well as existing ones. They also continue to demand the elimination of discriminatory laws governing legal guardianship, exclusion from the Shoura Council and standing for municipal elections. Women attorneys still await the right to practice law. Women hope to achieve better lives and brighter futures for their sons and daughters. They continue to challenge policies that discriminate against them and elements that resist modernization and constructive change."

But there was one paragraph that really caught my attention:
"The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has implemented new laws to protect women in the work force. Under the new labor law, pregnant women are protected from termination due to maternity leave issues. Women get 10 weeks of maternity pay — four weeks before birth and six weeks after — in addition to the one-month paid vacation allowed to all workers. Employers have to pay full pregnancy-related health expenses. Moreover, companies that employ more than 50 women are now required to have onsite nurseries, and women get an hour during the shift to breastfeed. The laws also stipulate that in the event of employers failing to follow the new regulations, labor office branches will follow up on complaints in order to ensure compliance."

Why did this take my attention - simply because here in Australia we are still arguing over whether women should be entitled to paid maternity leave - and this is 2008! The question of whether women who took maternity should be paid has been hotly debated in Parliament since 2001. Don't get me wrong - women can take maternity leave - unpaid maternity leave!

In 2007, the Australian Democrats (Australian political party) "re-introduced historic federal legislation to establish a paid maternity leave scheme that would provide all working women with 14 weeks Government-funded leave at the minimum wage on the birth or adoption of a child." (Source: Australian Democrats website).

From the ACTU website: "Paid Maternity Leave Is Long Overdue"
"Australia lags well behind the rest of the world in supporting new mothers. Over 157 nations around the world have some kind of paid maternity leave provision. The consequences of Australia not having paid maternity leave means that Australia has one of the lowest levels of workforce participation for women between the ages of 25 and 44 and is ranked 23 out of 24 OCED nations. Australia and the United States are the only two OECD countries that do not offer paid maternity leave.

The ACTU has been campaigning since 1979 to get a government funded paid maternity scheme and we firmly believe that now is the best opportunity to achieve a 14 week scheme that we can build on in the future."

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel .... There was this report from the ABC last week: "Unions Praise Woolworths' Paid Maternity Leave"
"The ACTU [Australian Council of Trade Unions] has praised supermarket chain Woolworths for its plans to introduce paid maternity leave entitlements for staff. From next month, women who have held permanent positions for at least two years will be entitled to up to eight weeks' leave at full pay.It is a similar plan to the one introduced by retailer Myer earlier this year.ACTU president Sharan Burrow says she hopes other retailers will follow suit."This is good news, good news for the women, good news for their families of course, but also good news for Woolworths and the economy more broadly, as women are more easily able to return to work knowing that they've had a period of job security," she said."

So, those of you who have it (paid maternity leave) - enjoy it! Whilst those of us who don't, will just have to keep on waiting.

Women as Clergy

Women in religious office seems to have piqued my interest over the past week or so. As such, I would like to post a couple more articles pertaining to women in religious ministry.

"When Churches Started to Ordain Women"
"In 1660, Margaret Fell (1614 - 1702) published a famous pamphlet to justify equal roles for men and women in the denomination. It was titled: Women's Speaking Justified, Proved and Allowed of by the Scriptures, All Such as Speak by the Spirit and Power of the Lord Jesus And How Women Were the First That Preached the Tidings of the Resurrection of Jesus, and Were Sent by Christ's Own Command Before He Ascended to the Father (John 20:17)."

There follows a time-line of womens' role in religious ministry globally.

"Are There Female Ministers In the Bible?"
"But being a servant in these churches was understood. Everyone could serve (diakoneo), whether it was to get the hall ready for services, or to participate in socials and fund raising! Everyone among the "laity" pitched in to get the job done in the local congregations. Among the elite, it was possible to become a deacon (a male diakonos) or a deaconess (a female diakonos), but only a male could become a minister (diakonos) -- a local elder or a pastor."

"Changing Female Religious Leadership in Christianity"
"Christianity in America has had a gender paradox for a long time. Female church adherents have been predominant in the churches, but males have dominated church leadership. As women female clergy rapidly increased their numbers during the 1970s, however,but the history of female leadership in Christianity is not monolithic. By focusing upon on a the historically nationwide American Methodism as a case study, this thesis discusses how female religious leadership has historically changed and developed throughout the history of American religious society."

"Female Religious Congregations"
A list of female congregations.

"Female Religious"
A number of essays about women and religion.

Female Rabbis

This was a totally new concept to me - why, you might ask, should it be considering the number of females being ordained in the Anglican Ministry.

Here's a little article that I came across just recently:
From the Buffalo News: "Female Rabbis Common Today"
"Q: Why does the Jewish faith allow female rabbis? Has this always been a part of the Jewish tradition? If not, when did the change take place? I don’t remember females in this role in the Old Testament.

A: There were no women rabbis in the Hebrew Bible because there were no rabbis in the Bible. Rabbis emerged as the leaders and teachers of Judaism after the priestly Judaism died with the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in the first century.

The opposition of rabbis to ordaining women was based on their ruling that women are exempt from all commandments that must be fulfilled at a specific time. This exemption was not the result of sexism but rather of not wanting to put women in a position where they’d face a conflict between their duties as mothers and their duty to fulfill a particular commandment. No one wanted women to have to leave a child to obey another commandment.

The problem, however, was that in Jewish law, you can’t obey a commandment that you’re not obligated to obey, and because women were not obligated to pray at a certain time and read from the Torah at a certain time like men, they couldn’t simply decide to do these things when they had no other family obligations. So, because women could not read from the Torah, lead the congregation in prayer, or be counted in the group of 10 Jewish men needed to pray communally (called a minyan), they could not be rabbis.

After the rise of liberal Judaism at the beginning of the 19th century in Germany, and then in America, a more inclusive view of the role of women was adopted. Now women and men could sit together during prayer. Now women could have bat mitzvahs and could become rabbis.

However, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear and have more to do with sexism in America than anything in the new understanding of Judaism, no women were ordained until Sally Priesand became a rabbi in 1972. I had the honor of being ordained with her at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, the seminary of Reform Judaism. Sally just retired from the pulpit to become Rabbi Emerita of the only synagogue she ever served, Monmouth Reform Temple, Tinton Falls, N. J.

Today a large percentage of rabbinical and cantorial students at HUC-JIR are women. Women can be ordained as rabbis in the seminary of Conservative Judaism and Reconstructionist Judaism. Even some Orthodox rabbis are looking into ways to accommodate both the demands of traditional Jewish law and those of parents who want their daughters to have the same spiritual horizons in Judaism as their sons.

All this began with Sally Priesand, whose accomplishment reminds us all that one person can make a difference in the ancient wisdom traditions that must balance responsiveness to what the world is learning with respect for the accumulated wisdom of the past. God bless you, Sally!"

For more about Sally Priesand

- Jewish Women & the Feminist Revolution

- Nations First Female Rabbi Retiring
"Sally J. Priesand, the first U.S. woman rabbi, arrived at Jewish seminary nearly 40 years ago determined to fulfill her dream to become a teacher of her faith. Many people thought she came for a different reason. Now as she prepares to retire more than three decades later, Priesand is widely seen as a role model who's helped change contemporary Judaism."

- Sally Priesand - Wikipedia

Shirley Bridge

1922 - 2008
Philanthropist & Womens' Advocate

Shirely passed away late last month - she had been battling cancer for many years - and it was a battle she ultimately lost. Her passing did not go unnoticed - and she will be missed by those whose lives she touched.

From an article by Casey McNerthney:
"When Shirley Bridge was married six decades ago, it was common for women to give up their professions and stay home to support their families. But the former Shirley Selesnick told her fiance she would marry him on the condition that she would continue her career, being one of the state's first female pharmacists. And when the rabbi was rehearsing their wedding ceremony, she had him change the phrase "love, honor and obey" to "love, honor and cherish."

Bridge, a lifelong women's advocate, showed the same passion for philanthropy and Democratic ideals. She helped develop Seattle AIDS housing, brought improvements to Harborview Medical Center and her work benefited the Northwest School for Hearing-Impaired Children, among other organizations.

Bridge was a founding member of the Women's Endowment Foundation of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle and was past president of the Seattle Women's Commission. After serving as the co-chairwoman of the campaign that established the Bailey-Boushay House, a nationally recognized hospice primarily for AIDS patients, a West Seattle AIDS housing facility was named in her honor. The Women's Endowment Foundation created the Shirley Bridge Power of One Award. And she received numerous other local awards for her volunteer work.

Bridge battled five primary cancers after getting her first diagnosis in 1955."

You can read more about this amazing woman:
Seattle Times
"Mrs. Bridge was a mentor and role model for decades to women in leadership positions in the Seattle area, Lieberman said. She also served on the boards of the Seattle Opportunities Industrial Council, the University of Washington Development Board, Women's Law Center and Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organization of America. Decades ahead of her time in the push for women's rights, she had opted not to promise to "obey" her husband at their 1948 wedding, but vowed to "love, honor and cherish" him, according to a Jewish Women's Archive article."

Seattle Post
"After serving as the co-chairwoman of the campaign that established the Bailey-Boushay House, a nationally recognized hospice primarily for AIDS patients, a West Seattle AIDS housing facility was named in her honor. The Women's Endowment Foundation created the Shirley Bridge Power of One Award. And she received numerous other local awards for her volunteer work."

Bride's "white lie"

Yes, the saga of the bride who was not the virgin she purported to be continues.

Further to: "Virgin Appeal" - from Australian newspaper "The Age":
"The ruling ending the Muslim couple's union has stunned France and raised concerns the country's much-cherished secular values are losing ground to cultural traditions from its fast-growing immigrant communities.

The decision also exposed the silent shame borne by some Muslim women who transgress long-held customs demanding proof of virginity on the wedding night.

In its ruling, the court concluded the woman had misrepresented herself as a virgin and that, in this particular marriage, virginity was a prerequisite.

But in treating the case as a breach of contract, the ruling was decried by critics who said it undermined decades of progress in women's rights. Marriage, they said, was reduced to the status of a commercial transaction in which women could be discarded by husbands claiming to have discovered hidden defects in them.

What began as a private matter "concerns all the citizens of our country and notably women," a statement from her ministry said.

The hitch is that both the young woman and the man at the centre of the drama are opposed to an appeal, according to their lawyers. The names of the woman, a student in her 20s, and the man, an engineer in his 30s, have not been disclosed.

The young woman's lawyer, Charles-Edouard Mauger, said she was distraught by the dragging out of the humiliating case. In an interview on Europe 1 radio, he quoted her as saying: "I don't know who's trying to think in my place. I didn't ask for anything. ... I wasn't the one who asked for the media attention, for people to talk about it, and for this to last so long."

The issue is particularly distressing for France because the government has fought to maintain strong secular traditions as demographics change. An estimated 5 million Muslims live in the country of 64 million, the largest Muslim population in Western Europe."

So, are we championing the rights of a woman in the face of cultural tradition ...... and if so, what right do we have to do so. The woman in question is not seeking to appeal the decision - neither is the young man in question. So, what right do we have ... ???

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Meet the Flintstones ....

It was seem that that old image of the "cave man", club over shoulder, dragging off his woman by her hair really isn't that far from the truth. That is according to the latest theory based on archaeological evidence found at a mass grave in Talheim.

From an article by Roger Highfield, in "The Telegraph":
"Now a relatively new method has been used to work out the origins of the victims tossed into a mass grave of skeletons, and so distinguish one tribe from another, revealing that neighbouring tribes were prepared to kill their male rivals to secure their women some 7000 years ago."

Previous tests proved inconclusive; however a "new method was used to separate the victims by geographic origin, it was clear that the local group was special - local because it was the only group with any young children, and special because it was the only group without adult women, despite being the largest group.

The researchers conclude the absence of local females indicates that they were spared execution and captured instead which may have indeed been the primary motivation for the attack.

German experts determined that the majority had been killed by a blow to the left side of the head, suggesting the victims were bound and killed, probably with a stone axe. Others may have been killed from arrow-wounds from behind as if the victims had tried to flee."

Interesting theories .....

Roger Highfield has written a couple of other articles that may be of some interest:

Men age faster "because of Stone Age sex"

"Now it seems that the reason is that our prehistoric male ancestors kept female harems and fought over them to procreate: because male life was nasty, brutish and short, evolutionary forces focused on making males big and strong, rather than long lived.

The discovery is reported today [17th October 2007] in the Proceedings of the Royal Society Biological Sciences by Prof Tim Clutton-Brock of Cambridge University and Dr Kavita Isvaran of the Centre for Ecological Studies, Bangalore, India.

Thus the very fact that men age faster and die younger than women tells us something about human Stone Age society. "The fact that there are sex differences in the life spans of men and women suggests that our ancestors were not monogamous," said Prof Clutton-Brock."

Our male ancestors had harems of women

"Our prehistoric male ancestors kept female harems and fought over them to procreate: because the potential number of offspring was greater for males, competition for mates was severe. As a result, evolutionary forces focused on making males big and strong, rather than long lived.

Prof Tim Clutton-Brock of Cambridge University and Dr Kavita Isvaran of the Centre for Ecological Studies, Bangalore, India found that the difference in lifespan between males and females in creatures such as red deer, prairie dogs, lions, baboons, geese, mongooses, wild dogs, beavers and others grows in direct proportion to the degree to which an animal's society is polygynous, that is a society where one male enjoys the attentions of several female breeding partners.

Thus the very fact that men age faster and die younger than women suggests human Stone Age society was polygynous."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

"Virgin" Appeal

Further to my earlier post on the "Myth of the Modern Virgin" - it would seem that an appeal in underway in the case of a Muslim man annulling his marriage on the grounds of his wife's lack of virginity.

France's Justice Minister, Rachida Dati, has asked that this case be appealled. The verdict caused a furore in France when it was handed down, and now it has made international headlines.

From the "International Herald Tribune":
"Politicians, feminists and human rights activists have denounced the court's ruling as an affront to the legal equality of men and women and a violation of a woman's privacy.

"The annulment of a marriage by the court in Lille has sparked lively social debate. This private affair goes beyond the relations between two people and concerns all citizens of our country, especially women," the justice ministry said.

Dati has lodged a request for the public prosecutor's office to file an appeal against the court's judgement, the ministry said in a statement.

In an online interview broadcast by the Figaro newspaper, Prime Minister Francois Fillon said that while he understood the reason behind the judge's decision, the case merited an appeal."

Other newspapers ran the story:

"The Australian" ~~~ "The Sydney Morning Herald" ~~~ "The Star" ~~~ "The Australian" (May 30th edition) ~~~ "The Irish Times" ~~~ "BBC News" ~~~ "Arab News" ~~~ "Gulf Daily News" ~~~ "The Times" ~~~ "Fox News" ~~~ "Dawn"

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Miracles of Mother Mary MacKillop

From "The Herald Sun" newspaper:
"The Vatican has launched a judicial inquiry into the case of an Australian woman who claims to have been cured of inoperable lung cancer in 1993 through the intercession of saint-in-waiting Mary MacKillop.

Two doctors will examine the case for evidence of a second miracle needed for sainthood. The first miracle, which led to the beatification of Mary MacKillop, was the cure of another woman of leukaemia in 1961. In 1995 Pope John Paul beatified Mary MacKillop, earning her the title of Blessed (Mother) Mary.

The latest development is the closest the Josephite order, which Mary MacKillop founded, has come to meeting the requirement for a documented second miracle, Fairfax newspapers report."

More on Mary MacKillop:
Blessed Mary MacKillop - Sisters of St. Joseph website
Mary MacKillop in Portland
Blessed Mary MacKillop
Mary MacKillop - wikipedia website

Bishop Darling

Its official! Barbara Darling was consecrated Bishop yesterday in front of a pack congregation at Melbourne's St Pauls Cathedral.

Barney Zwartz from "The Age" newspaper reports:
"As Melbourne's Archbishop Philip Freier presented newly consecrated Bishop Barbara Darling to the congregation, there was wild applause, topped by triumphant ululations by the Sudanese choir from her Dandenong church.

Bishop Darling, one of the pioneers of women's ministry in Australia, had just become Melbourne's first woman bishop, Australia's second (by nine days), and only the 24th woman Anglican bishop in history.

Nineteen bishops were present for the historic service, including Australia's first woman bishop, Perth assistant bishop Kay Goldsworthy, Australian primate Philip Aspinall, a former primate and Melbourne archbishop in Keith Rayner, another former Melbourne archbishop in Peter Watson, and former Governor-General and Brisbane archbishop Peter Hollingworth.

The new bishop herself could barely be heard over the pealing of the cathedral bells. "I'm excited, overwhelmed and feel very supported in prayer by many people," she said. She returns to the cathedral today to lead the communion service."

From "A Triumph of Faith" by Gary Tippet:
"When he Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Philip Freier, consecrated Barbara Brinsley Darling as a bishop yesterday — little more than a week after Kay Goldsworthy became the nation's first female bishop in Perth — there was special background music.

It was, in the exultant words of leading Anglican laywoman Dr Muriel Porter, the sound of stained-glass ceilings shattering.

For more than three decades, Anglican women have been battling towards such a moment and Darling, now 60, has blazed the trail. In 1975 she came to Melbourne to study for her licentiate in theology at Ridley College, the Anglican theological college at Parkville, where she became librarian and the first woman to be given tenure as a lecturer.

She was one of the "trained women workers" the Melbourne diocese set up in the early 1980s to prepare for women's ordination, one of the first women deacons in 1986, and one of the first women priests in 1992. In 1995 she was the first woman elected a clerical canon of St Paul's Cathedral where until now she has been senior canon as well as being vicar of St James' Dandenong.

For such pioneers the road has been rocky and often deeply painful. Every step has been contested and protested. In 1976, when Darling preached her first sermon at Ridley, some male students walked out. In 1986, when both she and Goldsworthy were ordained as deacons in Melbourne, there was an attempt to have their ordinations ruled invalid, along with threats of schism, court challenges and even bomb scares.

She will never forget her ordination as a priest at St Paul's in December 1992.

Yet the opposition continued for more than a decade until Dr Porter led a challenge to the Appellate Tribunal to prove that, given women could be priests, there was no legal impediment to them becoming bishops. The tribunal decided in favour late last year. It was only a matter of time before the first female bishops would be named.

The next challenge, says Darling, is how women function as bishops. Will they be doing it the same way as the men or will they bring something new and different?"

Myth of the Modern Virgin

In this modern day and age, are women being pressured to be "pure"or to at least portray the persona of being "pure" on their wedding day???

It would seem that Virginity in a bride is most desirable. According to a recent poll of conducted by Australian mens' magazine "FHM": "Of 57,000 men polled ...... 28 per cent hoped to marry a virgin, while 41 percent wanted a bride who had five partners or fewer, and just 5 per cent wanted a bride who had slept with more than 15 men."

The survey ran for a period of two weeks in May; and of the men who were surveyed, it was found that most were in their "late 20s, who had jobs and were university educated."

Further, according to the article by Caroline Marcus in the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper today:
"But the ideal may be far from reality, with 2005 research from the Australian Longitudinal Study of Health and Relationships showing that only 11percent of women and 5percent of men aged 16 to 35 had only slept with their current partner. The same study showed Australian men aged 30 to 39 had on average 9.5 sexual partners and women in that age group, 4.7.

University of New England sexuality expert Dr Gail Hawkes said the response was "astounding". "You would not be surprised if we saw that in 1960, not 2008," Dr Hawkes said."

The Brisbane Courier Mail ran a story from France yesterday in which a man divorced his wife on the grounds that she was not a virgin. Apparently there was a huge uproar when it was discovered that a "court had annulled the union of two Muslims because the husband said the wife was not the virgin she had claimed to be. Politicians, feminists and human rights activists denounced the verdict, handed down last month but reported in the national press only on Thursday, as an affront to the legal equality of men and women and a violation of a woman's privacy.

The hoodwinked husband's lawyer responded just as forcibly that civil marriage was a legal contract. The court invalidated this one because the wife had lied about what French law calls an "essential quality" of a contracting party, he said.

Prominent feminist Elisabeth Badinter said the courts should defend Muslim women, not pressure them. "The end result will be that some Muslim girls will rush to hospitals to have their hymens sewn back together again," she told France Inter radio.

Muslims make up about eight per cent of the population in France, which has vigorously defended its secular system against their occasional religious demands by banning Islamic headscarves in the civil service and in state schools.

Xavier Labbee, the husband's lawyer, denied that religion had anything to do with the verdict. "The law says that when there is an error concerning essential qualities of one of the spouses, an annulment can be sought," he said on LCI television.

The same clause has been used in French courts to annul marriages in which one person discovered only afterwards that the other had concealed a divorce or had a physical or mental disability that made a normal sexual life impossible.

The rector of a large mosque in the northern city of Lille, where the case was tried, also denied Islam played any role. "

In the US, I have seen a number of programs in which young people are undertaking vows of celibacy (not necessarily virginity) in an attempt to retain some sort of control over their own morality. Rather than having someone attempt to force their moral views upon them, these young folk are steering their own course.

Are we returning to a time when moral standards were a lot different and stricter than they are today??? Is that essentially a bad thing???