Sunday, April 25, 2010

Uzbek Women Sterilized by Stealth

From the Times Online:
According to human rights groups, tens of thousands of young women like Zavidova have been sterilised without their consent in the authoritarian former Soviet state of Uzbekistan.

Uzbek sources say the measure was ordered by Islam Karimov, the president, who has ruled with an iron fist for 20 years. The policy is aimed at keeping down the country’s poor population — with 28m people, it is Central Asia’s most densely populated state.

Activists say mass sterilisation began in 2003, but was eased after two years following an outcry. It is said to have restarted in February this year, when the health ministry ordered doctors to recommend sterilisation as an “effective contraceptive”. Critics claim every doctor was told to persuade “at least two women” a month to have the procedure. Doctors who failed faced reprisals and fines.

Dreamers of a New Day: Women who Invented the Twentieth Century

From the Scotsman:
AS Shelia Rowbotham points out towards the end of this excellent account of the contributions made by working-class and middle-class women, radicals and anarchists, mothers and singletons in Britain and America, much of the rights women take for granted today were won by those "who were not at the centre of power, nor were they engaged in heroic acts or glitzed with glamour". As a consequence, most of them have been forgotten.

When Rowbotham writes that, by the 1930s, there seemed to be a "hostility among young women to 'feminism'"; that feminist reformers struggled over how to balance careers with being mothers; that they complained of unequal pay for equal work, we are reminded that there are still so many rights to be fought for, still so many issues to be debated. It is thanks to women like Margaret Macmillan, who fought for school clinics and meals for schoolchildren, or Dora Russell, who campaigned for sex education, or Clementina Black, who spent her life campaigning for the rights of women workers, and who was active on the Women's Industrial Council, that my generation of women can lead the kinds of lives we do. We are not reminded of that fact nearly often enough. Rowbotham's book is that nudge in the ribs we all need.

Top 50 Women-Led Companies

From the Wall Street Journal:
The list comes at a time when women-owned firms have grown in number but still lag behind male counterparts in terms of revenue. The number of female-owned companies grew 125% between 1982 and 2002, and women currently own 10.1 million firms or about 40% of all private companies in the U.S., according to the Center for Women's Business Research. Only 3% of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more, compared with 6% of men-owned firms, the center estimates.

Female entrepreneurs may not grow companies to as high a level as men because of an inability to access funding, especially venture capital; a lack of female role models; and, possibly, persistent stereotypes that they lack financial know-how or business expertise, the center and other groups have theorized.

The List @ Wall Street Journal

A Return To Virginity

From BBC News:
Young Arab women wait in an upmarket medical clinic for an operation that will not only change their lives, but quite possibly save it. Yet the operation is a matter of choice and not necessity. It costs about 2,000 euros (£1,700) and carries very little risk.

The clinic is not in Dubai or Cairo, but in Paris. And the surgery they are waiting for is to restore their virginity.

Whether in Asia or the Arab world, an unknown number of women face an agonising problem having broken a deep taboo. They've had sex outside marriage and if found out, risk being ostracised by their communities, or even murdered.

Now more and more of them are undergoing surgery to re-connect their hymens and hide the any sign of past sexual activity. They want to ensure that blood is spilled on their wedding night sheets.

The social pressure is so great that some women have even taken their own lives.

Women Prefer Chocolate to Sex

From the Times of India:
A third of women dream about chocolate during the day, compared with only 18 per cent who think about sex, says a new British survey.

Around 2.3 million British women admitted that they have the sweet treat at least three times a day, reports The Daily Express.

On the other hand, six in 10 men have sex on their minds for most of the day and 11 per cent think about chocolate, the study found.

According to the study of 2,000 women, which was carried out by cereal bar firm Fibre Plus, more than one in five women say they would kiss goodbye to their sex lives before chocolate.

What’s more, a quarter would rather give up chardonnay and Chanel.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Icelandic Volanco & Scottish Famine

From BBC News:
Outpourings of volcanic ash from Iceland in the 17th Century contributed to a period of famine and hardship in Scotland, according to experts.

A major eruption in 1695 saw large parts of the country affected by a "sulphurous fog".

Prof Alastair Dawson, writing in the latest Scottish Environment Protection Agency magazine, said it came at a time of climatic change.

Dust in the atmosphere dimmed sunlight causing crops to fail.

Prof Dawson, of the University of Aberdeen, writes in Sepa View: "We cannot be sure what the precise effect of this eruption was on Scotland's climate but we do know that the years between AD 1693-1700 were characterised by widespread famine.

"They later became known as the 'King William's Dear Years'.

"A contemporary account of this time describes how it was common for people to bring in the crops in the frosts and snow between November and February."

UN: Bhutto Assassination Preventable

From CNN:
Pakistan's military-led former government failed to protect former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto before her 2007 assassination and intelligence agencies hindered the subsequent investigation, a U.N. commission concluded in a report released Thursday.

The three-member investigative panel issued a scathing report Thursday afternoon, concluding that the suicide bombing that killed Bhutto "could have been prevented" and that police deliberately failed to pursue an effective investigation into the killings.

Bhutto had returned from a self-imposed, eight-year exile to run in the country's general elections two months before her assassination and already had escaped one attempt on her life. She was killed in December 2007 by a 15-year-old suicide bomber while campaigning in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi, the seat of the country's military.

"No one believes that this boy acted alone," the report states. "A range of government officials failed profoundly in their efforts first to protect Ms. Bhutto, and second to investigate with vigor all those responsible for her murder, not only in the execution of the attack, but also in its conception, planning and financing."

A spokesman for then-President Pervez Musharraf said Friday the government offered adequate protection for Bhutto.

"I believe the government at the time did whatever they thought was reasonable," said Muhammad Ali Saif, a spokesman and adviser to the former president.

Goa: Women Fire-Fighters

From Digital Goa:
Home Minister Ravi Naik today asked the Director of Fire Services Ashok Menon to place proposal before state government to induct women fire fighters. He was speaking on the occasion of 'National Fire Service Day' in the city today morning.

"We have only male fire fighters which needs to be revised. During any mishap when male rescuers save women, there may be issues that she is been manhandled. Women fighters should therefore be trained to handle situations and conduct rescue operations," he said at the gathering.

Each fire station, the minister said will have minimum 10 women fire fighters who will be trained in the Regional Training Centre in the St Inez head quarters.

Goa had 14 fire stations across the state with a proposal to set up new fire stations at Pilerne and Cuncolim. While, upgradation of Curchorem fire station, Menon said, will begin in two month with land already acquired y the government.

The department in the last five years has attended to 17,946 fire and emergency calls, saved lives of 866 humans and 826 animals and saved property to the tune of rupees 431.47 crores.

The director said they were intending to procure thermal cameras to locate victims in the difficult incident spots.

Menon had earlier admitted they were finding difficult to get a land to set up a fire station or fire outpost in the coastal belt of Goa.

The minister termed Fire Department as the most disciplined and the leading government department in Goa.

Cleric Creates Furor Over Mixed-Sex Mingling

From the Christian Science Monitor:
Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi, a Saudi cleric in the holy city of Mecca, recently declared that nothing in Islam bars men and women mingling in public places like schools and offices. For the first time in decades, religious scholars are debating the previously untouchable hallmark of gender segregation.

That was the case when Sheikh Ahmed al-Ghamdi recently declared that nothing in Islam bans men and women from mixing in public places like schools and offices.

Supporters of the status quo responded harshly. Anyone who permits men and women to work or study together is an apostate and should be put to death unless he repents, said Sheikh Abdulrahman al-Barrak.

Does Sheikh Barrak mean that King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz should be executed? Because it is the monarch who launched the country's first coeducational university.

Bridget Jones Love Life

From The Telegraph:
Four in 10 women in their late 20s fear their private lives resemble Bridget Jones's Diary, having already loved and lost Mr Right, according to a study.

Rather than being left on the shelf in their 30s, like author Helen Fielding's fictional singleton, women increasingly want to marry and have children sooner, researchers found.

Today’s 20-somethings said the optimum age to tie the knot is 26, with their first child being born a year later.

The findings contrast those of a decade ago, when the majority of women felt putting their careers and social lives first and waiting until after 30 was the recipe for blissful matrimony.

Chantelle Horton, editor of More, added: "Young women today no longer want to be party girls throughout their 20s only to reach their early 30s and find they've loved and lost Mr Right.

Sudan: Women Voting In Numbers

From VOA News:
Despite extreme logistical and organizational challenges facing the Sudanese elections, the women of Sudan appear to be more determined to have their voices heard in these landmark elections.

It will take days to determine exact figures, but visits to Southern Sudan polling stations in the past three days have shown that women clearly outnumber men in voting queues. Reports from other parts of Sudan also indicate that more women have cast their votes, most of them for the first time in their lives.

Women have also proven to be more tolerant to the frustrating moments during the voting process, patiently waiting for their turn to vote. This reporter witnessed a number of men turning their back and leaving the polling stations with frustration, but many women stayed on to cast their votes.

From Feminists To Terrorists

From So Feminine:
In northern Iraq, which is predominantly Kurdish, polygamy and the oppression of women are widely condoned. Kurdish women in Turkey and the militant rebels of the PKK, the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, are now fighting to change this.

For women in the region, having the support of the PKK is one of their few possibilities of gaining rights and recognition. In some instances, the party is actually the last refuge for a woman in danger of falling victim to an honour killing.

For decades, PKK rebels have been attacking Turkish targets from bases in northern Iraq. The PKK originated as a communist murder and terror movement, subsequently pursued the aim of a separate state. Many countries and international organizations – including the EU, the US, the UN and NATO – list the PKK as a terrorist organisation. Now, though, the PKK is trying to promote an image of itself as being "democratic" and "federalist."

In spite of these changes in direction, one aspect has remained constant: the PKK’s ability to attract women. The organisation has always fought for the abolition of patriarchal thinking (except where it concerns the patriarchalism of PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan); their fighters have to attend courses with titles such as "kill the man in you". There are many female fighters in the PKK.

Less visible, and far more effective, though, is this: in south-eastern Turkey, spokesmen from the PKK are often a woman's last hope when she’s trying to escape an honour killing or a forced marriage. Some local community functionaries who are known to have connections to "the mountains" will go to the woman’s family and attempt to find a solution. In those situations they save lives. Elsewhere, terror attacks carried out by the PKK end lives.

This friendliness towards women is the best the PKK has to offer in a society which in many ways still operates along medieval lines. The effectiveness of this strategy is rarely fully appreciated.

In the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, where honour killings, forced or desperate suicides by women and forced marriages are much more widespread than they are in the Kurdish region of Turkey, feminism is a powerful weapon – and recruiting tool – that the PKK can and has made use of. It is entrenched in the mountains, while elsewhere in the country, traditional tribal society rules.

Under pressure from the Turkish army, which is being fed with secret service information about PKK targets by the US, and dependent on the acquiescence of the Kurdish leadership of northern Iraq, the PKK has its back to the wall. A feminist offensive in northern Iraq might help it strengthen its base among the local population.

Reki-jo or History Girls

From NPR:
In Japan, the number of female visitors to shogun castles, samurai battle re-enactments and history bookstores has recently increased. Observers attribute this to the rise of the "history girls" — a new urban subculture that some believe signals a kind of empowerment for female Japanese hobbyists.

One of the more public faces of the history girls, or reki-jo, is a fashion model named Anne. She's the daughter of actor Ken Watanabe, and she goes by one name. She's carved out a niche for herself writing and speaking about history and history buffs.

Reki-jo all have their favorite historical periods and characters. Speaking in a Tokyo cafe, Anne says hers is the Shinsengumi, the elite swordsmen of Japan's last shogun, or military ruler.

"The Shinsengumi is popular among Japanese girls because its members are all young, in their teens to early 30s," Anne says. "They changed Japan. The interesting part of their era is that we can see some photos of them, so we can imagine them better and feel closer to them. This history gives courage to young people today."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Designing Women: Dixie Carter

From the Washington Post:
Dixie Carter, 70, a stage and television actress who helped expand the possibilities of American and Southern femininity as a star of the long-running TV sitcom "Designing Women," died April 10.

Dixie Virginia Carter was born May 25, 1939, in McLemoresville, Tenn., and it was not long thereafter that she began to dream of an operatic career.

Her most famous role was as wisecracking Southerner Julia Sugarbaker in "Designing Women," a CBS sitcom that chronicled the work and personal lives of four women in an Atlanta interior design firm.

Miss Carter died at a hospital in Houston. She had cancer.

India: Open Jail for Women

From BBC News:
Yerawada prison is a place of contrasts.

In one part of the 17-acre complex near the city of Pune in the Indian state of Maharashtra, 300 incarcerated women barely see the light of day and live in cramped, unhygienic conditions.

But another part of the prison is currently undergoing a makeover. Here, women will soon be allowed to roam the premises and farmland in relative freedom.

This will be India's first open prison for women.

Such jails have existed for men in India since the 1950s - the idea is that well-behaved inmates are transferred to the facility as a reward for their good behaviour after serving a few years of their sentence.

The female prisoners at Yerawada's open jail will get paid employment outdoors - mostly agricultural work. More importantly, the remainder of their sentence will be cut by half.

Hobart Female Factory

From ABC News:
A major new artwork has been commissioned to honour convict women at the Hobart Female Factory.

Shirley McCarron from the Female Factory Historic Site says $160,000 is needed for the sculpture, which is the first of three pieces planned for the former prison.

Ms McCarron says the artwork will stand in the grounds of the Female Factory, in South Hobart, representing the spirit of convict women.

"[It will be a] larger-than-life-sized bronze scultpture of a convict woman with a child clinging to her skirts, and she's standing at a glass door that represents her leaving her normal life and going into the life of a convict."

The second artwork will depict women arriving on Hobart's waterfront, and the third will comprise a series of plaques featuring convict women's names, to be placed throughout the city.

Ms McCarron says there is growing acceptance of convict heritage.

"There's been very little written about the women and not a great deal of interest, and indeed many families didn't want to acknowledge that they had a woman convict.

"That's changed dramatically, and people are very interested and wanting to research their history," she said.

The Female Factory Historic Site Foundation anticipates the first sculpture will be installed late next year.

Valley of the Wolves

From YNet News:
The Turkish TV show which sparked a diplomatic crisis between Ankara and Jerusalem has now incurred the anger of those who were depicted by it as the victims. Female Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails called on the Saudi MBC channel Monday to stop airing the "Valley of the Wolves" series. They claim that a scene depicting a prisoner being raped by soldiers offends their honor.

"Valley of the Wolves" maintains a decidedly anti-Israeli tone depicting Mossad agents in Turkey as baby-snatchers, among other things. Following its broadcast, the Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador to Israel for a reprimand in which he was publicly humiliated by being seated at a lower chair than Deputy Minister Daniel Ayalon.

Another Turkish TV show dubbed "Separation" portrayed IDF soldiers as child murderers and is now being broadcast on Arab channels.

According to a report in the London-based al-Quds al-Arabi, "Valley of the Wolves" focuses on the "suffering of a Palestinian family whose sons are killed by the Israeli army." The report states that Palestinian female inmates are outraged over a scene in which a supposed Palestinian prisoner named Miriam is being raped by IDF soldiers in an Israeli prison.

In a statement issued Monday, the prisoners said that the scene has no bearing with reality. "This is an attempt to slander the Palestinian female prisoner's image and mask its heroic role." The prisoners feel that the scene is offensive to Palestinian women portraying them as submissive.

"The broadcast of these images is a humiliation for the people and the whole nation and serves the occupation alone," the statement read.

Taiwan: Rise of Single Women

From the Wall Street Journal:
With one of the world's lowest birth rates, Taiwan faces the prospect of a rapidly aging population without a young workforce to support it. The government is scrambling for solutions, with experts pushing measures such as workplace day care, tax breaks for parents and generous maternity leave. But for a generation of Taiwanese women who embraced higher education (more women than men have college degrees) and demanding careers, the age-old stigma of being unmarried has given way to a celebration of single life that government incentives won't easily overturn.

Angola - Congo: Repatriation of Women

From Angola Press:
More than 400 women who returned from the neighbouring republics of Congo, currently settled in the district of Damba, northern Uige province, were on Wednesday supplied with several goods, as part of Government efforts to mitigate their hardship.

The donation was delivered by the minister of Family and Women Promotion, Genoveva Lino, and included foodstuffs, farming instruments and recipients to boil water for traditional midwives.

The hand-over ceremony followed a meeting the minister had with the beneficiaries, during which he learned about their main constraints and transmitted words of encouragement.

On the occasion, the women returnees deplored the delay in their integration in the sectors of health and education and the lack of working instrument for farming.

They also spoke of the need for courses of Portuguese language in order to facilitate communication.

Meanwhile, Damba administrator, Sebastião Muanza, praised the visit of the minister, adding that 8,767 people, among children, women and men, are currently settled in the district, after they were expelled from the neighbouring republics of Congo.

Ghana: Women Trade Off Seats

From Ghana Newsagency:
Some female assembly members in the Northern Region have declared their intentions not to contest the upcoming district level elections, and are supposedly negotiating with men to take up their seats when their tenure of office ends.

The assembly women are said to have taken this decision because of the frustrations they face in the discharge of their duties, as well as the over politilisation of the assembly system and other socio-cultural factors, and the excessive demands made on them by people in their electoral areas.

Mr. Awal expressed the concern that if the trend of females declining to contest for the district level elections continues, then the Northern Region which is already disadvantaged would witness a drastic reduction of female participation in politics and in matters of gender that affect them.

ASEAN: Commission on Women & Children

From the Jakarta Post:
ASEAN officials inaugurated Wednesday the Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), to augment the human rights body established last year.

The ACWC has a mandate to, among others, develop policies, programs and innovative strategies vis-à-vis the rights of women and children in the region.

“As commissioners we have the task of improving the standard of implementation of the rights of children,” Indonesian ACWC commissioner Ahmad Taufan Damanik said after the inauguration, held a day prior to the bloc’s summit, which kicks off Thursday in Hanoi.

Child rights activist Damanik, based in North Sumatra, has been appointed the Indonesian commissioner for child rights, while activist Rita Serena Kalibonso, from the Mitra Perempuan women’s crisis center, has been named the country’s commissioner for women’s rights.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Wilma Mankiller

From Indian Country Today:
Thousands of newspaper articles, Internet messages, and other tributes and remembrances have already surfaced in honor of the first woman elected to lead the Cherokee Nation, who passed away at age 64 on April 6 after a battle with pancreatic cancer.

The outpouring of adulation, which has included praise-filled statements from President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton – who awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1998 – and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is not surprising to those who knew her best.

Worldwide Faith News:
Tributes from Reformed church leaders are pouring in for Wilma Mankiller, an American Indian rights advocate who died Tuesday a 64 after a brief illness. Mankiller, a member of the Cherokee Nation in the United States, was scheduled to be a keynote speaker this June at a global assembly of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC) in Grand Rapids, United States.

Prior to being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Mankiller had agreed to make a keynote presentation at the Uniting General Council (UGC) which will launch the World Communion of Reformed Churches from a merger of WARC and REC.

“Chief Mankiller’s dedication to the rights of Indigenous peoples would have brought an important challenge to all of our churches to act with justice on behalf of the First Peoples of our various countries,” says event organizer, Stephan Kendall, in a statement issued from his office with the Presbyterian Church in Canada.

Wilma Mankiller
Wilma Mankiller

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Abbasid Huram

Girls of the huram came from many lands and cultures outside of the empire as Islamic law forbade the enslavement of a Muslim.

The girls were often captured as part of booty from raids into the territories who refused Muslim overlordship – including Bahtariya, a concubine of Mahdi and mother of Mansur. Also Mancla, mother of caliph Mu’tasim, who came from Soghdia in central Asia and was brought up in Kufa in Iraq. The mother of Caliph Ma’mum was the daughter of a noble from Badhgtris in modern western Afghanistan, who was taken into the huram of Harun after the suicide of her father.

Berber slaves from North Africa were highly valued, however, Greek girls were favoured from 9th & 10th centuries:
- Qaratis – mother of Caliph Wathiq
- Habshiya – mother of Caliph Muntasir
- Qurb – mother of Caliph Muhtadi
- Divar – mother of Caliph Mu’tadid

Also girls from Slavic countries:
- Mukhariq – mother of Caliph Musta’in

Some entered the huram due to their talents:
- 8th & 9th centuries were the heyday of the singing girls; many were highly trained, skilled and witty; they were the main bearers of court culture; they were sexually available to both owner and customers. Medina was the centre for the education and training of singing girls. Sometimes, large sums of money were involved in the trade.
- Maknuna – mother of Princess Ulayya, was brought by the Caliph Mahdi for 100000 silver dirhams
- Basbas – cost the royal treasury 17000 gold dinars

Till the reign of Caliph Harun, the princesses were married off to members of the ruling family, including the Caliphs. The last recorded marriage was between the daughters of Harun:
- Fatima and Hamduna to the sons of his brother Hadi – Isma’il and Ja’far.
- Ma’mum married to Umm Isa (p.809)
- Ma’mum had two children – Muhammed and Ubayd Allah – and used his daughters to forge dynastic links with the Family of Ali – Umm Habib married Ali Rida, and Umm Fadl married another family member; Umm Fadl’s marriage was consummated; Ali Rida died in mysterious circumstances soon after.

Many women of the huram remained anonymous forever.


Seisin: possessed (land, etc)
(1) possession of land or chattel
(2) possession or right to possession characteristic of estates of freehold
(3) right to immediate possession of an estate or immediate succession

Livery of Seisin: ancient ceremony for conveyance of land by the symbolic transfer of a revelent item (key, twig, turf) or by symbolic entry of the grantee (ie: investiture)

(1) in the legal sense of to put in possession of, or to take possession of, hence, to grasp or seize
(2) possession of such an estate in land as was anciently thought worthy to be held by a free man.

Inquisitions Post Mortem

All landowners were subject to an Inquisition Post Mortem, that is, an investigation, held some months following a death, concerning any properties the deceased person owned or had owned by courtesy of the Crown during their lifetime. An escheator was assigned to ascertain how the lands and properties had been acquired by the deceased, whether any others had an interest in them (widows’ dower rights and jointures were respected), and sundry information such as the name and age of the heir. It was a method of keeping track of all landholdings and properties.

Other documents included: marriage jointures (prenuptial agreements), dowries (reverting back to the widow). The widows’ dower was one third of all income accruing from the estate of her deceased husband.

Office of Wards

The Crown Office, was all powerful as the Inland Revenue and VAT Offices are today, had evolved from the medieval practice of Knight Service in the days before the State kept large, trained armed forces in permanent readiness. All land was technically the property of the Crown and was apportioned by the Crown, to be held and enjoyed by favoured property owners in return for the provision of a mounted knight (sometimes with foot soldiers) when an army was needed to deal with local or national emergencies. When the thrifty King Henry VII came to the throne, he identified wardship as a significant source of revenues, and updated the powers of the old Office of Wards. His son, henry VIII, constantly seeking money to support his extravagant lifestyle, further strengthened the laws concerning wardship.

The iniquitous effect of these changes was that during Henry VIII’s reign (and for some timer afterwards), should a landowner die before his heir reached his twenty-first birthday, all lands and properties were taken over by the Office of Wards, to be administered during the ward’s minority. During the period of wardship, all the income and profits of the estate went to the Crown, although sometimes the property, or part of it, might be rented back to the heirs. More often - a far worse fate - the wardship was auctioned, or sold by the Crown to wealthy neighbouring landowners. Sometimes, the buyers were friends, who kept the estates in good health and looked after the education of the young ward. But often the ward and family of the deceased were left at the mercy of rapacious or manipulative speculators, whose sole interest was to make as much as could be leached from the lucrative property while the warship lasted, and in many cases to arrange the marriage of a defenceless ward to a member of his own family so that the property would eventually come into their own ownership.

Generally, significant landowners were men and holders of wardship were also men. But there were occassionaly women holders of wardships. Bess of Hardwick was one, another was the pious Elizabethan diarist, Lady Margaret Hoby, who actively lobbied to get lucrative wardships. These were much sought after, a being a perfectly legitimate manner of earning extra income.

The law on wardships was greatly improved under Queen Elizabeth I when in 1561 the Court of Wards came under the benign and efficient influence of William Cecil, who was to be its Master for thirty-seven years.

Medieval Society

Medieval Society
Status of Women
Under English Common Law:
- The “femme sole” or unmarried woman or widow was on equal par with men. She could hold land, do homage, make a will or contract.
- The lands of a married woman became her husband’s for the duration of the marriage – but if a child was born, then her lands became her husband’s for life.
- A widow was entitled to one third of any lands and her husband could not bar her right of dower.

Land: gave importance to a woman’s status; and if she brought land into her marriage as her dower, which if considerable when widowed, gave her more influence and consideration for a future marriage.

“Neither the Divine Law nor the Law of Nature, nay nor the Civil Law, put any woman under the subjugation of men, but only such as have husband’s; and no shew of reason can be given for excluding women from the inheritance of their Ancestors, or from the administration of it.” (Source: Concerning the Right of Succession to the Kingdom og England by T Craig, 1703).

Typically, childhood ceased at the age of 14yo. Girls could be apprenticed & bound by law until 18yo or until they married; boys till they were 24yo.

Service was a common experience regardless of status, from 12yo to 40yo.

Apprenticeships were usually for a term of between 7 to 10 years, and a premium was paid to be taught a trade or craft. Service in husbandry (agrarian or domestic labour) was for an agreed upon period and small wage.

Marriage was often delayed as wages were low and it took considerably longer to save for a dowry.

Espousals / Engagements
A ceremony of an exchange of vows was done before witnesses. This ceremony was often referred to as “handfasting” or “to be made sure”. The rite was invoked as a way of mediating the timing of a marriage or to sanction a match in the face of opposition. Pre-marital sex was more usual in the lower classes, who also had more opportunity to “arrange” marriages of their own choosing.

Often arranged and solemnized during childhood. A child was held capable of consent from the age of 7yo. However, the marriage was void if the girl was under 12yo and the boy under 14yo. Repudiations were often obtained. Under English Common Law – if 9yo at the time of her husband’s death, a wife could claim her dower, regardless of the age of her husband (Source: The History of English Law by F Pollock & FW Maitland, Vol II, 2nd Ed. Cambridge 1968).

Women could often be married off without their consent – a woman could purchase the right to marry where she chose from their lord, and considerable income could be acquired by the king or magnate from fines paid by heiresses or widows for this.

Child marriages – for the higher ranks of society – was the rule rather than the exception.

There was no place in feudal society for women who did not marry. Unmarried women could find a place in the household of a great magnate in attendance upon a woman of higher rank.

Dowering of poor girls was one of the most recognized forms of medieval charity.

Adult Women
Marriage effectively turned women into a “non person”, dependent upon her husband as she had been previously upon her father or other male relative. Brides among the nobility were 2 to 10- years younger than their lower class counterparts.

Circumstances affected the economic and social position of women, which in turn effected child-rearing.

A woman had “no legal stake in the physical and economic resources of the household; no lawful way out of an unsatisfactory union; and few if any career options in lieu of marriage”.

Widows kept their social status, prestige and dignity of their married state. They had freedom to engage in certain economic activities – although their marriage settlement governed their economic situation. Middle to lo status women could rely on their right at common law to one third of a husband’s land and goods after his death.

Whilst young widows were likely to remarry, they were always fearful of poverty especially if there were children from the marriage. There was always the need for gainful employment for widows received the bulk of poor relief – although their moral conduct was often scrutinized and support withheld if considered of immodest behavior.

Aristocratic Women
A women’s political influence over her husband depended upon: her relationship with her husband; the existence of any sexual rivals; and her own ability.

Female Monarchs: marriage posed a problem for a queen regnant. Should she remain unwed with no heirs or marry and be subject to her husband. Equal power was hard to sustain – does she become subordinate to her husband upon marriage. If there are children, does her husband rule for the child or does she take on a group of advisors and counselors.

For many women, the issue is over the right to inherit – and many women promoted their son’s claims rather than assert their own personal right.

Queens Consort: had a duty to provide a male heir. Her political power fluctuated with the monarch’s sexual interest and with the women’s fecundity. It was an opportunity to influence policy by advising & counseling; to gain advancement for her family; and to support religious goals.

Mistresses: gained patronage, influence and financial rewards. However, they were dependent upon the favour of the monarch and could be readily discarded and replaced. They often used their positions to gain titles and advancement for themselves and their families.

Court Ladies: marriage did not debar women from obtaining positions of office at court. Ladies obtained positions though lineage, family and favour. Women were dependent upon others for favours & mutual obligations, and thus developed a system of networking through courtiers and kin. Some held formal offices at court for which they were paid – and access to the monarch was dependent upon their position.

Medieval Household
A woman was expected to take on her husband’s responsibilities during his absence at court or war. She would raise his ransom if a captive of war. She would execute his will if widowed. She was responsible for the upbringing of their children, who were commonly raised within the nursery.

The woman was responsible for ensuring the “rights” under feudal law were observed. She would ensure rents & incomes were received from tenants; pay officials; dispense alms, undertaken pious and charitable works & benefactions; and keep household accounts.

The women of the household were responsible for providing clothes for the family and household. Most medieval manors contained a bakehouse, brewhouse, buttery & dairy, salting tubs and herb garden.

Organisation and forward planning were important in providing stores for the household, especially over winter. And she would be responsible for hiring “occasional workmen”, deal with tradesmen, and govern her servants.

Working Women
Women needed to earn a living, especially if unmarried or if extra income was necessary if married. Women usually worked as their husband’s assistants in his trade. The most common trades occupied by women were brewing and spinning. Domestic service provided the main source of employment for unmarried women. Often, widows carried on the trade of their husbands and some guilds provided exceptions to their regulations to acknowledge these women.

Other types of trades undertaken by women were merchants – often wool or shipping.

Children could be apprenticed from a very young age – beginning in the home. Most females were apprenticed under other women, lived within the household, and learnt both trade and housekeeping.

The apprenticeship was for a set period of time – and they would be released upon payment or at the end of their service.

Married women who carried on a trade separate from their husbands were treated, under law, as single women: eg: she was responsible for her own debts and dispute resolution.

Peasant were expected to manage their own household and share in the husband’s labours (especially in agriculture and animal husbandry).

Young women were taught piety, good manners and housecraft within the family home. Nobleborn ladies were expected to have a skill in: music & song, conversation, literacy.

Education was acquired by instruction within schools in nunneries; from the example for ladies in great households; and from apprenticeship and craft.

Not all nunneries had schools; some were small and poor. Fees were charged for tuition, and women were possibly taught French & Latin, pious devotions, spinning and needlework.

Young women in great households were in a position to make a good marriage. Whilst under the roof of a great lady, young women were expected to maintain good manners, be obedient and respectful, and possibly receive education under a tutor of chaplain.

All women, regardless of rank were expected to have a knowledge of “family medicine” – but only within the household.

Nunneries often provided a career for noble girls. Abbesses and Prioresses were often drawn from noble families. Lower status women rarely entered convents as they could not afford the “dowry” for admittance, and girls were required to work in agriculture and industry.

Nunneries provided: spiritual facilities for prayer; education; a place of boarding for widows or a refuge for women & children during the absence of a husband; a place for retirement for noble widows, who sometimes brought their own maids & servants and household goods; and boarders provided a source of income for many small establishments.

Nunneries also acted as centres for alms-giving – although they were usually too poor to offer much else.

Nunneries acted as landlords and employers through ownership of farms, estates, and they employed staff – builders, carpenters and craftsmen.

Anglo Saxon Society

Anglo-Saxon Society

Marriage in Anglo-Saxon England
It was not a necessity to be married in a church or even by a priest. Ostensibly, marriage was a “secular business arrangement” or contract between the man and the bride’s family.

Be Wifmannes Bedweddunge – a betrothal tract of the period which outlined the financial arrangements in which the groom pays remuneration for the bride’s upbringing; a grant of marriage settlement is made upon the bride (and property settlement should he predecease her); the contract is witnessed by the friends of the groom and the bride’s family; it was most likely not written down and a verbal promise was considered binding.

A woman was not forced into a marriage against her will.

At times, a religious formality was performed to endorse the union in the eyes of God – however, it was not unusual for a person of rank to ignore the marriage vows if a better alliance came along.

Clergy were forbidden to provide a church service for second weddings regardless of the previous marriage ended in divorce or death. Often second marriages left the children of the first marriage disinherited.

“Marriage by Seizure” was a Scandinavian tradition – the bride was carried off and the union recognized when the “bride price” was paid to her relatives.

Adulterous wives were severely punished – mutilated (nose and ears cut off) or killed. There was no such limits imposed on Scandinavian men who were openly promiscuous, and men often kept one or two concubines, whose children he may or may not decide to recognize.

Under the monogamy laws of Canute (1020), it was forbidden for men to have more than one wife upon the threat of excommunication; “foreigners”, if they will not regularize their marriages are to depart from the land with their goods and their sins”.

Upon marriage, a woman and her children became the responsibility of her husband – however, her kin would still guard her interests.

No tradition of regal primogeniture in Anglo-Saxon England. First born son might inherit his father’s position, but an uncle, brother or cousin could be considered a more worthy heir to the throne.

Monarch was often chosen from the relatives of the previous king, who could clearly trace his line back to Cerdic. Heir named by the king but chosen or acknowledged by the Witan.

King’s counsel – a group of the country’s elite – the foremost churchmen, prominent nobles. The king rules with the agreement and cooperation of the Witan.

A court gatherings, the Witan enforced law and order; taxation; sanctioning of land grants; endorsement of legal codes; settlement of disputes; agreements of tribute; and was attended by the clergy, nobility and other delegates.

Witan selects the strongest male of the ruling royal family to succeed – however, this often means the most malleable.

Honouring Women Who Broke Police Gender Barrier

From - Law Enforcement News:
Toting guns in their purses, wearing skirts and heels, the first female deputies started patrol work at the Sheriff's Department in 1972.

On Monday, deputies lined up at Altadena Community Center to salute the trio of women who broke the gender barrier at the sheriff's Altadena Station: Judy Preimsberger, Judy Evans and the late Charlene "Charlie" Rottler.

"The women on patrol were told to carry their guns in their purses and wear high heels," recalled Carol Freeman, a retired Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy who was one of 12 women who became patrol deputies that year.

The women said they complied with the rules -- to a point.

"That was our uniform standard but we did what we needed to do, to not jeopardize our own safety and the safety of our patrols," Preimsberger said.

In the station, or at publicized events, the women carried their pistols in their purses to comply with the uniform code.

In the field, they improvised by rigging their own holsters and tucking their handcuffs into the back of their skirts, Freeman said. Some women deputies took to wearing shorts under their skirts and sneakers or flat shoes instead of heels, she said.

More than three decades later, Sheriff Lee Baca and a room packed with dignitaries and deputies from across Los Angeles County hailed the women's contribution, and unveiled a hall of fame in their honor at the Altadena Station.

Preimsberger and Evans received plaques and Denise Alvarado accepted the plaque for her mother, Charlene Rottler, who died in January.

Malaysia: Women Only Trains

From the New Straits Times:
The railway will soon have separate compartments for men and women in commuter trains serving Klang Valley, Rawang and Seremban.

This is to ensure the safety of women in packed trains during peak hours, Keretapi Tanah Melayu Bhd (KTMB) president Dr Aminuddin Adnan said yesterday.

There are three compartments in each carriage and these will be designated for men, women and families or couples.

"We will not ask families, old folk or married couples to take separate carriages. If we do that, it will create a lot of problems, especially for old folk who might need help.

"Since 60 per cent of our commuters are women, we want to make their ride as comfortable as possible," he said, adding that the railway had received feedback from women who preferred such an arrangement. Aminuddin said the inter-city coaches would not have such sitting arrangement.

He was speaking after presenting customer service awards to some of his front office staff including clerks, train drivers, quality inspectors and traffic wardens here yesterday.

China: Law On Women

From the Peoples Daily Online:
A senior Chinese legislator has called for greater efforts to promote women's awareness and ability to safeguard their legitimate rights and interests.

Chen Zhili, vice chairwoman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature, made the remarks during a week-long inspection tour of the eastern Shandong Province ending Wednesday.

Chen was sent by the top legislature to inspect how local law enforcement agencies implemented the Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Women.

The law, which took effect on Dec. 1, 2005, had played an important role in protecting women's legitimate rights, raising their social status and mobilized them in the country's modernization drive in an active and innovative manner, she said.

She called for more efforts to publicize the law to make people aware of the law's significance in protecting women's rights.

Women & Mathematics

From the Hindu:
The Minister said India would hold an International Congress of Mathematicians later this year in Hyderabad. It had won the bid to host the prestigious event against stiff competition from Canada and Australia at the ICM held in 2006.

The congress has been held continuously every four years since 1897 except for breaks during the two world wars. The coming session, from August 19 to 27, will be the first ever to be held in India. It will only be the third time Asia is hosting the Congress — after a congress in Kyoto in 1990 and another in Beijing in 2002.

Women & Science

From VOA - Too Few Women In Science:
Two new studies have investigated why fewer females, compared to males, study and work in the so called STEM subjects in the United States. Those subjects are science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

The American Association of University Women examined existing research. Its report, called “Why So Few?,” also suggested ways to interest more girls and women in the STEM fields. The researchers found that cultural and environmental factors make a difference.

Researcher Christianne Corbett says more boys than girls score very high on math tests in most countries. She says Iceland and Thailand are exceptions.

From Scientific American - Veteran Women BioMed Researchers Shortchanged:
You might expect young women scientists to make less than older men. But veteran female life science researchers, even in very advanced positions, still make less than their male counterparts. So finds a report in the journal Academic Medicine.

Women in the same academic positions as men worked more hours. But they made on average six to 15,000 dollars less per year than their male counterparts.

Jean-Claude Rochefort - Masculinist Activist

From the Toronto Sun:
Jean-Claude Rochefort, the man who defended the actions of killer Marc Lepine on his blog failed in his attempt to be released from jail Wednesday.

The court noted in its judgment that Rochefort's blog "invited men to kill women solely because they are women."

Rochefort, 61, defended his blog, which sung the praises of Lepine, the shooter behind the 1989 massacre that killed 14 women at Montreal's Ecole Polytechnique. Lepine committed the shooting after multiple failed attempts to get into the school himself. He blamed feminism for ruining his life and disagreed with women being allowed to work in jobs that had been traditionally reserved for men.

The Crown, meanwhile, tried unsuccessfully to bring charges of inciting hatred towards women against Rochefort.

Rochefort will stand trial on May 3 for other accusations of uttering death threats against women, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in jail.

Dinkum Assorted

From ABC North Queensland:
It's 1942. The men have gone to war and the women of a small Australian town called Warrabadanga rally together to... make biscuits ?

Townsville's Little Theatre's first production of 2010 is Dinkum Assorted.

Set against the backdrop of the Second World War, the play centres on the women who work in Jamieson's biscuit factory and the plan they are cooking up to save their jobs and keep their group together.

It also addresses the issues of isolation and uncertainty that those left behind by the war were facing.

Director Karen Vane says she was keen to present the human stories of war.

"A lot of the battle stories have been told, but when Linda Aronson wrote this for instance there was a great dearth of stories about the other people, the people who stayed at home".

Dinkum Assorted is bright, cheerful and musical, but Ms Vane says behind the upbeat Aussie larrikinism, there's a real poignancy to the play.

"Interspersed with that are stories about (little touches about) the fact that they are without their men and some of them they don't know where their men are".

The season of Dinkum Assorted starts on Wednesday the 7th of April.

Singapore: Women Honoured

From the Straits Times:
THE Singapore Council of Women's Organisations (SCWO), the umbrella body for women's groups here, has inducted two politicians to their Wall of Fame.

Cabinet Minister Lim Hwee Hua and Minister of State for Community Development, Youth and Sports Yu-Foo Yee Shoon were honoured last night for being pioneers in the public service.

Mrs Lim, 51, is the first woman to become a full Cabinet minister, while Mrs Yu-Foo, 60, was the first woman to become a mayor here.

They are among only nine women inducted to the Wall of Fame, launched in 2005 to recognise women who have improved the lives of other women here.

The accolades were part of the celebrations at the SCWO's 30th anniversary fund-raising dinner at the Shangri-La Hotel last night.

It was attended by 450 guests, including its patron, Mrs S R Nathan, who was guest of honour.

UK: Asian Women & Government

From BBC News:
It is a job that, so far, no British Asian woman has done - but that looks set to change after the general election.

A record 22 Asian women are running to become Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative MPs in England and Scotland.

It has taken quite a while to get to this stage.

The first Asian male MP was elected in 1892, when Dadabhai Naoroji, an Indian, took the seat of Finsbury, central London, for the Liberals.

Almost 120 years later nine Asian male MPs have been elected, but still no Asian women. So, 118 years after the doors of the Palace of Westminster first opened to an Asian MP, Asian women could be following soon.

Canada: Minority Women & Health

From UPI:
Immigrant women -- especially South Asian, West Asian or Arab women -- say they have trouble accessing healthcare in Canada, researchers found.

Researchers at St. Michael's Hospital and the Institute for Clinical and Evaluative Sciences found more than 50 percent of South Asian, West Asian or Arab adults say they were not very satisfied with their ability to get an appointment with a doctor for a regular checkup.

Nearly 40 percent of East and Southeast Asian and 34 percent of Aboriginal adults reported having difficulties when accessing a specialist compared with 22 percent of white Ontario residents.

The study also found that 15 percent of Canadian immigrants for less than five years do not have a primary care doctor, compared to 7.3 percent of Canadian-born men and women who say they don't have primary care doctor.

Business Council of Australia: Mentor Groups

From The Australian:
THE lack of women in senior positions in the top 200 listed companies has prompted the Business Council of Australia to launch a mentoring scheme to help rising female stars move into chief executive jobs.

The one-year pilot scheme is designed to develop a bigger pipeline of women executives as "we're simply not seeing enough women reach senior executive roles'', BCA president Graham Bradley said yesterday.

Under the pilot scheme, promising senior woman executives who have the potential to become a CEO or chief financial officer will be mentored by a chief executive from another company.

Eleven prominent male CEOs, including Commonwealth Bank chief Ralph Norris and Woolworths' Michael Luscombe, have signed up to be mentors.