Saturday, October 30, 2010

Journal of Witchfinder General Nehemiah Wallington

Now the journal by 17th century Puritan writer Nehemiah Wallington has been opened up by a team from The University of Manchester's John Rylands Library who are using cutting edge camera technology to photograph and ''digitise'' the diary which is being kept at Tatton Hall in Knutsford, Cheshire.

Wallington was an eloquent and well-read writer who filled 50 notebooks in which he documented his own philosophies on life to keep himself sane. When he died in 1958 he left over 2,500 pages written on himself, religion and politics.

The witchcraft trials occurred at Essex after Hopkins exploited much folklore and storytelling about evil witches that were causing catastrophe and death. Local gossip would be directed against those who were a bit "odd" or perhaps were suspected of having "cunning" powers.

The handwritten notebook is the only copy known in existence. Mansion and Collections Manager Caroline Schofield from Tatton Park said: "Nehemiah Wallington was an intelligent working man who achieved much in the face of such difficulty and exhaustion in daily life."

An Evening With A Medieval Queen

A tale, part fable, part history, of a Sicilian queen in medieval times will be unfolded by composer John Marino at the Temenos Institute on Nov. 5, as he conducts a lecture on the story of "Costanza," the basis of an opera he created the music for.

The story is about Costanza, the heiress of the Norman kings of Sicily. Her father was Roger II who reigned over what is considered the "Golden Age" of Sicily. Palermo was considered the "jewel" of the Mediterranean.

Abergwyngregyn: Site of Welsh Princes Returns To History

From BBC News:
Excavations at Abergwyngregyn, near Bangor, unearthed the remains of a medieval hall dating back to the 14th century, the period when Llywelyn the Great and Llywelyn the Last were fighting for Welsh independence.

Experts will be on hand on Saturday to give guided tours of the site and there will be activities for children inspired by medieval games and puzzles.

Next month, the site, which is privately owned, will be returned to pasture.

The site will be open to visitors on Saturday, 30 October, between 10am and 4pm, with children's activities from noon.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sacred Swords of Empress Komyo

Two swords found under the Great Buddha of Todaiji temple in the Meiji era have been identified as sacred swords that had been missing for some 1,250 years since around 760 after Empress Komyo, the wife of Emperor Shomu who built the Buddha, dedicated them along with other items to the temple, the temple said Monday.

The swords, decorated with gold, silver and lacquer, appear on the top of about 100 swords in the weapon list of the Kokka Chimpo Cho (the book of national treasures to Todaiji) kept at the Shosoin repository at the temple in the ancient capital of Nara, and can be considered important historical materials in the related research.

The swords were discovered at the end of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) along with other items such as a silver pot near the pedestal on which the Great Buddha sits when three holes were created nearby for research purposes, and were designated together as national treasures in 1930.

Jane Austin - Did She or Didn't She

Two interesting posts regarding whether or not Jane Austin or her Editor actually wrote her works.

From BBC News:
The elegant writing style of novelist Jane Austen may have been the work of her editor, an academic has claimed.

Professor Kathryn Sutherland of Oxford University reached her conclusion while studying 1,100 original handwritten pages of Austen's unpublished writings.

The manuscripts, she states, feature blots, crossing outs and "a powerful counter-grammatical way of writing".

She adds: "The polished punctuation and epigrammatic style we see in Emma and Persuasion is simply not there."

And from the Telegraph:
She is the great English novelist renowned for her polished prose, of whom it was once remarked: "Everything came finished from her pen."

Yet Jane Austen couldn't spell, had no grasp of punctuation and her writing betrayed an accent straight out of The Archers, according to an Oxford University academic.

Prof Kathryn Sutherland said analysis of Austen's handwritten letters and manuscripts reveal that her finished novels owed as much to the intervention of her editor as to the genius of the author.

State of Women - Two Views

The Women - amazing blog about women in India - past and present.
At the time when the West voting laws in favor of gender equality, the position of the Hindu woman in India today remains precarious.
Afghan Women: A History of Struggle - blog from Times Union.
The film is first and foremost a summary of Afghanistan’s struggle and how that struggle was perpetuated by outside influences, notably the United States and the Soviet Union. It is a powerful documentary that I would encourage anyone to watch.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Canada Remembers: Women Who Served

The new documentary, Canada Remembers: Women Who Have Served and Sacrificed will air on VisionTV November 11 at 10pm ET. It will be followed at 11pm ET by Canada Remembers: Their Achievements and Sacrifices.

During the Second World War, women served in non-combat support roles in the Royal Navy as WRENS, the air force women’s division and in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps. Many women also took over important jobs and others supported the military to help keep supplies moving. War Brides, who married during World War II, were deeply affected by the conflict and had their lives completely changed. Many women have also served near the frontlines as medical support. The modern Canadian military has seen a relatively new development: women serving in combat as frontline soldiers. For the first time in Canadian history women have died in combat for their countries. And what of the women who have watched and waited as their loved ones go off to serve in combat conditions? The very real truth is that they may be sacrificing a husband, son or brother to a conflict half a world away. These women will share their stories, their memories and sacrifices while touching on the role their faith played to carry them through difficult times.

Dona Gracia - Ahead of Her Time

From the Jerusalem Post:
Once the wealthiest woman in the world, Dona Gracia planned to establish an autonomous Jewish community in Tiberias.

The museum conducts weekend seminars about the life and times of Dona Gracia whose story fired Cohen's imagination to the extent that she pushed for the Education Ministry to include the study of Dona Gracia in school curricula. Tzvi Tzameret, the Chairman of the Education Ministry's Pedagogic Secretariat, agreed that it was high time for Dona Gracia to come out of the mothballs of the distant past. The upshot is that Israeli high school students as well as soldiers in the IDF will now learn of her plans to establish an autonomous Jewish community in Tiberias, which from the second to the tenth centuries was the largest Jewish city in the Galilee, and a great seat of Jewish learning.

The 500th anniversary of Dona Gracia's birth was celebrated on Sunday at Beit Hanassi in the presence of President Shimon Peres, Israel's fifth President Yitzhak Navon, who heads the National Authority for Ladino, is a former Education Minister and is descended on both sides from long lines of Sephardi rabbis, Education Minister Gideon Saar, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch among a host of dignitaries.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Folly of Charlemagne

A Convict's Life

So what happened to a convict once he or she arrived in Australia. Firstly, upon departing the ship, the convicts were sent to a barracks where they would find out exactly how their sentence was to be served.

The worst of the convicts were transported to prison settlements, where hard labour was their reward - and supervision was of the most severe kind. Those who committed crimes or behaved "badly" were then sent to prisons of even more stringent rules and regulations - Port Arthur or Norfolk Island. The conditions of these two penal settlements was so harsh and terrible, that a number of convicts took their own lives rather than endure these conditions.

Most convicts, however, were employed by the Government or were assigned to "free settlers". Work was undertaken in towns or farms. However, the fate or conditions of a convict rested in the mood or character of his or her master.

If the master was of a considerate nature, the convict might have enough food and comfortable conditions. Good behaviour led to the opportunity of obtaining a "ticket of leave" or even a pardon. With a "ticket of leave" a convict might work freely in a district, reporting to the local magistrate at regular periods. This system can be likened to the modern-day "parole" system. However, a convict could not own land until his or her sentence was fully served. A conditional pardon granted the convict freedom and restoration of all legal rights - on the condition that he or she did not return to England until the full sentence had expired. A pardon could only be granted at the discretion of the Governor.

However, if a master were harsh or cruel, the convict lived in daily fear of being whipped, even for the most trivial or imagined offences. This threat kept the convicts in a constant state of submission. Worse still, a convict may find themselves sentenced to hard labour.

For convicts assigned to farmers - and later "squatters" - life could be one of hazard and loneliness. Others were assigned to the labour intensive quarrying, road and bridge construction.

Those convicts who were lucky enough to find employment with the Government were usually those who had some skill. Having a skill greatly improved the prospects of a convict. Skilled tradesmen were in constant demand to undertake the construction of government buildings; other may be employed in government stores; other found employment in the homes of prosperous settlers.

Essentially, convicts provided cheap - and expendable - labour for a colony that was undergoing growth and the arrival of new settlers.

Bound For Botany Bay

"And we're bound for Botany Bay"

With the independence of the United States in 1776, Britain found itself without an avenue for disposing of its more anti-social elements. In the past, Britain had transported over 40,000 convicts to the United States since 1717. Transportation had not only been used as a judicial deterrant but as a cheap means of guaranteeing labour in the colonies.

However, both the population and the crime rate in Britain had exploded by the mid 18th century. Changes were taking place in agriculture and industry, and economic hardships were faced by many of the population.

As a temporary solution to Britain's prison woes, convicts were imprisoned aboard "hulks" - ships in permanent anchorage on the River Thames. But soon these too proved inadequate for the vast numbers of prisoners. Overcrowding became a serious issue. But what to do with these prisoners.

In 1779, a Committee of the House of Commons was established. It found that over 1000 convicts would need to be transported each year to alleviate the prison crisis. After dismissing South Africa, West Africa, Canada and the West Indies, a newly discovered continent was put forward for consideration.

Sir Joseph Banks - noted botanist - and James Matra - shipmate of Cook - suggested that Botany Bay would not only make a useful naval and trading station, but also a suitable colony. It wasn't until August 1786 that Lord Sydney announced the founding of Botany Bay. And in October 1786, Captain Arthur Philip was named the first Governor.

Further Research:

Gertrude Abbott (1846-1934)

Founder of St Margaret's Hospital for Women

Gertrude Abbott began life as Mary Jane O'Brien in Sydney (1846). Her father was a school teacher who moved from New South Wales to Dry Creek, SA and took up farming. "Gertrude" entered Sister Mary McKillop's congregation at Penola, South Australia (1869) and became Sister Ignatius. Influenced by Father Julian Tennison-Woods, she and another young nun claimed to have had visions - there was a scandal when the other nun was found to have faked her visions. Sister Ignatius was blameless but left the congregation (July 1872) two months after she had made her final vows.

She returned to Sydney - but not under her own name, instead she became Gertrude Abbott. She leased a house in the Sydney suburb of Surrey Hills and gathered about her a group of pious women. They lived by dressmaking and adopted the rule of contemplative congregation. Gertrude hoped that the Roman Catholic Church would give the group the status of a religious order.

However, one fateful night, things took a different turn. On that night (1893) a policeman presented a young women at her door. Gertrude had no money or food herself, yet she took the girl in, and one hour later a baby was born. Soon other girls can to her home, and so began what would become St Margaret's Hospital for Women, the third largest obstetric hospital in Sydney.

In the first years of St Margaret's Hospital, Gertrude took in 9 married and 23 unmarried women, and trained 3 nurses in midwifery with the help of her great friend and certified nurse Magdalen Foley (who took a degree in pharmacy so as to dispense medicines). Regarded as a quasi-religious community, the women eventually acquired status within the Catholic Church as their services to the community were recognised. The Hospital was run on donations.

The Hospital began to treat the diseases of women (1904). Soon it had outgrown its present buildings and was forced to move to larger premises in Darlinghurst which Gertrude leased and then bought. Her friend and mentor Father Tennison-Woods died in her care (1889) and left her his entire estate, as did her friend Magdalen Foley (1926). Despite the growth of the hospital she was still quite lonely. Gradually she withdrew as matron and manager.

Gertrude died 48 years after that fateful night, aged 88yo. In the year of her death, the Hospital recorded 760 patients treated, 619 births registered and no maternal deaths. In her will, she passed her Hospital into the hands of the Sisters of St Joseph, whose order she had left unhappily 62 years before.

More Strange But True

Again from Nigel Cawthorn's "The Strange Laws of Old England" - 

Burning: Women were not hanged, drawn & quartered for treason as men were - the law required that some " decency due to their sex" forbade women from being exposed and their bodies publicly mutilated.  Instead, they would be dragged to the gallows to be burnt - alive.

Typically, burning was reserved for heretics; however, women who were found guilty of murdering their husbands or masters - an offence known as petty treason -- were also burned at the stake.  In the early days, a prisoner would be burned alive while still concious.  But by the time of Queen Mary I of England, women would be burned naked but were permitted to have a bag of gunpowder around their necks to hasten death.  Later still, as an act of mercy, the prisoner was stangled first.

The last burning took place in 1789 - the practice was abolished in 1790.

For The Murder of Her Child: Margaret Alexander was convicted of murdering her two illegitimate children by Patrick Learmouth.  She was forced to dig up the body of the second child from the Churchyard, and then carry it in a public procession around the town to the Brewhouse where she gave birth to the babe.  Margaret was then required to take the tiny corpse to the place by the riverbank where she had originally buried the body to hide her crime.

After publicly confessing to her crimes, Margaret was hanged, and her arms were cut off.  One arm was displayed in Haddington, the other at Aberlady, where she had given birth to the first child.

Trial By Swallowing: In Anglo Saxon times, suspected purjurers were subjected to "corsned" - being forced to swallow consecrated barley-cake in the belief that a lying mouth would choke on it.  Later, powdered eagle-stone (a form or iron ore) was sprinkled on dry bread to see whether or not the accused could swallow it.

This tale concerns Godwin, Earl of Wessex and father of King Harold II.  Godwin was accused of murder during the reign of King Edward the Confessor and was tried by the ordeal of "corsned".  An ounce of bread was consecrated by exorcism, and Godwin was ordered to swallow it.  However, the bread stuck in Godwin's throat and he died.

The ordeal of "corsned" was abolished by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1261.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Mona Lisa's Childhood Home

The woman behind one of the world's most famous paintings was born in a humble house in Florence, according to new documents. Rossella Lorenzi gets the story.

See also:

Mahpeyker - A Life of Kosem

Billed as a fresh take on one of the most famous and powerful women in Ottoman imperial history, ‘Mahpeyker’ hopes to provide a multidimensional portrait of Kösem Sultan, but in the end it simply reinforces her image as the power-crazy queen mother. Sadly, Tarkan Özel’s film fails to depict how a naïve young girl became the empire’s leading power.

See also:  my September post: Film: Mahpeyker and my post Kosem

Victorian Sex Trade Workers

An article on the history of sexuality and Victorian sex trade workers has netted a national award for retired Vancouver Island University history professor Patrick Dunae.

Now an honorary research associate at VIU, Dunae received the 2010 best article prize from the Canadian Historical Association for his article entitled Geographies of Sexual Commerce and the Production of Prostitutional Space: Victoria, British Columbia, 1860 to 1914.

The article, which looks at prostitution in Victoria, was published in the Journal of the Canadian Historical Association.

Chicago: The Girls of Murder City

Look at those eyes. In their time, in their prime, they must have held all the power of incantatory spells. They were the eyes of a killer.

They belonged to Beulah Annan, who was the inspiration for Roxie Hart of Chicago — the 1924 play, the 1927 silent, the 1975 musical and the 2002 Oscar-winning film (and that 1942 Ginger Rogers flick). A married woman accused of shooting her lover in the back, Annan’s murder trial was inescapably tabloid-ready.

And as Douglas Perry explains in his new book, The Girls of Murder City: Fame Lust, and the Beautiful Killers Who Inspired Chicago, all Chicago was ready for a ripping-good yarn. Except, arguably, for Belva “Belle” Brown, more formally known as Mrs. William Gaertner as well as “Stylish Belva,” whose own sordid accused-murder tale scored headlines a few weeks before Annan’s. A multiple divorcee and cabaret performer, she was the inspiration for the one and only Velma Kelly.

Pocahontas: "I Do"

Her life has been celebrated in song, story and a Disney cartoon, but no one knew where Pocahontas tied the knot with a tobacco farmer—until now.

Archaeologist Bill Kelso and his team were digging this summer in a previously unexplored section of the fort at Jamestown, Va., the country's oldest permanent English colony, when they uncovered a series of deep holes. They believe the holes once anchored heavy, timber columns supporting the fort's first church, known to have been built in 1608 and the place where Pocahontas got married in 1614.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Witch Stories - Scotland

From “Witch Stories” by Elizabeth Lynn Linton (1861)

968 – King Duff pined away in mortal sickness, by reason of the waxen image which had been made to destroy him; but for the fortunate discovery of a young maiden who could not bear torture silently, he was enabled to find the witches – whom he burnt at Forres in Murray, the mother of the poor maiden who could not bear the torture among them: enabled, too, to save himself by breaking the waxen image roasting at the “soft” fire, when almost at its last turn.

1479 - 12 mean women and several wizards were burnt at Edinburgh for roasting the king in wax, and so endangering the life of the sovereign liege in a manner which no human aid could remedy; and the Earl of Mar was at their head, and very properly burnt too.

1480 – Lady Mar gave herself up to the embraces of an Incubus – a hideous monster, utterly loathsome and deadly to behold; and if young ladies of the nobility could do such thins, what might not be expected from the commonalty?

Criminal Trials In Scotland

A couple of interesting cases from “Narratives from Criminal Trials in Scotland” by John Hill Burton (Vol II – 1852).

1613 – Robert Erskine and his three sisters – Helen, Isobel and Anges were brought to trial for the murder of their nephews, Laird of Dun and his brother They were the direct descendants of John Erskine of Dun, one of the leaders of the Reformation (d.1591).

Robert was seemingly urged on by his sisters, who were charged with having hired on David Blewhouse to engage a witch to “take away the lives of the said two boys” – in exchange for this service, David would be well-rewarded with land and an payment of 500 merks of silver. David, however, was not inclined to do their bidding, so the sisters found one Janet Irving, “a witch and abuser of the people” – Robert himself also met with Janet. Janet gave them poisonous herbs, steeped in ale – no doubt to disguise their foulness.

At Montrose, the sisters induced the boys to drink the poison – the boys immediately began to convulse and vomit; the elder died first in most painful agony

Robert and two of his sisters were convicted and executed – one, who was deemed the “more penitent” was banished.

1720 – Nichol Mushet was convicted for the (eventual) murder of his wife Margaret

Mushet sold to his fellow accomplice “the honour of his wife”. When she repeatedly baffled their attempts, it was decided to sully her character. She was then drugged with opium and “caused a scene to be enacted and witnessed”. Mushet then attempted to obtain a divorce from his wife – however, his solicitor hinted that there was some suspicion which might lay him open to some awkward questions should the matter come to court.

Despite other attempts at poisoning and personal violence, a new plan was devised. A physician was persuaded to submit the poor woman to “mercurial salivation” and it was recommended that she be given a strong “empyric” as befitted her strong constitution. This course of “treatment” lasted a period of a month – and still she survived.

Finally, her husband dispatched Margaret by means of cutting her throat, nearly severing her head completely – this heinous crime was committed at a place now called Mushet’s Cairn.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Blessed Angela of Foligno

Speech made by Pope Benedict XVI and translated and reproduced at Catholic net:
Today I would like to speak to you about Blessed Angela of Foligno, a great medieval mystic who lived in the 13th century. Usually, one is fascinated by the heights of the experience of union with God that she attained, but perhaps too little consideration is given to the first steps, her conversion, and the long path that led her from the beginning -- the "great fear of hell" -- to the goal: total union with the Trinity.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tribute: Magdalen Female Penitent Asylums

From the blog "Over Thy Dead Body":
On a boulevard separated by a roadway from surrounding graves lies a memorial erected to the memory of those woman and girls once held at the Magdalen Penitent Asylum of Lower Mecklenburgh Street, Dublin. Some have claimed the stone stands over a mass grave; however, the Catholic order of the Sisters of Charity, who were once charged with the responsibility of operating some of the Catholic Magdalen Asylums in Ireland, vehemently deny this assertion, saying it is only a memorial.

The Magdalen Female Penitent Asylums have a notorious history. In the mid 19th century these institutions were founded all over Europe principally for the detention of prostitutes undergoing reform. In Ireland separate asylums were operated by both the Church of Ireland and the Catholic church. In these women-only 'homes' inmates were 'strongly discouraged' from leaving, in fact many of them were forcibly confined, and were sometimes detained for life. They were forced to work without pay in the laundries which adjoined the residences, thus the asylums are often referred to as the 'Magdalen Laundries'.

Women Screenwriters, 1900-1920

The first great class of screenwriters were women who addressed important social issues that other women would want to see on screen. But they didn’t just write.

One of the first film chroniclers (historians) wrote in 1915:
In no line of endeavor has a woman made so emphatic an impress than in the amazing film industry, which has created in its infant stage a new and compelling art wherein the gentler sex is now so active a factor that one may not name a single vocation in either the artistic or business side of its progress in which women are not conspicuously engaged.

The Last Resting Place of Mona Lisa

From the Telegraph:
The remains of the Italian woman who was the model for Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa were dug up 30 years ago and now lie in a municipal rubbish tip, an Italian expert has claimed.

Lisa Gherardini died in Florence in 1542 and was buried in the grounds of Sant'Orsola convent.

Over the centuries the Franciscan convent was used as a tobacco factory and a university teaching facility but in the 1980s a redevelopment was launched to convert it into a barracks for Italy's tax police, the Guardia di Finanza.

The developers had no knowledge that it was the final resting place of da Vinci's famous model – that was only discovered in 2007 – and during work to build an underground car park, the convent's foundations were excavated, along with the crumbling remains of graves and tombs.

The rubble was then dumped in a municipal landfill site on the outskirts of Florence.

New Zealand Museum No Go For Pregnant Women

From the Telegraph:
The Wellington-based museum, known as Te Papa - a Maori name that translates as "Our Place" - said it was imposing the rule as a condition demanded by tribes that had provided some of the items.

The "stay away" warning went out to staff from regional museums who have been invited to a behind-the-scenes tour of items not usually on display to the public.

Jane Keig, a spokesman for Te Papa, defended the museum's stance, saying some of the taonga, or treasures, "have been used in battle and to kill people".

She said Maori believed that each taonga had its own wairua, or spirit, inside it.

Maori tradition dictates that a pregnant or menstruating woman is tapu, or taboo, and so are the artefacts, meaning that if the two come into contact a curse could be invoked.

"Pregnant women are sacred and the policy is in place to protect them from these objects," Ms Keig said.

Traditional Maori belief in curses, or makutu, is exceptionally strong, and in 2007 a woman drowned after relatives attempted an exorcism to rid her of an "evil spirit" they thought was possessing her.

China: Liu Xia Detained

From CNN:
Despite being allowed to tell her husband he won the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, the wife of Liu Xiaobo was detained in her apartment in Beijing, China, according to a human rights group and her attorney.

Liu Xia has not been charged with a crime, but "appears to be under a de facto house arrest," said Beth Schwanke, legislative counsel for the U.S.-based group Freedom Now.

She was taken to see Liu Xiaobo in a prison several hundred miles northeast of Beijing, Schwanke said, and tell him of the honor.

Upon hearing he had received the peace prize, Schwanke said, Liu Xiaobo began to cry, and said, "This is for the martyrs of Tiananmen Square."

But upon return to Beijing, Liu Xia was not allowed to leave her apartment, Schwanke said. No one is allowed in, and her telephone is believed to be "destroyed," Schwanke said. Liu Xia has been able to post to some Twitter accounts, said Schwanke, who called the action "absolutely outrageous."

Memoir: Condoleezza Rice

From CNN:
Condoleezza Rice's personal memoir of her family history hits the book stands Tuesday. In "Extraordinary, Ordinary People," the former U.S. Secretary of State recalls much of her family's time during the Civil Rights era in Birmingham.

Rice has said that she will write a memoir about her eight years in the White House but felt she could not do so until people understood the "personal and implausible journey" she had taken from being born in 1950s segregated Alabama to being named the first female African-American to lead the State Department.

All of this happened, Rice said, due to her parents, John and Angelena Rice.

Remembering "la Stupenda"

From Fox News:
Joan Sutherland's radiant soprano stretched effortlessly over more than three octaves, with a purity of tone that made her one of the most celebrated opera singers of all time.

Acclaimed "La Stupenda," — "the Stupendous One" — during a career spanning more than four decades, Sutherland was known in the opera world as an "anti-diva" diva whose warm vibrant sound and subtle coloring helped revitalize the school of early 19th-century Italian opera known as bel canto.

She died Sunday at her home near Geneva, after what her family described as a long illness. She was 83.

Vision: Hildegard von Bingen

From the New York Times:
Vision,” Margarethe von Trotta’s sympathetic imagining of the life of the 12th-century Benedictine nun Hildegard von Bingen, opens with a prologue that establishes a contemporary secular distance from the film’s devotional medieval ethos. The members of a millennialist sect anticipating their last night on earth prostrate themselves in an abbey overnight only to awaken in the bright morning sun to discover that the world hasn’t ended.

“Vision” offers a hard-headed view of 12th-century religiosity in which church politics and money conflict with the characters’ asceticism. It portrays Hildegard as a passionate humanitarian and a lover of nature who is shocked and disgusted by the mortification of the flesh through rituals like self-flagellation and extreme fasting.

Mary McKillop - Saint in Waiting

Co-Founder of the Order of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart

Mary McKillop was born in the Melbourne suburb of Fitzroy of Scots parentage. Mary worked as a shop-girl, governess and teacher to support her family. Mary yearned for penitential form of religious life and so placed herself under the direction of Father Julian Tennison-Woods, parish priest of Penola, South Australia.

Mary founded the Order of the Sisters of St Joseph (19/3/1866) at Penola, South Australia, with the encouragement and guidance of Father Tenison-Woods. The Order was dedicated to the education of poor children. Mary was the first member and the first Superior of the Order. The Josephites spread to Adelaide and other parts of South Australia, and membership grew rapidly.

However, Tenison-Woods came into conflict with the clergy over educational matters and as a result Mary was excommunicated by Bishop Shiel of Adelaide (22/9/1871) for alleged insubordination. The excommunication placed on her was lifted 6 months later. In Rome (1873), Mary obtained papal approval for the Sisterhood. She traveled widely throughout Europe, observing teaching methods.

Back in Adelaide, Mary was elected Superior-General of the Sisterhood. Mary worked tirelessly for the education of the children of the poor, especially in the bush. She founded numerous schools, convents and charitable institutions throughout Australia to that end up till her own death in Sydney (1908).

But Mary soon came into conflict with the Roman Catholic Church establishment by insisting on an equalitarian rather than hierarchial organization. Bishop Reynolds told her to leave his diocese (1883) and Mary transferred the Headquarters of the Josephites to Sydney. Mary suffered a stroke (1901) an though she maintained her mental faculties, she was an invalid till he death (1909).

Mother Mary became the first Australian to be formally proposed to Rome as a candidate for canonization (1973), she was beautified (1990s) by Pope John Paul II. The Order of the Josephites works throughout Australia, New Zealand and Peru.

See also my post: Mother Mary McKillop

Sunday, October 10, 2010

India: Love Commandos

From the Guardian:
A spate of brutal killings in northern India has spurred a group of volunteers to set up a helpline to rescue couples whose lives are in danger because they want to marry across caste lines.

It is a reflection of just how tightly caste still holds India in its grip that a group such as the Love Commandos should need to exist at all. But exist they do, a volunteer force dedicated to rescuing young lovers from families who would rather kill them than suffer the social stigma of an unsuitable match, and from the khap panchayats, the notorious village caste councils that rule on who can and cannot marry and regularly pass sentence of death on those who refuse to accept their diktats on caste or gotra (another subdivision based on lineage). The Love Commandos' phones ring night and day. What started as a group of like-minded friends protecting couples trying to celebrate Valentine's Day is rapidly becoming a national movement, with 2,000 volunteers across the country and more coming forward every day.

Medical News: Womb Transplant

From Z News:
Infertile women may soon be able to conceive with scientists bringing womb transplant closer to reality.

After successful animal trials, doctors hope to try the transplant with a human within two years.

“This is a breakthrough, fantastic news for patients who do not have a functioning uterus and want to have children,” the Daily Express quoted Dr Cesar Diaz-Garcia, a key researcher, as saying.

“Until now no one has been able to prove pregnancy is possible after transplantation. We have overcome one of the last steps in achieving this and our aim is to get a human pregnancy using these techniques within two years,” Diaz-Garcia added.

The work has raised the prospect of creating a male pregnancy with a donor uterus and fertility treatment, however Diaz-Garcia insisted: “We are not carrying out work in this area.”

The doctor, an obstetrician who has been collaborating with researchers from the University of Valencia, Spain, predicted that in the future wombs could be harvested from people who are brain dead, living donors or even relatives to minimise the risk of rejection.

The transplanted womb would be connected to the recipient’s blood supply and would stay in place only long enough for a woman to have the children she wanted.

Any baby would have to be delivered by Caesarean section as a transplanted human womb would be unlikely to withstand natural labour.

During the C-section the womb could be removed at the same time, thereby minimising the risk of side effects from longer-term use of anti-rejection drugs.

The breakthrough is to be published in the Scandanavian Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Most Powerful Arab Woman

From the Khaljee Times:
UAE Minister of Foreign Trade Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi has been named the most powerful Arab woman and the 70th most powerful woman in the world by US-based Forbes magazine.

According to Forbes’ list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women, Shaikha Lubna is “a regional power in her own right” and constantly works to improve the UAE’s global status and bolster the federal government’s efforts to diversify the country’s economy. Her persistent calls for a trade policy that is based on openness and competitiveness helped put the UAE on the road to economic recovery and development, the magazine said.

Shaikha Lubna is the first woman to hold a cabinet position in the UAE: She is former minister of economy and current Minister of Foreign Trade, having run a successful online auction company and worked as a manager for the agency charged with automating the UAE’s federal government, Forbes explained.

Choosing Shaikha Lubna in the 70th place on the list of the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women was a recognition of her fight to improve the rights of women in the region and humanitarian efforts for sustainable development and issues of children and the youth in other Arab and Muslim countries.

Rita Oakes - A Unique Chidhood

From the Mail Online:
The daughter of Britain’s first female long-distance lorry driver, Rita Oakes had a unique childhood, travelling the length and breadth of the UK with her mother for up to 100 hours a week.

Read Rita's amazing story of her childhood here

Italy: Woman Killed Opposing Arranged Marriage

From AFP:
A Pakistani woman has died in Italy after her husband beat her with a brick for opposing the arranged marriage of her daughter, triggering a wave of outrage among Italian politicians on Monday.

The daughter, 20-year-old Nosheen Butt, was hospitalised with a cranial traumatism and a broken arm after her 19-year-old brother beat her with a stick in the courtyard of their building in Novi, near the northern city of Modena.

According to Modena prosecutors' initial findings, the father Ahmad Khan Butt, a 53-year-old construction worker, threw his wife to the ground and beat her with a brick while the brother Umair attacked his sister.

"The victim did not want her daughter to have an unhappy relationship like the one that had been forced on her," said deputy Modena prosecutor Lucia Musti, who is in charge of the investigation.

"The mother and the daughter were on the same side and this could be called a 'cultural' homicide because in addition to domestic violence there is the issue of the traditions that may have motivated the crime," Musti said.

The family's three other children have been taken in by Italian social services.

The Italian political class reacted with indignation at the incident which was highly similar to the cases of a girl of Pakistani origin in 2006 and a Moroccan girl in 2009 who wanted to lead Western lives with Italian boyfriends.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Lecture: Circumscribed by her Sex: Women and Religion in the High Middle Ages

From St
Flagler College's Community Lecture Series takes place at 10 a.m. Tuesday with a program by John D. Young, assistant professor in the liberal studies department. Young's talk will be "Circumscribed by her Sex: Women and Religion in the High Middle Ages."

Young's research interests lie in the cultural and religious history of the Middle Ages, with particular emphasis on Jewish-Christian relations, ecclesiastical politics, and religious communities.

Lectures begin at 10 a.m. in the Flagler Room at Flagler College, 74 King St. Reservations are required as space is limited. The lecture will last approximately one hour and will be followed by a coffee and pastry reception. Call 819-6282.

Review: She Wolves - The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth

From the Financial Times:
Shakespeare dubbed Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI, the “she-wolf of France”, a title that Helen Castor applies to four women who grasped regal power in England between the 12th and 16th centuries: Matilda, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Margaret of Anjou and Isabella of France.

Castor, however, gives their medieval stories a Tudor frame, opening with the dilemma of the dying Edward VI confronted by the fact that all the contenders for the throne are women, and concluding with the dramas of the ill-fated Lady Jane Grey, the triumphant Mary and the resolute Elizabeth I.

Through the tales of her heroines Castor traces the background to this indictment, before showing how it was negotiated by Mary and Elizabeth Tudor. She skilfully combines this analysis with driving narratives, using vivid details from contemporary chronicles to bring those distant days alive. She Wolves makes one gasp at the brutality of medieval power struggles – and at the strength and vitality of the women who sought to wield royal power.

Laura Francatelli: Titanic Story Published

From BBC News:
A woman's account of escaping the sinking Titanic in 1912 has been published for the first time.

Laura Francatelli from London said she heard an "awful rumbling" as the liner went down and "then came screams and cries" from 1,500 drowning passengers.

Her account was recorded in a signed affidavit for the official British inquiry into the disaster.

The historic document is expected to sell for up to £15,000 when it is auctioned in Wiltshire on 16 October.

Miss Francatelli, who was 31 at the time, was travelling with baronet Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and his wife Lady Lucy Christiana, as his secretary.

The account describes how they boarded one of the last lifeboats containing just five passengers and seven crew, admitting they did not consider going back for survivors.

Historic Highland Women

From BBC News:
The lives of women in Highlands high society in the 18th and 19th centuries are to be explored in a lecture by historian Dr Stana Nenadic.

Her talk, in Dornoch, draws on research of letters, memoirs and poetry written by the wives and daughters of lairds and noblemen.

The lecture will be dedicated to the late historian and feminist Sue Innes.

It forms part of the 10th annual Women's History Scotland event, hosted by Dornoch's UHI Centre for History.

Dr Nenadic's free public lecture next Friday will be followed by a conference on Saturday called The Women in/on the Land (Scape): Gender, Space and Environment in Women's and Gender History.

It will also be held in Dornoch.

Black Death: New Theory

Anthropologists said on Friday they had confirmed long-running suspicions that a germ called Yersinia pestis caused the plague that wiped out an estimated third of Europe's population in the Middle Ages.

Teeth and bones sampled from 76 skeletons found in "plague pits" in France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands and sequenced for DNA intrusion are conclusive evidence that Y. pestis was to blame, they said.

Y. pestis has been in the dock for more than a century as the source of so-called Black Death, which gripped Europe in successive outbreaks from the 14th to the 18th century.

But scientific data to convict the bacterium have until now been sketchy or debatable.

As a result, a clutch of rival theories have blossomed, including the contention that an Ebola-style virus or the anthrax germ were to blame.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Entry From Cavendish Family Manuscript

An entry from the Cavendish Family as reproduced in Guthrie's Peerage of 1763:

Elizabeth Hardwick, also known as Bess of Hardwick, was godmother to Queen Elizabeth I of England, and her husband was one of the gaolors of mary Queen of Scots.

Marriage Dispensation Granted to Robert Stewart

Reproduced from Andrew Stuart's "Genealogy of the Stewarts" (1798) - sourced from Papal Archives - and published in Origines Genealogicae, the marriage dispensation granted to Robert Stewart (King Robert II of Scotland) when he married Euphemia of Ross in 1352.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

4000 Years of Choice

The imagery that springs to mind when we think about abortion is typically pretty bleak. Coat hangers, screaming protesters, and other symbols of struggle and tragedy have come to be associated with the evolution of reproductive rights.

4000 Years for Choice works to transform this narrative from cautionary and solemn to “personal, positive, and powerful,” with colorful posters celebrating various milestones in the age-old effort to prevent and terminate pregnancies. And for those who mistakenly think that controlling reproduction is strictly a modern issue relevant only in this post-Roe v. Wade era, the 4000 Years for Choice timeline, which begins around 3000 BCE, provides a thoroughly enlightening history of abortion and contraception. Artist and creator Heather Ault says the three goals of the project are to produce broader symbols of choice, illustrate the natural role of reproductive control in all previous societies, and celebrate and reclaim the women’s health clinics around which much of the modern abortion debate is centered.