Wednesday, September 28, 2011

BBC Accused of Belittling Florence Nightingale

A group of nursing academics has written to Lord Patten, chairman of the BBC trust, claiming the corporation has made at least two films containing "unsubstantiated and fictional portrayals" of the founder of modern nursing.

They have written to bring up what they describe as "the BBC's persistent, hostile and greatly erroneous treatment of Florence Nightingale" in the films.

In the letter, they have asked the BBC to withdraw two films - Florence Nightingale: Iron Maiden (2001) and Reputations: Florence Nightingale (2008) - from distribution.

They have written that the two hour-long films "attack and belittle Nightingale" and make "misleading" claims about her.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saudi Women Welcome Suffrage

Saudi women are hailing King Abdullah's promise of expanded political rights, with the hope it is another step toward equality in the ultraconservative kingdom.

The king's announcement that women may run for office and cast votes in the next round of municipal elections, set for 2015, is the latest in a string of reforms -- modest compared to most countries but domestically radical and long opposed by members of the Saudi elite.

The monarch's promises also include their appointment to the largely ceremonial Shura council, an advisory body. Women will not be allowed to take part in municipal elections this Thursday, however, and some Saudi women are continuing to push for other basic freedoms such as the right to drive a car or leave the country without a male relative's permission.

The initiative comes as leaders across the Arab world struggle to meet the demands of their people, or risk going the way of the ex-leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Already this year, King Abdullah announced a $130 billion program to boost salaries, build housing and fund other popular measures.

But Basmah Omair, director of the al Sayeda Khadija bin Khawlid Center at the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce, says it would be a mistake to think the latest move is a result of only the Arab Spring.

"In recent years, you have seen women take leadership positions like the deputy of the ministry of education and vice mayor of Jeddah," he said. "So it's not something [new], but maybe the media is concentrating [on these events] now and that is why they are just thinking of the recent events of 2011."

Kenyan Nobel Laureate Dies

Kenyan Wangari Maathai, the first woman from Africa to win the Nobel Peace Prize, died Monday after a battle with cancer. She was 71.

Maathai, an environmentalist, had long campaigned for human rights and the empowerment of Africa's most impoverished people.

More than 30 years ago she founded the Green Belt Movement, a tree-planting campaign to simultaneously mitigate deforestation and to give locals, especially women and girls, access to resources like firewood for cooking and clean water. They have since planted more than 40 million trees.

"Professor Maathai's departure is untimely and a very great loss to all who knew her -- as a mother, relative, co-worker, colleague, role model and heroine -- or who admired her determination to make the world a more peaceful, healthier and better place," her organization said.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Forgotten Female Artists of the 19th Century

From the Epoch Times:
Although in Art History one hears a lot about artists from prior centuries, and recently more and more work is being done on women artists in general, there is one specific group of female painters that has been all but forgotten. The rare women artists who were Old Masters, such as Artemisia Gentileschi and Elisabeth Vigee-Le Brun, as well as painters from the Impressionist movement and forward such as Mary Cassatt and Georgia O'Keeffe have been given much acclaim. But what of female painters from the almost forgotten classical tradition of the 19th Century; names such as Elizabeth Jane Gardner Bouguereau, Elizabeth Southerden Thompson, Lady Laura Teresa Alma-Tadema, Evelyn De Morgan, and Eleanor Fortescue Brickdale? One does not often hear about these artists from this only recently reviving period of art, and this article will focus on these women and their accomplishments in paint.

Quakers: Burqa Wearers of the 17th Century

In 1630, a certain oatmeal maker was examined by the highest church court in England, accused of preaching without a licence. Before an audience of bishops, he kept his hat firmly on his head. Doffing it momentarily to a secular representative, he turned again to the bishops, crying: "But as ye are rags of the Beast, lo! – I put it on again." Refusal to observe "hat honour" – the custom of removing one's headgear in the presence of a social superior – was a way of saying, in the most confrontational manner: "I reject your authority." (In the case of the oatmeal maker, this was an especially radical rejection: the bishops were agents of Antichrist.) It was a gender-specific affront, since hat-doffing was a peculiarly masculine form of humiliation.

Hat dishonour and burqa-wearing are not, of course, the same thing at all. But they do both illustrate the symbolic power of head-covering, and its relationship to political "headship". Twenty years or so after the case of the oatmeal maker, following civil war and the collapse of traditional pillars of social stability (the monarchy, and the church courts), the early Quakers also famously rejected hat honour. This was a prophetic sign not only that unjust inequalities were being dissolved, but that men were subject to the authority of God alone. Keeping one's head covered was a provocative statement of dissent towards the entire system of deference and consent which apparently held together English society.

10 Stories of Inspiration

Women across the world have made remarkable contributions in the year 2011.

In politics, Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand and Julia Gillard of Australia have made history as the first female prime ministers of their countries.

Christine Lagarde of France will take the helm at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as its new chairwoman, while Tu Youyou of China has won the 2011 Lasker Award for her discovery of the anti-malarial drug artemisinin.

The World Development Report 2012: Gender Equality and Development and the World Bank’s Think Equal campaign launched in the past week has charted the progress – and lack thereof – toward gender equality.

Women are all too aware of these issues, which is why the Women: Inspiration & Enterprise 2011 Symposium (WIE2011) felt like an oasis in the desert, a place where women could find hope, inspiration, and opportunity.

Exhibition: Catholic Nuns in American History

South Bend's Center for History is hosting the national traveling exhibition "Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America," an interactive tour through American history that chronicles the sisters' 300-year history in the country.

The exhibition details the stories of the nuns who pioneered the nation's religious, education, health care and social work systems. The South Bend Center for History, the University of Notre Dame and Saint Mary's College brought the exhibit to South Bend.

Marilyn Thompson, the Center's director of marketing and community relations, said the attraction of the exhibit lies in the depth of information it provides.

"This exhibition is so significant because it not only looks at the history of Catholic sisters, but at how their story mirrors the history of America," she said. "It's moments like these which help us to know how much prevalence these women have had in so many people's lives."

Top 25 Women in Banking

From American Banker come a list of the top 25 women in banking. Nice collection of short biographies - well worth the read.

Saudi Women Have Right To Vote

From the New York Times:
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Sunday granted women the right to vote and run in future municipal elections, the biggest change in a decade for women in a puritanical kingdom that practices strict separation of the sexes, including banning women from driving.

Although political activists celebrated the change, they also cautioned how deep it would go and how fast, given that the king referred to the next election cycle, which would not be until 2015. Some women wondered aloud how they would be able to campaign for office when they were not even allowed to drive. And there is a long history of royal decrees stalling, as weak enactment collides with the bulwark of traditions ordained by the Wahhabi sect of Islam and its fierce resistance to change.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dahomey's Women Warriors

It is noon on a humid Saturday in the fall of 1861, and a missionary by the name of Francesco Borghero has been summoned to a parade ground in Abomey, the capital of the small West African state of Dahomey. He is seated on one side of a huge, open square right in the center of the town–Dahomey is renowned as a “Black Sparta,” a fiercely militaristic society bent on conquest, whose soldiers strike fear into their enemies all along what is still known as the Slave Coast. The maneuvers begin in the face of a looming downpour, but King Glele is eager to show off the finest unit in his army to his European guest.

As Father Borghero fans himself, 3,000 heavily armed soldiers march into the square and begin a mock assault on a series of defenses designed to represent an enemy capital. The Dahomean troops are a fearsome sight, barefoot and bristling with clubs and knives. A few, known as Reapers, are armed with gleaming three-foot-long straight razors, each wielded two-handed and capable, the priest is told, of slicing a man clean in two.

Mossad, Women & Israel

From Spoonfed:
Ahead of her new play Honeypot, premièring at New Diorama Theatre, Naima Khan talks to Julia Pascal about Europe's hand in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and Mossad's use of women following the 1972 Olypmic killings in Munich.

In choosing a female central character (based on a real woman Julia befriended in the late '80s), and structuring her history and personal life so thoughtfully, Pascal gets to dwell on many of the issues that surround the power of the honeypot. “Her search for an identity, and her overt sexuality, are used as a weapon and a drug. She is fractured and disturbed, but she also challenges all the stereotypes surrounding women – as a mother, as a daughter.” Though outwardly she addresses a war fought on many fronts, Susanne's journey also relates to an ongoing internal conflict that rings true for anyone concerned with the Palestinian/Israeli conflict.

Women in Wartime

From the Star Tribune:
Sorry, but to address the disconnect between what nurses do in a war zone and life on the front lines, this story must be told. It comes from Lynn Bower, an Army nurse in the emergency room in Long Binh, South Vietnam, in 1971. She needed to cut away a soldier's uniform to treat his wounds. Struggling, "I went to grab his belt at the waist and when I pulled ... he came apart at the waist. He just opened up."

Bower's story is on page 43 of "Sisterhood of War: Minnesota Women in Vietnam" by Kim Heikkila, a new book published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. It is perhaps the most traumatic story amid the next hundred or so pages, but it provides a necessary underpinning to the accounts from 14 other nurses who served with little public notice during the Vietnam War.

The story explains, for instance, Kay Bauer's barely stifled snort at the suggestion that nurses knew little of the front lines. "There is no such thing as a front line," said Bauer, who now lives in Coon Rapids. "The war is everywhere."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Tomb of Mayan Female Ruler

A woman ruler's skeleton—her head mysteriously placed between two bowls—is one of two royal burials recently found at the Maya ruins of Nakum in Guatemala.

The roughly 2,000-year-old tomb was found underneath another, 1,300-year-old tomb filled with treasures such as jade gorgets—normally used to protect the throat—beads, and ceremonial knives.

The upper tomb's corpse had been badly destroyed by rodents within the last few centuries, but the body was clearly that of another Maya ruler-perhaps another female, based on the small size of a ring found in that tomb.
The royal burials are the first discovered in Nakum, once a densely packed Maya center. Study co-author Wiesław Koszkul and colleagues have been investigating Nakum's surroundings, known as the Cultural Triangle, for decades. (Explore an interactive map of key Maya sites.)

"We think this structure was something like a mausoleum for the royal lineage for at least 400 years," said Koszkul, of the Jagiellonian University Institute of Archaeology in Krakow, Poland.

The Maya royal-tomb discoveries are described in the September issue of the journal Antiquity.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Ancient Thracian Burial

From Novinite:
The archeological team, led by Daniela Agre, has discovered a treasure during digs at a Thracian mound near the southern village of Borisovo, in the vicinity of the town of Elhovo.

The precious items were placed in the tomb of a wealthy Thracian woman and are from the end of the 1st – beginning of the 2nd century AD, the Bulgarian 24 Chassa (24 Hours) daily.

They include a set of luxury bronze dishes, a large round plate and a caldron, all decorated with ivy leaves. There is also a vessel, looking like a small bucket with a lid, which the archeologists say has no analogue in finds in Bulgaria, and a bronze box for toiletries with incrusted bronze busts of satyrs.

The team, however, is the most enthusiastic about another discovery, according to 24 Chassa – a set of ornaments from the chariot of the buried woman. Illegal treasure hunters have dug and nearly destroyed the chariot, but were unable to find the ornaments, which had, actually, been their goal.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Text Reminders for Abortions

Disturbing article from the Telegraph:
Britain's largest abortion provider said it is introducing reminders because some girls and women had forgotten about their procedures.

Critics said the move, by the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS), gave a disturbing insight into casual attitudes to abortion.

BPAS, which carries out almost one third of NHS-funded terminations, likened the service, which begins in November, to reminders sent out by dentists before check-ups.

MPs and pro-life groups accused clinics of trivialising serious decisions. Dr Peter Saunders, Chief Executive of the Christian Medical Fellowship said the text reminders would exert pressure on women uncertain about whether to go ahead with an abortion.

"If you have got an unplanned pregnancy and you are in a crisis you would think it would be at the forefront of your mind," he said.

Meanwhile, those women who were agonizing about whether to go ahead with a termination, could feel pressured to go ahead because of the texts, he said.

Tortuous Life of Women & Girls in Brothels

From the Times of India:
One doesn't expect socialites to spend a languid rainy afternoon listening to horror stories. Especially when it's a diminutive 62-year-old narrating the tales. But when it is one Anuradha Koirala doing the talk, the glamour quotient doesn't matter. The grit that fuels this character does. It jolts listeners out of stupor and lands them in a stark world with sleaze and grime.

A packed audience, mostly members of the FICCI ladies organization, listened with rapt attention as the chairperson of Maiti Nepal (an NGO that has rescued over 18,000 women from sexual slavery and exploitation) recounted stories that touch a nadir in human depravation.

While most girls trafficked from Nepal land up in brothels in Nagpur, Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Surat, Delhi, Bangalore, Siliguri, Gorakhpur and Meerut, girls are increasingly being re-routed to the Gulf, China and South-East Asia as well. "While traffickers in India prefer girls with mongoloid features as prevalent in people from lower castes in Nepal, those in China prefer girls from high caste who have prominent nose and high cheek bone," Maiti Nepal director Bishwo Ram Khadka said.

Of the 600,000-800,000 people trafficked every year globally, 70% are women and children. Of this, 150,000 cases are in South Asia with Nepal accounting for a lion's share. Maiti estimates there are 150,000-400,000 Nepali girls and women in Indian brothels. A big chunk of them are aged 7-24 years.

"The girls undergo systematic rape and torture. They are starved and scalded by smoldering cigarettes and sometimes even murdered. Those who are young are given hormone injections so that they appear big and then gang raped as an initiation into the trade. Thereafter, they are made to entertain 5-50 clients a day," said Koirala.

While extreme poverty in west Nepal is considered the primary reason for Nepali girls being trafficked in large numbers, Koirala says gender discrimination is the root cause, citing social practices like Chaupadi, Deuki and Badi where girls are driven into flesh trade by families.

Sil Lai Abrams - No More Drama

From The Grio:
As a magazine columnist, motivational speaker and published book author (No More Drama, Sepia Press Publishing, 2007), you'd figure this sista is simply "too put together" to have been caught up with a man who would raise his voice at her, let alone his fists.

A former runway model, Sil Lai's posture, even while nestled comfortably in an armchair in her living room, is astute and refined. She has no problem telling you she is 41. But her well-kept figure, vibrant demeanor and unblemished, caramel skin tone gives the appearance of a young woman many years her junior.

But during our hour-long interview in her Park Slope apartment in Brooklyn, she recalled a less-than-confident 22-year old version of her former self who struggled with low self-esteem and bouts with alcoholism. She also was a single mother to a young son while pursuing a demanding modeling career with no familial or financial support.

It took just three weeks into their relationship before he displayed the signs of an abuser: controlling her every step, intimidation, using abusive language, etc. Two years would pass before Scott laid his hands on her. It took place while they were moving into their new apartment in The Bronx.

China: Hospital Births Saving Babies

From the Herald Tribune:
New data show that encouraging Chinese women to give birth in the hospital has contributed to a sharp drop in infant deaths over a 12-year period.

A study released Friday in The Lancet, a British medical journal, says that newborn deaths fell 62 percent between 1996 and 2008 based on analysis of 1.5 million births.

The study, co-authored by researchers from Peking University and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said more babies survived mainly because women were increasingly giving birth in hospitals or clinics.

"In 1988, less than half of all women in China gave birth in hospital, but only 20 years later, hospital births have become almost universal," it said.

New Danish PM: Helle Thorning-Schmidt

From The Hindu:
Denmark has elected its first female prime minister, ousting the right-wing government from power after 10 years of pro-market reforms and ever-stricter controls on immigration.

Near complete official results showed on Thursday that a left-leaning bloc led by Social Democrat Helle Thorning-Schmidt would gain a narrow majority in the 179-seat Parliament.

“We did it. Make no mistake. We have written history,” the 44-year-old opposition leader told jubilant supporters in Copenhagen. “Today there’s a change of guards in Denmark.”

Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen conceded defeat, saying he would present his Cabinet’s resignation Friday to Queen Margrethe, Denmark’s figurehead monarch.

“So tonight I hand over the keys to the prime minister’s office to Helle Thorning-Schmidt. And dear Helle, take good care of them. You’re only borrowing them,” Loekke Rasmussen said.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Outlet For Afghan Women Online

Article on the Afghan Women's Writing Project from the New York Times:
For the first year or so after its inception, the project was “flying under the radar,” its founder, Masha Hamilton, an American journalist and novelist, said by phone. The initial contributors were recruited through friends in Kabul; these women in turn referred others from farther afield, in Herat, Fargana, Kandahar and elsewhere.

As the women began offering anecdotes about their lives, political commentary and even poems to this online magazine, Ms. Hamilton brought together a loose coalition of activists and fellow writers to act as mentors. To remain part of the workshop, the women must reside in Afghanistan and file at least once a month. In August, the project went a little more public with a campaign called Freedom to Tell Your Story.

Still, the project maintains a certain level of secrecy to protect its writers, women who may fear reprisals from family or the local authorities when they discuss arranged marriages or the disappearance of relatives. The Internet center in Kabul that serves as a hub for many of the women is at an undisclosed location. Most of the women are identified only by first name, or by pseudonyms. Two of the 75 have insisted on complete anonymity.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Remains of Legendary Succubus Mistress of Liu Fei Excavated

A Dayunshan Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) tomb in Xuyi county is a great discovery for Jiangsu province. The host of the tomb is Liu Fei, the elder brother of Emperor Hanwu and the first King of Jiangdu.

Two dishes, inscribed with the Chinese characters "Naoshi", were found by the Archaeology Institute of Nanjing Museum and the Dayunshan Han Dynasty tomb archaeology team. The dishes are the first unearthed remains which are not directly relevant to the King of Jiangdu, Liu Fei. According to archaeologists' analysis, "Naoshi" dishes are consistent with the historical "Naoshi", the succubus mistress of Liu Fei.

Li Zebin, deputy director of archaeology Institute of Nanjing Museum and leader of the Dayunshan Han Dynasty tomb archaeology team, said the unearthed dishes vividly present a succubus mistress of "King of Jiangdu" and play an important part in the research of scenes from 2,000 years ago.

India: Ganesh Madal Supports The Girl Child

If many Ganesh Mandals have adopted the popular sentiment of the Anna Hazare movement against corruption to decorate Ganpati pandals, there are others that have picked up social causes which are in news these days. One mandal, for instance, the Rashtriya Sattoti Haud Mandal at Kasba Peth, has taken up female foeticide as the theme and is trying to create awareness on the importance of saving the girl child.

The mandal also felicitated eight couples who either have a single child, a girl, or two girl children. The mandal has used several ideas to drive home the point. For instance, a woman is shown near the pram of an infant. “It is the mother who is responsible for educating her daughter. Through proper upbringing, a mother can inculcate self-esteem in a girl child and make her independent.” said Sandeep Bangar, president of the mandal.

Bangladesh: Birangona - Victims of War

The title Birangona is used to honor the 200,000 women who were raped by the Pakistani Army during the 1971 Bangladesh war of secession. But the name is synonymous with rape, abortion, suicides and war babies.

There is a festive mood in Bangladesh because of yearlong celebrations marking 40 years of independence, but survivors of the mass rapes of 1971 say a small plaque is not enough when war criminals remain unpunished.

During the nine months of the war, thousands of women were gang raped and dumped into mass graves, their breasts chopped off. Those abandoned by their families slipped into India. Some killed their babies; others killed themselves.

Perpetrators were mainly of two types--some were members of the Urdu-speaking Bihari community and some were Bangladeshi--both supported by the Pakistani Army. They formed armed militia and committed atrocities on pro-liberation forces, according to government investigations and the research of civil society groups.

Those who survived, like Laily Begum and her sister Saleha, live in shame because their rapes left them tainted in the eyes of society and family members have treated their ordeals as taboo topics.

HRH Princess Lalla Aicha

From AllAfrica:
French historian Charles Saint-Prot said that all Morocco's friends were saddened by the news of the death, on Sunday, of HRH Princess Lalla Aicha, "one of the leading figures in the fight for the emancipation of the Moroccan women."

The late princess made history during the historical visit of Sultan Mohammed V to Tangier in April 1947, Saint-Prot told MAP.

"Princess Lalla Aicha, who was also the first women in the Arab world to hold diplomatic positions, was a brilliant symbol of the reformist aspect of a Moroccan monarchy that has been geared towards progress," said the historian and author of the book "Mohammed V or the popular monarchy," to be published by Rocher in late 2011.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Lady of Iraq

From the Jerusalem Post:
T.E. Lawrence, or Lawrence of Arabia, as he is more commonly known – may have hogged the limelight in early twentieth-century Britain as a swashbuckling campaigner in the deserts of Arabia. But his associate and contemporary, Gertrude Bell, was no slouch on matters Middle East either. Bell was a bona fide trailblazer, a woman of towering intellect and ability whose achievements in the Arab region led many to call her the “uncrowned queen of Iraq” following her involvement in the country’s uncertain beginnings as its architect and creator.

Aslender woman with red hair and piercing green eyes, Bell, who died 85 years ago last month, is today perceived as a figure who, far from accepting the traditional gender roles that made her era of post-Victorian England a distinctly male domain, pursued a life away from the bonds of marriage and the responsibilities of motherhood. Yet, when her immersion in the cut and thrust of Middle East realpolitik offered up the chance to build a stable and unified nation state, Bell exposed herself to an immense – some say, insurmountable – undertaking, one that continues to haunt the Middle East to this very day.

However, it was her 1916 appointment as a political officer in Basra, in southern Iraq, that thrust her into the political and diplomatic limelight. There, in the ancient land of Mesopotamia, she won the affection of Arab statesmen, founded a national museum and had significant input into the design and constitution of the new Iraq – established under a British mandate in 1920 from the Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Basra and Mosul. It was there, a decade after she arrived, that she died quite suddenly after overdosing on sleeping pills, either by accident or by design.

Book: The Revenant - a story of the Cherokee Female Seminary

Ghostly tales have surrounded Seminary Hall for decades.

The legendary Florence Wilson, longtime principal of the Cherokee Female Seminary, is the emphasis for many of these stories. For several years, Northeastern State University graduate students have led spook-seekers through the lantern-lit halls, telling about sightings of Florence and other spectral spirits.

So the Cherokee Female Seminary was a natural selection for the setting of “The Revenant,” Sonia Gensler’s first novel, published in June.

Gensler didn’t choose to center her story around Wilson, however.

“I wanted a story based on the student population, rather than teachers,” she said Thursday.

Gensler was one of five speakers during the opening session of the annual State of Sequoyah Conference at NSU, hosted by the State of Sequoyah Commission.

Radium Girls Remembered

In the early part of the 20th century, the chemical element radium was widely believed to cure a number of ailments. It also was used as a way to create glow-in-the-dark faces on watches and clocks. The case of several women who painted those clock and watch faces in a small town in the Midwest state of Illinois helped to raise awareness to the dangers of radium, and forever changed labor laws in the United States.

What no one talked about were the harmful effects to humans caused by exposure to the radioactive radium.

Young women in their late teens and early twenties were recruited to work at the Radium Dial factory in Ottawa. They painted the faces of watches and clocks with radium, which caused them to glow in the dark.

Book: 50 Years - 50 Women

There is pride in Bill Sterritt’s voice. He’s the proud father a book. It’s a book that has been a labor of love for the former College of the Albemarle professor and administrator.

In fact, the book is a celebration of COA, and 50 women who made the community college possible since its inception 50 years ago. The book is “50 Years — 50 Women.”

It was a four-year project that Sterritt says was difficult because those woman who are alive were not willing to talk about themselves.

“They would say they hadn’t done anything but I would tell them they had,” says Sterritt.

The book will be published Sept. 14 and will be on hand for the 50th anniversary of the founding of COA. In the meantime, here are some excerpts from the book, a series of profiles about 50 women who made important contributions to the Albemarle region, and North Carolina.

Libyan Women Celebrate Freedom

A sea of colorful headscarves filled Tripoli's Martyr’s Square on Friday afternoon. The crowd danced and sang, waving flags and balloons in the air. Joyful smiles beamed between cheeks adorned with painted colors of the rebel flag.

The crowd was almost 10,000 strong but there was not a man in sight. The women of Tripoli gathered to celebrate their freedom from an oppressive regime.

"I am 30 years old and this is the first time for me to stand in this square, and it is the first time I am free to talk to someone like you," said Arwa Mohammed Hassan as she waved a rebel flag above her head. "Before I was not proud of my country, but today I am so proud to be Libyan!"

Behind the scenes, women have played an unsung but crucial role in Tripoli’s revolution. Many have bravely spoken out and joined in the protests across the country.

Hundreds spent tireless hours preparing meals for the men on the frontline in makeshift kitchens. Others bravely smuggled guns and conveyed vital information from inside Gaddafi strongholds. Hundreds more nursed the wounded.

Today they gathered to show their thanks and support to the men still fighting to liberate the country.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Maids In America - The Help

The Help is already a big success. Having blitzed the US box office, it looks like making more money than the Meryl Streep hit Julie & Julia.

Much of the magic has been worked by its pedigree. It's an adaptation of Kathryn Stockett's bestseller about a group of black maids working in the households of Mississippi's middle class in 1963, one of the most volatile years of the civil rights movement - although the clamour and ferocity of the movement's battles with southern racism is heard only as distant thunder. Here, the front line is in the kitchen, the nursery - and the bathroom. Especially the bathroom.

The trouble begins when Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard), the bossiest and most brittle of Jackson, Mississippi's, fashionable young matrons, decides her black maid is to have a toilet of her own - or rather, an outhouse - so as to protect the family from any exotic diseases she may be carrying. And since Hilly is a trendsetter, the outhouse becomes a neighbourhood feature.

Wendy & The Lost Boys

Whatever flaws Lola Wasserstein had as a mother, she produced more than her share of extraordinary offspring. Her eldest, Sandra Meyer, was a top executive for American Express and Citicorp at a time when few women entered those boardrooms. Bruce Wasserstein pioneered the 1980s-style corporate takeover and became one of the richest men in the country (Forbes put him at #190). Georgette, who wanted a quiet life, runs a large country inn with her husband. Lola’s family was both dazzling and haunted by dark secrets and early deaths.

Wendy, the baby, became the first woman to win a (solo) Tony award for best play. In an astute new biography, “Wendy and the Lost Boys,” veteran reporter Julie Salamon fills in the history that produced a personality as extravagantly affable and intensely compartmentalized as Wendy Wasserstein. Eminently approachable, often unkempt, Wasserstein did not look like the sort of woman to keep complicated personal ledgers. When she died, at age 55, many of her closest friends discovered that each of them knew a different Wendy.

Mistresses Who Changed History

From Slate:
Before Monica Lewinsky, Camilla Parker Bowles, or Marilyn Monroe, there was Hagar—the world's first known mistress.

Several millenniums later, the mistress remains a tenuous position, as historian Elizabeth Abbott explores in her new book, Mistresses: A History of the Other Woman, out this week. Since Hagar's era, however, a handful of women have learned to parlay their scandalous relationships into positions of power—and some have changed history in doing so.

The accompanying gallery illuminates the lives of 10 women who used their time wisely. Each won a place in the history books because of their male attachments. But without their own formidable talents and intellects, most would not have been so admired by their lovers in the first place. Beauty, for these seductresses, was only the beginning.
See also: "Why mistresses have everything to do with marriage" from Huffington Post.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pucellina of Blois

From the Jerusalem Post:
In the second half of the 12th century, a Jewish woman named Pucellina, presumably of Italian ancestry, had dealings with the nobility in the town of Blois, located in Champagne. Most likely she was a moneylender, not an unusual profession for a medieval European Jew with funds; colleagues of hers were lending money to members of the nobility as well as to the church.

A distressing incident, namely a false blood-libel claim, transpired on May 26, 1171, ending in disaster for Pucellina. A male servant was supposedly watering his horse by the bank of the Loire when he noticed a Jew nearby. According to his account, this Jew was tossing the body of a Christian boy he had murdered into the river. The servant was convinced that the entity thrown into the water was a corpse because his horse was so startled that it refused to drink.

This “witness” immediately reported his sightings to his master, who realized that he had been afforded a perfect opportunity to undermine the local Jewish community. In particular, he could undermine Pucellina, to whom he had a strong aversion; this arrogant Jewish woman had the gall to consider Count Thibaut (of Blois) her patron.

Female Companionship 1880s - 1890s

As in most mining camps, Juneau and Douglas had its "girls" who "provided relaxation and companionship" for the male population, whether they were miners or businessmen.

Booming Alaska mining towns, such as Nome and Fairbanks, had their stockades to confine the girls and their cribs to a specific area. Ketchikan designated Creek Street as the red light district. But in early Juneau there was no street of sin. Most prostitutes worked the saloons on Front Street. It was in later years, especially after 1912, when the Alaska Juneau mill was under construction and in the years it operated, that most of the prostitutes congregated on South Franklin Street. Over in Douglas, most of the fallen doves operated in dwellings clustered along the beach in that part of town. Many frequented the dance halls and saloons in town.

Juneau and Douglas apparently tolerated this profession. I found only one criminal case in Alaska from 1884 to after 1900 in which prostitution was the sole crime. It was filed against Joseph Gregory of Sitka who was charged in 1892 with "setting up a house of ill fame for purposes of prostitution." But except for the necessary papers to bring the charge before the court, the case file is empty. Why wasn't Gregory fined or jailed? Others were not so lucky when liquor was involved.