Copyright © 2006 Henrietta W. Hay
Uppity Women in History
March 24, 2006
One of my readers suggests that I am the local voice of Hillary Clinton. actually, I haven't mentioned Hillary recently, but since he reminded me, maybe I should start. I would warn the writer not to mess around with little old ladies. We can be a pretty tough bunch when riled.
March is Women's History Month. It seems like a good time to mention some that have managed to succeed in a man's world. I wonder what the recorded history of the world would be if women had been included for the first 5,000 years or so. Actually, we were around the whole time.
There is a fascinating series of books written by Vicki León about uppity women of history. Women had to be uppity to achieve what they did. León is historically accurate -- I think -- and irreverently funny. A few women really stand out.
There was Deborah of Biblical fame. León says of her, "she doubled as both an early Golda Meir and a Moshe Dayan for the Israelites." She became a Judge of Israel and put together an army to fight the Caananites. In the battle, which coincided with a heavy rain, some 900 chariots of fire got stuck in the mud, Caananites were put to the sword and Deb was victorious
Nefertiti was the Jackie Kennedy of her day, around 2700 B.C. She tried to create an Egyptian Camelot and she may - or may not - have been the mother of King Tut. Like most women of her time, she came to a mysterious and probably unpleasant end.
When Irene of Athens was crowned sole ruler of the Byzantine Empire in 797, she became the first woman ever to hold the throne of the old Roman Empire. Irene ranks with Egyptian queen Hatshepsut and Russian empress Catherine the Great as a breaker of male-dominated dynasties.
Females figured prominently in Greek and Roman mythology, but most of them were Goddesses. Antigone is one of my favorite mortals. After the good old boys told her to shut up and sit down on the sidelines, she charged out onto the battle field to retrieve the body of her brother. For her trouble she was condemned to be buried alive, which was an early example of what has often happened to pushy women. Joan of Arc, the witches of Salem, Eleanor Roosevelt and Margaret Sanger come to mind.
The middle ages were dominated by the Church, and women had no place there. But they managed to get themselves noticed anyway. Margaret of Anjou, wife of Henry VI founded Queens College of Cambridge University in 1448. Yikes, a woman in college in 1448! And Mary, Queen of Scots was the first known female golfer. León says, "Right after her dear second hubby, Darnley, died, she played 18 holes."
There have been lots of uppity American women, too. One story I like is that of Mattie Silks, as reported in the Denver News. Mattie , a famous Denver madame, was an early opponent of gun control. She engaged in a formal pistol duel with another of her sisters in 1877. Neither was hurt, since both were "somewhat intoxicated," although one male bystander was shot in the neck.
Without Amelia Bloomer I might not be wearing slacks today. As a forerunner of some of today's issues, one indignant woman said, "The Bible is against bloomers."
Women's history before the 19th century is sadly incomplete , but there are lots of uppity women who have not been forgotten.