Women in History

#Review A History Of Women In Medicine; Cunning Women, Physicians, Witches? by Sinead Spearing @sineadspearing #AhistoryOfWomenInMedicine #WomensHistory @penswordbooks

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I have the great pleasure to be sharing my review of this amazing book; A History of Women in History (Cunning Women, Physicians, Witches) by Sinead Spearing, so sit back grab a cuppa and let me tell you all about this brilliant book.

Witch’ is a powerful word with humble origins. Once used to describe an ancient British tribe known for its unique class of female physicians and priestesses, it grew into something grotesque, diabolical and dangerous. A History of Women in Medicine: From Physicians to Witches? reveals the untold story of forgotten female physicians, their lives, practices and subsequent demonisation as witches. Originally held in high esteem in their communities, these women used herbs and ancient psychological processes to relieve the suffering of their patients. Often travelling long distances, moving from village to village, their medical and spiritual knowledge blended the boundaries between physician and priest. These ancient healers were the antithesis of the witch figure of today; instead they were knowledgeable therapists commanding respect, gratitude and high social status.

In this pioneering work, Sinead Spearing draws on current archeological evidence, literature, folklore, case studies and original religious documentation to bring to life these forgotten healers. By doing so she exposes the elaborate conspiracy conceived by the Church to corrupt them in the eyes of the world. Turning these women from benevolent therapists into the embodiment of evil required a fabricated theology to ensure those who collected medicinal herbs or practiced healing, would be viewed by society as dealing with the devil. From this diabolical association, female healers could then be labeled witches and be justly tortured and tried in the ensuing hysteria known today as the European witch craze.

Well, what a fascinating, illuminating and at times quite harrowing book. I literally finished this in one day, I was completely hooked from the first page. I hate to say it, but before reading this I hadn’t heard of this author before – and I do feel awful for saying that. I’m very sorry, Sinead!

I was intrigued by the book the moment I spotted it and knew I had to read it and I am so pleased that I got the chance to. It is a remarkable read, I found it to be very hard-hitting and yet sensitive to those women it tells the stories of, it is a book that should be read by everyone, not just women who like me are interested in women’s history and celebrating how wonderful these women were but by all. I can guarantee there will be something within these pages that will intrigue everyone.

I really like how this is written, it not only tells the stories of these amazing women but it also highlights just what ignorance and fear can do, how when people fear or don’t understand something such what these fine women were doing or who then Ms Spearing’s voice comes through the history with such clarity that you feel her passion for the subject of which she is writing.

The book is all about the very early medicine women, or ‘cunning women’, healers and those that were basically viewed as witches; not quite people to be trusted. I loved the opening as Ms Spearing tells the story of how this book came about, all about when archaeologist found the remains of a women not buried in the grave yard but on the edge and buried with some very interesting and quite odd items. From there the book goes further in detail about who this women could have been, about the women like her from around the country doing good work healing and helping, these women who were basically the first doctors, these women who were respected one minute and the next tried for witch craft.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, it is a fresh and original book that looks into a different aspect of history.

This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review, Thank you Rosie.

A History of Women in Medicine is available from  Amazon and Pen & Sword

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#Review Exploring The Lives Of Women, 1558 – 1837 by Louise Duckling, Sara Read, Felicity Roberts & Carolyn D. Williams @WSGUK #ExploringTheLivesOfWomen #WomensHistory #WomensStudiesGroup via @penswordbooks

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Exploring the Lives of Women, 1558-1837 is an engaging and lively collection of original, thought-provoking essays. Its route from Lady Jane Grey’s nine-day reign to Queen Victoria’s accession provides ample opportunities to examine complex interactions between gender, rank, and power. Yet the book’s scope extends far beyond queens: its female cast includes servants, aristocrats, literary women, opera singers, actresses, fallen women, athletes and mine workers.

The collection explores themes relating to female power and physical strength; infertility, motherhood, sexuality and exploitation; creativity and celebrity; marriage and female friendship. It draws upon a wide range of primary materials to explore diverse representations of women: illuminating accounts of real women’s lives appear alongside fictional portrayals and ideological constructions of femininity. In exploring women’s negotiations with patriarchal control, this book demonstrates how the lived experience of women did not always correspond to prescribed social and gendered norms, revealing the rich complexity of their lives.

This volume has been published to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837. The group was formed to promote research into any aspect of women’s lives as experienced or depicted within this period. The depth, range and creativity of the essays in this book reflect the myriad interests of its members.

 

This is a fascinating collection of essays that covers all aspects of women’s history and the women themselves from Lady Jane Grey to Eliza O’Neill and many, many more between, plus there are essays on women’s rights, lives, sports, intellect, novels and even sex. I was intrigued by it as soon as I saw it and it did not disappoint. If you are interested in women’s history and the more under-celebrated figures from women history then this will be the perfect book. It is a compelling, richly historic and fabulously written book which will entertain as well as educate.

I was particularly engaged with the chapter about the three ‘radical’ Mary’s; Mary Wollenstonecraft, Mary Hays and Mary Robinson now I have heard of all three, any woman who each in their own way fought for women’s rights and to educate not just women but men too. I thought this particular chapter was wonderfully written, with great insights into these fascinating women plus highly educational, I never knew that Mary Shelley was the daughter of Mary Wollenstonecraft, how amazing!

Plus, the chapter about women’s running is utterly fascinating, I never knew that between 1700 and 1749 there was a t least 68 ladies running races across the country, how fascinating is that? It was those essays that focused more on the ordinary woman such as the brave women who went down the colliery which really jumped out at me, that is one of the reasons I really connected with this book, was the fact that’s its not all about royals and aristocrats its got a lot of depth into the ordinary woman and what she faced.

For those that are more fond of novel’s and lighter historic non-fiction this may be a little heavy, but I would definitely recommend everyone to read it, and the beauty of this book is that you necessarily have to read it in order, you can very easily jump in an out and it will make a fantastic research book for anyone who writing, if you have a woman in your work in progress then I would definitely have a read of this, it will amaze you.

A great book, and one that definitely should be any woman’s bookshelf.

This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review, Thank you Rosie.

Exploring The Lives Of Women 1558 – 1837 can be purchased from Amazon and Pen & Sword.

#Review Rebel With A Cause; The Life and Times of Sarah Benett, 1850-1924, Social Reformer and Suffragette by Iain Gordan #Suffragette #100years #SarahBenett #RebelWithACause @penswordbook

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One hundred years on, it is hard to imagine the violent disruption caused by the suffragette movement. After a century of peaceful protest had brought no progress a small group of determined women took matters into their own hands and turned to direct action. By virtue of their actions the cry ‘Votes for Women’ was heard throughout the country.

One of these unlikely ‘vandals’ was a mature middle-class spinster called Sarah Bennet. After leaving home on the death of her parents, she spent a decade attempting to improve deprived workers’ conditions in the Staffordshire potteries. Realising that nothing could be achieved until women obtained the vote and could compete with men on equal terms, she moved to London aged 55. Disowned by her family she joined Mrs Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political union and became an active suffragette. Ahead of her lay verbal and physical abuse, public contempt, imprisonment and hunger strikes.

Rebel with a Cause is her extraordinary story told largely in her own words.

My View

When I got offered the chance to review this book, I literally snatched it up, I knew that this would be right up my street and I was right. This is an extraordinary book, it is told mostly through Sarah’s words from her letters, diaries and documents that have survived and it tells the story of a truly inspiring and remarkable woman who gave everything for the suffrage movement.

This book tells the story of Sarah Benett, who was one of the most unlikely militant suffragette’s, before joined the cause she was working tirelessly in the Staffordshire Potteries trying to improve the workers conditions, trying to get them the rights they deserved but unfortunately unless women had equality and more immortal the right to vote her actions came to naught. Which is when after attending a meeting and hearing Flora McKinnon Drummon – or otherwise known as ‘The General’ speak Sarah knew then that this was her calling, this was what was needed. At the age of 57, Sarah Benett became a Suffragette.

I have read so much about the Suffragette’s and what they went through to be able to put that cross on the ballot paper, but this has brought a whole new understanding and even further respect to those brave and wonderful women who gave their all for something that many women today do take for granted and we truly are indebted to them.

Iain Gordan has written an informative, brilliantly researched and compelling book that can be read and enjoyed by anyone who has an interest in the subject. His writing is powerful, thoughtful and sympathetic to the subject as well as illuminating and engaging especially with the addition of the brilliant illustrations and photographs that really work to bring the time and this woman to life.

This is definite must read, I cannot recommend it highly enough.

This was a complimentary copy via the publisher in exchange for an honest review, thank you Rosie at Pen and Sword.

A Rebel With A cause is available from both Pen and Sword and Amazon.

Women of Steel; International Women’s Day Special

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During both World Wars, women had to take over what was then classed as “Men’s Work”, even today certain parts of the work place is designated to men because the work is “far too dangerous, far too hard and far too dirty” to let women do it, and even when we do go into those areas of work, women are more often frowned upon, or not welcomed. As a woman who has been in various area’s of work, I have done all sort’s but yet at those times when I have worked in a primarily male environment I have been made to feel very out-of-place, or being the only woman on site, I have either been leered at or treated with kids gloves. After all these years of proving that we can do anything a man can do we, women are still delegated to looking pretty and making tea. This is why International Women’s Day is so important, we have celebrate just how brilliant we, women are and we have to remember all those amazing women before us that did just what men thought they couldn’t.

Today I am talking about the amazing women, who – during both wars – went into the mans world and they did a damn good job. My main focus today is about the those incredible women who went into what was by far one of the hardest and dangerous industries; The steelworks! Now my dad was a steel worker and I have seen what it did to him, the scars from where he was injured, the damaged hearing and other seen and unseen scar’s that all steelworkers carry with them. For me, this particular ‘A Little history ‘ post is very personal and one that I have been wanting to post for a long time.

During WW2, with all our men gone to fight the world-famous Sheffield Steelworks had to keep going, in fact it was critical for the war effort that it keep open, due to the fact that the Steelworks were making the very ammunition that our soldiers needed. But all the men were gone, who would man the Steelworks? There was only one for it. Women!

Sheffield women donned their overalls and walked in to that factory with their heads held high and they did the job. Like in every other Steelworks around the country, the women took over and they ruled. Usually when we think of heroes from WW2 we think of the Land Army Girls, The Wrens and the front line Nurse’s, but this band of extraordinary women slaved away, day in and day out in Sheffield’s Steelwork, it was highly dangerous work but highly important work, without them who knows what would have happened – the war could have ended very differently.

The work they were doing was so far removed from what they would have been used to, most were pulled from their own jobs in Retail and Hospitality while the majority of the women were housewives. It is said that they got very little training, if any at all and most this would have been their first ever taste of work. Can you imagine how that would have been? Being forced from what you know into that hot, dangerous and intimidating factory, where one false move could very well end your death, if your lucky you get basic training. In constant fear of the burners over heating and there being an explosion, of getting burnt daily. Then there are the long-term injuries such as back problems, hearing loss, eye sight problems. Shoulders, knees and hand problems where they would have been burnt and strained and in some cases psychological problems after experiencing accidents.

The work was hard, typical daily tasks would have included picking up the steel at one end while a colleague had held of the other end, they would then have to put the steel into the heat and hammer it. Another daily task was climbing 20ft ladders to use forklifts, so it was no good complaining about being scarred of heights, you just had to get on with it, and grin and bear it. The days long with only perhaps Sunday free, it was hard manual labour, if all that was bad enough then there was the ‘Canary Girls’ who worked with the chemicals inside the ammunition. Their skin would turn yellow because of being in constant exposure of chemicals, they would get ill and they were in constant fear that the chemicals they were handling daily could explode.

What is incredible though is that once the war was over and the men returned, they walked straight into the Steelworks, told the woman to go back to their own lives without so much as a Thanks or Well done. These women had gone above and beyond to keep the factory running and to keep those very men in ammunition and that was the thanks that they got. Go back home!

The men may not have given these incredible women the respect and recognition that they deserved but we do. In Sheffield City Centre there is the proud and iconic Steel Statue, that is quite fitting called; The Women of Steel, which is in tribute to those inspirational women who did so much for us.

If you want to learn more about The Women of Steel then follow the Link http://www.sheffieldnewsroom.co.uk/tag/women-of-steel/

Below is just a few of the many ways that women were taking on so-called men’s work during WW2.
In early 1941, the Government Minister for Labour declared that ‘One million wives were wanted for war work” December 1941 the National Service Act was passed in Parliament, which included that all unmarried women aged 20 -30 were to be conscripted for war work, (The age was extended later to 19 -43). They had to either join the Armed Forces, work in a factory or work the land with the Woman’s Land Army

ATS : The Auxiliary Territorial Service.
The ATS was a branch of the British Army during WW2, all women between 17 and 43 could join, although they were barred from serving in battle. They took on the roles such as cooks, storekeepers, orderlies, drivers and postal workers. Later in the war as there was becoming a shortage in men, the women in the ATS became radar operators and anti-aircraft gun crew members.

WRNS : The Women’s Royal Navy Service.
At the beginning of the war, the women’s branch of the Royal Navy was seen as a way of freeing men who were in non-combatant roles, such as cooking and driving to fight. “Join the Wrens’ today and free a man to join the fleet.” Which is what a recruitment poster urged women to do. The Wrens’ went on to do very important and varied work such as code-breaking at Bletchley Park and operating radar equipment.

HAPPY INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!

A Little History; Heroines In History

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It has been a while since I wrote a post for my “A Little History” series and for its return I thought I would share with you some of my heroines in history. Unfortunately I can’t list all of the brilliant women in history that I have looked up to over the years, my post would go on for days if I did. So I have chosen these five women who were so very different and yet so incredible in their own right. These five women were strong and independent and courageous.

Grace Darling

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Grace Darling

I don’t know if anyone knows about Grace but she was a brave and brilliant young woman in the Victorian era. Grace lived with her father in a lighthouse on the Farne Isles, off the Northumberland coast when in Autumn 1838 she spotted the ship wreck of the SS Forfarshire on the rocks on a nearby Island, while looking out of her bedroom window. She and her father determined that the rough sea was too harsh for the life boat so together her and her father got in their own little row-boat and set off towards the wreck. Grace and her father rescued 13 people and then made their way back to the safety of their lighthouse home.

Grace was after that inundated with gifts and accolades because the bravery she showed on that day, I can’t even think how much courage it must have taken to step into that tiny row-boat and row out on to that turbulent sea.

Grace later became ill and in October 1842 she died at the tender age of 26 from Turberculosis, Grace was an ordinary young woman who selflessly put her own life on the line to rescue other’s and because of her bravery she changed how women were perceived in that era.

Flora Sandes

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Flora Sandes

Flora Sandes was the only British woman to serve as a soldier on the frontline and in the trenches during WWI, but she didn’t just serve as just a regular soldier she worked her way through the ranks to become a Sergeant Major. The story of how Flora managed to get there is just as incredible, she was a St Johns Ambulance volunteer , she shot a man in self-defense and went to Serbia to serve as a nurse. Once in Serbia she was separated from her colleagues and she did the only thing she could to survive and that was to join the Serbian army as a soldier.

The fact that she was a 40-year-old British women and the daughter of a clergyman didn’t mean a thing, she fought side by side with the men – The Serbian army accepted women at that point – and she fought so well that she was quickly promoted. Flora was injured by a grenade which put an end to her military career but the Serbian Military honoured her with their highest award – the Order of the Karadordes Star for her bravery.

Violette Szarbo

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Violette Szarbo

Violette was by far one of the bravest women in British history, she was an incredible woman. Violette was half French and half English, in 1940 she married a French officer who died in battle the same year, following his death Violette wanted a bit of excitement and adventure she joined the FRench Section of the Special Operations Executive or SOE and worked as a Secret Agent in occupied France.

It was on one of her missions that she was captured and taken tp Ravensbruck concentration camp, where after months of interrogations and she refused to speak, she and two of her SOE colleagues were executed.

In 1946 Violette Szarbo was the first British woman to be posthumously awarded the George Cross, the medal was pinned to the chest of her daughter Tania who was wearing a dress her mother had bought her on one of her missions to Paris. There is a brilliant film about her called “Carve Her name With Pride” which stars the amazing Virginia Mckenna.

Emily Bronte

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Emily Bronte

Emily was an absolute hero of mine when I was growing up, Wuthering Heights is just about the best piece of literature there is, I just loved how raw and real it is. How she captured how powerful and moving the moors and it’s inhabitants can be.

From all accounts about Emily she was a shy, home-loving recluse who loved nothing better than wandering around the moors, happy in her own little world and on her own. She is often refered to as intensely creative and passionate, a free spirit and an iconic tortured genius. and going by the brilliance that Wuthering Heights is, I thing k I would agree. She was strong in her own way, by all accounts she didn’t want the whole husband and family thing, she was more than happy in caring for her family and doing what she wanted when she wanted and I really admire that.

“She should have been a man – a great navigator. Her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty, never have given way but with life. She had a head for logic, and a capability of argument unusual in a man and rarer indeed in a woman… impairing this gift was her stubborn tenacity of will which rendered her obtuse to all reasoning where her own wishes, or her own sense of right, was concerned” Quoted by Constantin Hegar

Queen Elizabeth 1

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Queen Elizabeth I

It may be an obvious one but I do like how strong and resilient Elizabeth was, she was an incredible woman who was living and ruling in a mans world she was under constant prejudice because of her sex and under constant pressure from her advisors telling her that she needed a husband to succeed in their world. I admire her for her stiff upper lip and fact that, yes she was a woman in a powerful position but she didn’t cave in under the pressure and she protected her people and her country when they needed her the most.

Most men in that position would have crumbled with all the back stabbing and underhand goings on that circulated the court, but not Elizabeth, she proved that a woman can survive a man’s world. All my heroines have that same courage and passion and each one of them have gone out into a mans world and made it her own, they have proved that we women don’t need knights in shining armour to ride in and save the day. . .We can save our selves.

If you want to know more about my heroines then check out the links below.

Grace Darling / Violette Szabo / Emily Bronte  / Queen Elizabeth I / Flora Sandes