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Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole was a Jamaican nurse who treated sick and injured soldiers during the Crimean War. Mary Seacole was born Mary Jane Grant in Kingston Jamaica in 1805. (At that time Jamaica was part of the British Empire).  She traveled to Crimea herself in 1855. Mary ran a boarding house called the British Hotel. She also sold provisions and when she was not working there Mary worked tirelessly treating sick and injured soldiers. They called her Mother Seacole. When the war ended in 1856 Mary returned to England. In 1857 she wrote a book called Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole. www.localhistories.org/seacole

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Monday, 18 April 2016

Christine de Pisan

Christine de Pisan was a great woman writer of the Middle Ages. Her father Tommaso was a famous academic and she was born in Italy about 1363. When she was an infant Christine and her family moved to France, where her father was employed by the French king. In 1379 Christine married Etienne de Castel. Christine had 3 children, 1 girl and 2 boys. However her husband died young in 1390.


Christine was devastated and she took to writing poetry to express her grief. Soon she gained a reputation as a gifted poet. Christine became a professional writer. She wrote on many subjects, often defending women Among her famous books are Letters to the God of Love (1399) and The Book of the City of Ladies (1405), which championed women and their place in society. Her last work was The Poem of Joan of Arc written in 1429. Christine de Pisan died around 1430.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Friday, 15 April 2016

Titanic

In the early hours of the morning on 15 April 1912 the Titanic sank with great loss of life www.localhistories.org/titanic

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Margery Kempe

Margery Kempe was an English mystic of the Middle Ages. She is famous for her autobiography. 

When she grew up Margery married a merchant named John Kempe. Soon she fell pregnant. In those days pregnancy was hazardous and many women died in childbirth. Margery had a difficult pregnancy and labor. Afraid that she was dying she sent for a priest to confess her sins to. However the priest spoke to her very harshly and this seems to have triggered a period of mental illness. Eventually Margery Kempe had a vision of Jesus. He said 'Daughter why have you forsaken me, for I have never forsaken you'. Afterwards she returned to normal.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel the great 19th century engineer was born on 9 April 1809 in Portsmouth www.localhistories.org/brunel



A memorial to the great man in Portsmouth

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich 1342-1416 was a great Christian mystic and writer of the Middle Ages but little is known about her. It is a myth that women were unimportant in the Middle Ages. Some women like Julian certainly did have influence. However we know very little about her life. Julian (also known as Juliana) was probably born in Norwich. She certainly spent most of her life there. At that time Norwich was one of England's largest and most important towns. It was a centre of the wool trade although during Julian's lifetime the population was devastated by plague. In the 14th century Norwich had a population of about 10,000, which made it a big town by Medieval standards.

Julian described herself modestly as 'a simple creature, unlettered'. However she probably did have some education and some knowledge of theology. Julian was in her 70s when she died, which was unusual for that time.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A biography of Hildegard

Hildegard was a writer in the 12th century. She was born about 1098 in Germany. Hildegard came from an upper class family. She was one of ten children. When she was 15 Hildegard became a Benedictine nun. In 1136 when she was about 38 Hildegard became the abbess.

Hildegard claimed that she had visions from the time she was child. What caused them is uncertain.

Her first book was called Scito vias domini or Know the Ways of God. Hildegard completed it in 1151. It covered a huge number of theological subjects including the Church, angels, the Trinity, and the end of the world. Hildegard also wrote a morality play called Ordo Virtutum (order of the virtues).

Meanwhile in 1148 Hildegard announced that God had told her and the other nuns to move to a new location at Rupertsberg near Bingen. They moved about 1150.

As well as theology Hildegard was also interested in the natural world. She made no new discoveries herself but she wrote a compendium of knowledge about the natural world at the time called Physica. Hildegard also wrote a book about medicine called Causes and Cures.

As well as being a great writer Hildegard was also a composer. She composed a cycle of songs called the Symposia. Hildegard was also an abbess and she had to cope with the day to day running of a convent. However Hildegard only allowed girls from noble families to join her convent. In her view it was unnatural for the different classes of society to mix.


Hildegard died on 17 September 1179. She was aged about 81 (an extremely old age in those days). In the Middle Ages Hildegard was an influential woman. Even today Hildegard is remembered as a great scholar and mystic.

Monday, 4 April 2016

20th century women

In 1918 in Britain women over 30 were allowed to vote. More occupations were opened to women during the 20th century. In 1916 the first policewoman (with full powers) was appointed in Britain. The 1919 Sex Disqualification Removal Act allowed women to become lawyers, vets and civil servants. (The first female solicitor was Carrie Morrison in 1922). Also in 1922 Irene Barclay became the first female chartered surveyor.

Nevertheless in the early 20th century it was unusual for married women to work (except in wartime). However in the 1950s and 1960s it became common for them to do so - at least part-time. New technology in the home made it easier for women to do paid work. Before the 20th century housework was so time consuming married women did not have time to work. Manufacturing became less important and service industries grew creating more opportunities for women.


In 1970 in Britain the law was changed so women had to be paid the same wages as men for doing work of equal value. In 1973 women were admitted to the British stock exchange. From 1975 it was made illegal to sack women for becoming pregnant. Also in 1975 the Sex Discrimination Act made it illegal to discriminate against women in employment, education and training. In 1984 a new law stated that equal pay must be given for work of equal value.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Greek Women

In a rich family the wife was expected to run the home and, sometimes, to manage the finances. However rich women would normally stay indoors and send slaves to do the shopping. Poor women, of course, had no choice. They might also have to help their husbands with farm work. Women, even rich ones, were expected to spin and weave cloth and make clothes.

Girls in Ancient Greece married when they were about 15. Marriages were arranged for them.

Sappho (6th century BC) was a famous Greek woman poet. Theano of Crotona (born c.546 BC) was a famous mathematician. About 150 BC Aglaonike was a woman astronomer.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Education for women in the 16th century and 17th century

In the early 16th century some upper class women were highly educated. Two of Henry VIII's wives, Katherine of Aragon and Catherine Parr were well educated. Queen Elizabeth I was also well educated and she liked reading. Wealthy girls learned music and dancing and needlework. They also learned to read and write and they learned languages like Greek and Latin, Spanish, Italian and French.

However towards the end of the 16th century girls spent less time on academic subjects and more time on skills like music and embroidery. Moreover during the 17th century boarding schools for girls were founded in many towns. In them girls were taught subjects like writing, music and needlework.