Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Monday, October 15, 2018

Jadwiga of Poland, Queen Regent of Poland

Jadwiga, Queen Regent of Poland (crowned 15 October 1384)

Born in 1373, Jadwiga was the youngest of three daughters born to Elizabeth of Bosnia and Louis, king of Hungary and Croatia--and, after 1370, of Poland--a member of the extended Anjevin line of the French Capetian dynasty.

A sixteenth-century imagined portrait
of Jadwiga of Poland
Without a male heir, Louis made plans for his three daughters, Catherine, Mary, and Jadwiga, to succeed him in Hungary and Poland as well as in Provence and in the kingdom of Naples.* His daughters were not only desirable marital prospects, but their marriages were also a way for Louis himself to consolidate his influence and power. 

In pursuit of his political ends, Louis arranged for the marriage of his eldest daughter, Catherine, to Louis I, duke of Orléans, and he promised the Holy Roman Emperor that his second daughter, Mary, would be married to Charles IV's second son, Sigismund of Luxembourg, an agreement that was signed by deed in 1373. In 1375, Louis arranged Jadwiga's marriage to the Habsburg William of Austria, and the girl was sent to the court in Vienna, where she lived from 1378 until 1380.

After the death of Catherine in 1378, Louis clarified his intentions for Mary and Jadwiga, indicating that Mary was to succeed him in Poland and Jadwiga in Hungary. But after the death of Louis himself in 1382, Elizabeth of Bosnia had Mary crowned "king" of Hungary, with Sigismund of Luxembourg attempting to take control of Poland. 

In resisting Sigismund (and the Habsburg powers), the Polish nobility ultimately ended the personal union of Hungary and Poland that Louis had forged, electing Jadwiga--then a child of nine--as "king" (rex) of Poland on 15 October 1384.** She was crowned immediately--probably as a signal that William of Austria was considered an altogether unsuitable match.

Instead, Jadwiga was married to Jogaila, grand duke of Lithuania, on 15 February 1386. The marriage was desirable for Poland and not only because it would allow them to resist pressures from Austria--the newly combined territories of Lithuania and Poland were larger than the previous union of Hungary and Poland. 

But Leopold of Austria did not relinquish his son's marriage to Jadwiga easily. Leopold demanded that the marriage between Jadwiga and his son be consummated, and William of Austria traveled to Krakow, only to be barred entry to Wawel Castle. A confusion of accounts blurs what might--or might not--have happened when Jadwiga and William did finally meet. Did William and Jadwiga consummate their marriage? 

Contemporary chroniclers provide different answers, and modern historians are also divided, but one fact is clear: William of Austria was ultimately forced out of Poland, and the match with Jogailo was made. 

Jadwiga of Poland,
Wawel Cathedral
There was one still slight problem to be overcome before the marriage could be solemnized--neither Jogailo nor his people were Christian. And so, by the terms of the Union of Krewo, Jogailo converted to Catholicism, was baptized as Władysław Jagiełło, and pledged to promote the conversion of the people of Lithuania. 

(The duke's mother, Uliana of Tver, had hoped her son would marry Sofia, the daughter of Prince Dmitri of Moscow, but that would have required his conversion to the Orthodox faith--and since Lithuania was subjected to a series of crusades by Catholic Teutonic knights, that wouldn't have ended the problems of Lithuania quite the way his conversion to Catholicism did . . . )

By the way, one more note about traditional marriage: on the day of their marriage, 15 February 1386, Władysław Jagiełło was thirty-five years old, and Jadwiga just twelve. Sigh. 

Of course, the rejected William refused to give up, his Teutonic knights invading Lithuania, despite having been offered compensation by Władysław Jagiełło. William persisted in claiming that he had consummated his marriage with Jadwiga, the rumors and claims ultimately leading to a papal investigation, forcing Jadwiga to swear that she had never had a sexual relationship with anyone but Władysław Jagiełło.

When she wasn't defending her marriage against William, Jadwiga and her husband also had to resist invasion by her sister Mary's husband, now king of Hungary, who hoped to add Poland, or parts of it, to his own territory (he had problems of his own, however, and spent a great deal of time defending Hungary against the threatening Ottomans).

After her sister Mary's death in 1395, Jadwiga became the heir to the crown of Hungary. If she and her husband were to succeed there, they would themselves pose a threat to the German empire--and so, after years of turmoil, a peace was negotiated. Jadwiga's claims to Hungary were recognized, but no further conflict with Sigismund followed, though tensions remained. 

On 22 June 1399, Jadwiga, queen of Poland, gave birth to a daughter, named Bonifacia. Within a month, both daughter and mother had died. Jadwiga, queen regnant of Poland, was just twenty-five years old. She is buried in Wawel Cathedral.

After his wife's death, Władysław Jagiełło ruled as king of Poland  

Despite her relatively brief reign, Jadwiga is regarded by historians as one of the most important rulers of Poland--primarily for her marriage, which resulted in the creation of a great state. She is also noted as a patron of religion and scholarship. She founded hospitals and schools, notably a college in Prague. The University of Krakow, which had been founded in 1364, had dissolved; Jadwiga refounded the university, modeling it after the University of Paris.  

Related to Elizabeth of Hungary, Jadwiga was also noted for her holiness. A number of legends attest to her religious faith. She was canonized by Pope John Paul II in Kraków on 8 June 1997.

Jadwiga of Poland,
Wawel Cathedral
A brief biography in Europe, 1450-1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World, can be accessed by clicking here. There is also a brief entry on Jadwiga of Poland in the online Encyclopedia Britannica (click here). 

I recommend the entry on Jadwiga in Helen J. Nicholson's The Crusades--you should be able to access it via Google Books. It is particularly good for its account, though brief, of the Jadwiga-William-Jogailo marriage question. And, then, there is Charlotte Kellogg's 1931 biography, Jadwiga: Poland's Great Queen; it is out of print, but used copies do pop up on Amazon occasionally.

*Louis involved himself in Neopolitan power struggles after his brother, Andrew of Hungary was assassinated, and Andrew’s wife, Queen Joanna I of Naples, was held by some to be responsible for her husband's murder. Despite all of Louis' claims and meddling, he could never acquire the kingdom of Naples, and Queen Joanna's successor, Charles of Durazzo, in his turn claimed the crown of Hungary.

**In designating her as rex, the intention seems to have been to emphasize that Jadwiga was a queen regent, and that whomever she married would be her consort, not her replacement.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Mary Beale and the Business of Painting

Mary Craddock Beale (died 8 October 1699)

Although the date of her birth is not recorded, Mary Craddock was baptized on 26 March 1633 by her father, the Reverend John Craddock, in the rectory of St. Paul's Church, Barrow, Suffolk. Her mother's name was Dorothy--her family name is obscured on her marriage record.

Mary Craddock Beale,
self portrait
Her father may have begun his daughter's training, for the Puritan clergyman was known to have been an amateur painter. He was also a member of the Painter-Stainers Company of London, presenting one of his own paintings ("of varieties of fruits") to them in 1648.

Speculation about other painters who may have contributed to Mary Craddock's training include the portrait painter Robert Walker, who painted the Reverend Craddock's portrait in the late 1640s, as well as the court painter Peter Lely and the miniature painter Matthew Snelling, both of whom lived and worked in nearby Bury St. Edmonds, and who were members of John Craddock's social group. 

Mary Craddock met and married Charles Beale, a cloth merchant, in 1652, when she was eighteen. Like her father, Beale was an amateur painter. Mary Craddock Beale relocated with her husband to London, settling in Covent Garden.

Over the course of the next few years, she gave birth to and buried a son, then gave birth to two more boys. During these early years she must have continued painting, because by 1658, she is well enough known that she is named in Sir William Sanderson's The Excellent Art of Painting, where she is noted as one of four (married) women painters active in London.

In 1665, the couple relocated to Hampshire in order to escape the plague in London, but they returned to London, this time taking up residence on Fleet Street. At about the same time, Charles Beale lost his job as clerk in the Patent Office, and Mary Beale transitioned from painting as an amateur to painting as a professional.

Charles Beale took over the management of his wife's studio, "organizing commissions," recording payments received and debts paid, and "preparing colors." His detailed notebooks, a few of which survive, contain records of Mary Beale's work, her associations with other artists,  and the "business" of art, including the close care needed with her subjects, who needed to be chosen in order to protect her reputation. 

Through her work as a painter, Mary Craddock Beale was able to support her family--in 1677 alone, she had eighty-three commissions (all carefully recorded by her husband in his notebooks). But by 1681, when fashions had changed, her popularity waned, and Beale once again made an adjustment, taking on students, including Sarah Curtis Hoadly.

Beale died in London on 8 October 1699, aged sixty-six, and is buried at St. James's Church, Piccadilly. 

In her work, Mary Craddock Beale focused on portrait painting, working in oil, water color, and pastel, her style sometimes described as "vigorous" and "masculine," a word often used to praise women painters. Her work was also praised for its "color, strength, force" and "life." In addition to her painting and teaching, Beale wrote, including instructional materials, a piece titled Observations, in which she explained how to paint apricots. 

A large body of work survives, as a quick Google search will show. I recommend the gallery at Artnet for a good survey--it currently includes 169 of her works. 

I recommend Ruth Dugdale's charming essay, "On the Trail of Suffolk Artist Mary Beale," published in the East Anglian Daily Times. There is also a chapter on Beale in Ellen Creaythorne Clayton's 1876 English Female Artists, accessible at the Internet Archive (click here).

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Rosalba Carriera, the "Most Famous Pastellist"

Rosalba Carriera (born 7 October 1675)

Born in Venice, Rosalba Carriera was the daughter of Andrea Carriera, a government clerk, and his wife, Alba Foresti, a lacemaker. Carriera is thought to have begun her career making lace-patterns for her mother. It may have been the decline in the lace trade that led to her change of medium: Carriera began painting miniature portraits on snuff boxes.

Rosalba Carriera, self-portrait
The self-taught Carriera was also an innovator, using ivory as the ground for her miniatures. In 1705, at the age of twenty-five, she earned recognition from (and a special membership in) the Accademia di San Luca in Rome.

She had also begun experimenting with using pastels for portraits, her earliest pastel dated to 1700. The medium had been used for informal studies or preparatory sketches, but Carriera is credited with the use of pastel for "serious portraiture." While many women artists contribute to the development of the medium of pastel, Germaine Greer notes, in The Obstacle Race, that "the exploration of the possibilities of pastel portraiture was advanced most" by Carrera's work. 

After 1708, art historian Neil Jeffares writes, Carriera "devoted herself particularly to pastel." Of the 440 surviving works now credited to  her, "three-quarters are in pastel."

Carriera's reputation as an artist grew as notable visitors to Venice sought her out for their portraits, including Maximilian of Bavaria, in 1704; Christian Ludwig of Mecklenburg, in 1706; Frederick IV of Denmark, in 1708-09; and the prince elector of Saxony, later Augustus III of Poland in 1713, when the young man was making a grand tour. In addition to a portrait of himself (in oil), he commissioned a series of allegorical works: The Four Seasons, The Four Elements, and The Four Continents. (He would later acquire 150 of her pastels and filled a room in his Dresden palace with her work.)

Spring, one of The Four Seasons,
National Gallery of Ireland
Also visiting her studio was a notable collector, the French banker Pierre Crozat. In 1720, at his suggestion, Carriera traveled to Paris, where she spent "a triumphant year," receiving commissions for some fifty portraits, including one of Louis XV. She was  elected to the French Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture in that year, as well as to the Accademia Clementina in Bologna.
After leaving Paris, Carriera returned to Venice, but in 1723 she left for Modena, where she spent five months at the Este court. Back in Venice, one of her great patrons was the British consul, Joseph Smith--later, the work he commissioned from Carriera was acquired by King George III.

In 1730, Carriera again left Venice, this time for the court of Vienna, where she spent six months and fulfilled a number of commissions for Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, whose empress, Elisabeth Christine, became her pupil. But by 1737, her output began slowing--her sister Giovanna, who had traveled and worked with her, died, and her own eyesight began to fail. 

By 1745, Rosalba Carriera was blind. She lived in Venice, in Dosoduro, where she died in 1757, at the age of eighty-four. 

In describing Carriera's style, Jeffares notes her "distinctive vaporous style" and her "delicate and light palette." She was, above all, a "consummate artist."

Jeffares's comprehensive essay on Carriera, in the Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800, is readily accessible online (click here).

There is an excellent entry by Margherita Giacometti in the Dictionary of Women Artists. 

catalogue raisonné of her work was published in 2007, in Italian, with black-and-white illustrations--used copies are occasionally available. But for once I might suggest you look at the Wikipedia entry for Carriera, which has a wonderful, expansive gallery of her work. You can search online and see her work in various collections--the National Gallery (London) the Victoria and Albert, the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Getty, and the Uffizi, for example. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Anna Maria Lane, Revolutionary War Soldier

Anna Maria Lane, Soldier of the American Revolution (battle of Germantown, 3 October 1777)

Virtually nothing is known about the early life of Anna Maria Lane, not even her name before she was married. 

In For Virginia and For Independence: Twenty-Eight Revolutionary War Heroes from the Old Dominion, historian Harry M. Ward indicates that she was probably born about the year 1737 somewhere in New England, perhaps New Hampshire or Connecticut.

A marker honoring Anna Maria Lane,
Richmond, Virginia,
erected 1997
At some point before 1776, she married John Lane, who seems to have been born about 1727. His place of birth is also unknown, but in 1776, John Lane enlisted in the Continental Army in Connecticut, serving under General Israel Putnam. 

For all that is unknown about Anna Maria Lane, one thing is certain: she is the only Virginia woman documented for her role as a soldier in the Revolutionary War.

The Lanes seem to have been middle-aged in 1776. They also had a daughter, a young girl named Sarah. Anna Maria Lane may have followed her husband when he joined the Continental Army, but at some point, either by necessity, deception, or with permission, she dressed herself in men's clothing. No longer a camp follower, she began to live and fight as a "common soldier."

Together with her husband, she was at the battles of White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Germantown, and Savannah.

Indeed, it is because she was severely wounded at the battle of Germantown on 4 October 1777 that we know about her military service. During the battle she suffered a wound to her leg, perhaps a fractured femur or hip. The injury was severe enough that it would leave her permanently disabled.

The wounded Anna Maria Lane may have been left behind at a makeshift military hospital in the Boehm German Reformed Church when Washington retreated--but she may also have resisted, since she would have risked discovery if she were subjected to medical examination.

She may or may not have continued on with her husband--accounts vary as to whether she was with him in Savannah, where he was wounded and captured as a prisoner of war in 1779.

By 1782, John Lane had been released and transferred from the Continental Army to the Virginia militia. In 1783, after the militia was disbanded, John Lane was appointed a state guard of Virginia, and then transferred from Richmond to Point of Fork, near Charlottesville. Anna Maria Lane was with him there, and both she and their daughter Sarah were hired in various capacities, including working as laundresses.

In 1801, John Lane was transferred back to Virginia. Then seventy-five years old or so, he was one of the sixty-eight old soldiers who made up the "guard garrison" and performed light duties. For her part, Anna Maria Lane went to work as a nurse in the military hospital in Virginia. In recognition of the work she performed there, Dr. John H. Foushee, Virginia's health officer, petitioned then-governor James Monroe on her behalf, and she was paid a small stipend.

By 1804, Anna Maria Lane was so incapacitated by her old injury that she was dismissed, no longer capable of working. In 1808, John Lane and several other old soldiers were also dismissed from the guard garrison. 

Elderly, infirm, and now living in poverty, John and Anna Maria Lane applied for military pensions from the state of Virginia. Recognizing their military service, Governor William H. Cabell requested the General Assembly provide pensions for seven disabled male solders--and one female veteran.* 

William Cabell's letter to the speaker
of the Virginia Assembly,
posted by the Library of Virginia
In awarding a military pension to Anna Maria Lane, the Virginia Assembly noted that she was "very infirm, having been disabled by a severe wound, which she received while fighting as a common soldier . . . from which she never recovered."

And, further:  "In the Revolutionary War, in the garb, and with the courage of a soldier, [she] performed extraordinary military services at the Battle of Germantown."

For her "extraordinary military services" she was awarded an immediate grant. And then, for the remainder of her life, she collected a quarterly pension payment of $25. (Her husband, meanwhile, collected payments of $10 every quarter.)

Anna Maria Lane died on 13 June 1810. 

In addition to Ward's history, noted above, I recommend the interview with historian Joyce Hunter posted on the Colonial Williamsburg website--to access it, click here.

*Three other women received pensions at this time, but all three had been nurses during the Revolutionary War, not soldiers.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Sancha of Castile, Queen of Aragon

Sancha of Castile, Queen of Aragon (born 21 September 1154/5)

Sancha of Castile is the daughter of Alfonso VII of León and Castile and Richeza of Poland. the king's second wife. Although Alfonso's first wife, Berenguela of Barcelona, had given birth to seven children, five sons and two daughters, Sancha of Castile is the only surviving child of the king's second marriage.*

Detail of a twelfth-century miniature of
Alfonso II and Sancha, king and queen of Aragon,
from the  Liber Feudorum Maior
On 12 January 1174, Sancha was married to Alfonso II of Aragon--he was linked to her father not only by his position as a vassal of Castile but by their shared dedication to wiping out the Muslim kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula.

According to Antonio Ubieto Arteta's Historia de Aragón, Sancha's dowry was "amplia"--including many castles and territories in Aragon and Catalonia. After Alfonso II's capture of Cuenca from the Moors, an important step in the Reconquista, he was released from his tie of vassalage to Castile.

Alfonso was noted for his consolidation of Catalonia: his father, Raymond Berenguer, was the count of Barcelona, a title Alfonso inherited; Alfonso conquered Provence in 1166, becoming count of Provence; the dowry he received with his marriage to Sancha added to his influence in the region. But Alfonso was not only a warrior, he was also a troubadour poet, thus participating in the twelfth-century literary, chivalric, and courtly love culture that originated in Aquitaine, Provence, and Champagne and spread to Catalonia and northern Italy.

As queen of Aragon, Sancha too participated in court culture, primarily as a noted patron of troubadour poets. But for Sancha, there was more than the pleasant fiction of courtly love to occupy her time. In 1177, while her husband was in Provence, Sancha entered into "the countship of Ribagorza, and took possession of the fortresses and castles there, which belonged to the crown." Despite this description in a contemporary chronicle, which gives no further details of what might have motivated Sancha to assert herself in these extraordinary actions, these were possessions that had been part of her "ample" dowry. 

And, over the course of the twenty years of her marriage, Sancha also gave birth to at least eight children, seven of whom survived into adulthood. The first, Pedro II, who would succeed his father as king, was born soon after her marriage in 1174, the last, Dulcia, was born nearly twenty years later, in 1192.

The Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Sigena
After Alfonso's death in 1196, then dowager queen, Sancha retired to the El Real Monasterio de Santa María de Sigena (The Royal Monastery of Santa Maria de Sigena), which she had founded in 1188: 
It was the main monastery for nuns of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem and it accepted, “dueñas” (owners) or prominent religious women from the most noble families of Aragon. The first nun ordained at this monastery, was Doña Dulce, daughter of Doña Sancha and King Alfonso II of Aragon. She died the following year and was buried in the monastery. Also buried in it was its founder: Doña Sancha of Castile (daughter of Alfonso VII "El Emperador" (The Emperor) and her son King Pedro II "el Católico" (the Catholic).
Apart from being a hospitable monastery and a Royal Pantheon it also had the role of a court archive. At its peak in the fourteenth century, more than 100 nuns, daughters of noble families of the Kingdom, came to live there with their attendants and servants.
Queen Sancha's reason for leaving the court and taking up residence in the convent may not have been purely spiritual--according to E. L. Miron's The Queens of Castile: Their Lives and Times (1910), she was motivated less by grief for her husband or religious devotion than the "wounds dealt her by the ungrateful conduct of her son." According to Miron, Pedro had given his mother no role or function in his court--although later in life, a reconciliation seems to have taken place, with the king seeking his mother's wisdom and counsel.

In addition to her daughter Dulcia, who died in St. Sigena when she was just eleven years old, Sanchia's daughter Leonor (b. 1182), also spent time in the monastery. She had been brought up there, in fact, but in 1200 she left St. Sigena to be married to Count Raymond VI of Toulouse--she was his fifth (or perhaps his sixth) wife. She returned to St. Sigena about two years later, after she was abandoned by her husband.

Pedro and Sancha surrounded by
the ladies of their court
(entire miniature, from which detail,
above, has come)
Sanchia's eldest daughter, Constance, joined her mother in the convent of St. Sigena for a time. Her first husband, Emeric of Hungary, died in 1204, but Constance remained in Hungary, where her son, Ladislaus, had succeeded his father as king. But after Ladislaus' death, Constance returned to Aragon. She spent five years with her mother in the convent while her brother negotiated a second marriage for her. (She was married to Frederick II, king of Sicily, who eventually became Holy Roman Emperor.)

More unhappily, Queen Sancha's daughter-in-law, Maria of Montpellier, also spent a brief time in St. Sigena. Maria had married Pedro II of Aragon in 1204, but after giving birth to two children, including a son, James (b. 1208), who would succeed his father as king of Aragon, Queen Maria was repudiated by her husband--he wanted to claim Montpellier (which she had inherited in her own right) for himself and marry Maria of Montferrat, queen of Jerusalem. Queen Maria of Aragon spent the last years of her life fighting her husband's efforts to divorce her. On her way to Rome to defend her marriage, Maria of Montferrat visited Queen Sancha. (Maria of Montferrat would spent nearly five years in Rome before the validity of her marriage was upheld--she would die there in 1213, just weeks after the papal decision on her marriage.)

After her death, Queen Sancha of Aragon was buried near the altar of the church in St. Seger. A kind of cult seems to have developed--according to Miron, "in times of scarcity," when the poor suffer, "tears of blood" seem to issue from "the tomb of the pious queen."

Bits and pieces of Sancha's story are available here and there--but the most extended account I have been able to find is Miron's book on queens of Aragon, cited above. It's dated, but at least it pays attention to the royal women of Aragon!

Queen Sancha of Aragon's tomb,
Monastery of Segena

*Alfonso's formidable mother was Urraca of Castile and León, "empress of all the Spains."

Alfonso VII also fathered several illegitimate children, including Urraca Alfonso (1133-c. 1179), who would become queen of Navarre and, after her husband's death, regent of Asturias. 

After Alfonso's death, Richeza was married twice more, to Ramon Berenguer II, the count of Provence, and to Albert III, count of Eberstein. Richeza gave birth to a daughter in her second marriage and to two sons during her second.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mary, "King" of Hungary and Croatia

Mary of Hungary and Croatia, queen regnant of Hungary and Croatia (crowned 17 September 1382)

Born in 1371, Mary was the second of three daughters of Elizabeth of Bosnia and Louis, king of Hungary and Croatia, a member of the extended Anjevin line of the French Capetian dynasty.

Mary of Hungary and Croatia,
from János Thuróczy's fifteenth-century
Chronica Hungarorum
Since Louis had no sons to succeed him, Catherine, Mary, and Jadwiga were to be their father's heirs in Hungary and Poland as well as to his claim to Provence and to the kingdom of Naples*--making them not only desirable marital prospects but also a way for Louis to consolidate his power. 

Thus, before she was a year old, Louis had promised the Holy Roman Emperor that his second daughter, Mary, would be married to Charles IV's second son, Sigismund of Luxembourg, an agreement that was signed by deed in 1373. In 1375, Hungarian and Polish lords confirmed the arrangement. 

Meanwhile, Mary's elder sister, Catherine, was promised in marriage to Louis I, duke of Orléans, and her young sister, Jadwiga, was promised to William, the son of Leopold III, duke of Austria.

Louis of Hungary and Croatia's plans began to fall apart in 1378, when his eldest daughter died. Following her death, Louis confirmed his plans for Mary's marriage. By 1379, Mary and Sigismund of Luxembourg were formally betrothed, and Sigismund arrived in Hungary so he could learn not only the language but the customs of the country.  

In September 1379, in order to assure Mary’s succession in Poland, Louis summoned Polish nobles and ecclesiastical leaders so that they could affirm her rights to succeed her father. He achieved his goal, though contemporary reports suggest that the assent was not freely given. 

At the same time, Louis planned for his youngest daughter, Jadwiga, to inherit his throne in Hungary, though there is some evidence to suggest that, rather than dividing his kingdoms between his two daughters, he hoped to leave everything to Mary.

Whatever his hopes may have been--for Jadwiga to rule in Hungary, for Mary to rule in Poland, or for Mary to inherit both thrones--his plans never materialized. After his death in 1382, Elizabeth of Bosnia moved quickly to claim the regency, and on the day following Louis' burial, Mary, rather than Jadwiga, was crowned "king" of Hungary. 

Sigismund was notably out of the picture at the time--he was not present at Mary's coronation--having been sent to Poland the year before in order to learn Polish and to become familiar with the Polish culture. Although he tried to take control of the Polish throne, even calling himself "lord of the kingdom of Poland," the nobility refused any ruler who would not reside  permanently in Poland.** 

Meanwhile, although Mary had  succeeded her father in Hungary, the Hungarian nobility preferred to be ruled by a king, not a queen--or, in this case, two queens, the dowager Queen Elizabeth, as regent, and the new queen regnant, Mary, still a minor.   

By 1383, rebellion broke out. In part to solicit assistance in her struggles, Queen Elizabeth turned to France, hoping to marry Queen Mary not to her promised partner, Sigismund, but to Louis I, duke of Orléans, whose elder brother had become king of France. (Louis, remember, had been the marriage partner arranged for Mary's elder sister  before her death.)

The proposed French marriage caused even more difficulties in Hungary. Despite the ongoing conflict, Queen Elizabeth completed the formal negotiations for the French marriage in 1385. But the French alliance did not save the Hungarian queens--Hungarian nobles invited Charles of Durazzo, the new king of Naples, into the kingdom. 

Although Sigismund of Luxembourg still hoped to marry Queen Mary, her mother refused, and Sigismund left Hungary in 1385, though he returned with an army. After the king of Naples landed in Croatia in September (with no sign of a French army coming to her aid), Queen Elizabeth changed her mind again. Sigismund of Luxembourg and Queen Mary of Hungary and Croatia were married in October.

Despite this desperate move, Sigismund was not crowned king, nor was he given any official governmental role. Nevertheless, he continued his fight.

Once Charles of Naples arrived in the capital in December, he claimed power. Mary quickly renounced the crown, and Charles was then crowned king of Hungary. Both Elizabeth and Mary continued to live at the royal palace, a situation the new king of Hungary would regret. Within a year, and with the connivance of the dowager queen, Charles of Naples was dead, the victim of an assassination.  

Mary of Hungary and Croatia's royal seal
After Charles's death in February 1386, Mary was restored to the throne of Hungary, though her mother continued to rule in her daughter's name. 

Sigismund once again invaded, and since the son of the murdered king of Naples was inspiring some of the Hungarian nobility to continue their rebellion, the two queens reconciled with him.

Sigismund's position as Mary's consort was recognized, and arrangements to repay him for lands that he had mortgaged in his fight for Hungary were made. Still, Sigismund left court after the treaty was signed, perhaps not yet content with his role in the kingdom.

In an act that a fifteenth-century Hungarian chronicler said was "driven by folly," Queen Elizabeth decided that she and her daughter would tour the southern part of Hungary--those areas where support for the son of the murdered Neapolitan king were strongest. And, sure enough, there they were ambushed, their retainers and retinue killed, and the two women--Mary, queen regnant of Hungary and Croatia, and her mother, the dowager queen--were taken captive and imprisoned.  

Negotiations to end the conflict and free the queens did not go well, though it could have gone worse. Sigismund of Luxembourg was made regent of the kingdom. Queen Elizabeth was strangled in front of her daughter's eyes on the anniversary of the assassination of Charles of Naples. Queen Mary was not killed. 

Sigismund was finally crowned king on 31 March 1387. Mary was liberated just over two months later, on 3 June. On 4 July, she was finally reunited with Sigismund. While she was queen of Hungary and Croatia, a co-ruler with Sigismund, she had virtually no authority. 

On 17 May 1395, still in her early twenties, a pregnant Mary of Hungary and Croatia suffered a fall from her horse while she was out hunting. The trauma of the accident sent her into a premature labor. She and her son both died.

*Louis involved himself in Neopolitan power struggles after his brother, Andrew of Hungary was assassinated, and Andrew’s wife, Queen Joanna I of Naples, was held by some to be responsible for her husband's murder. Despite all of Louis' claims and meddling, he could never acquire the kingdom of Naples, and Queen Joanna's successor, Charles of Durazzo, in his turn claimed the crown of Hungary.

**Mary's younger sister, Jadwiga, was crowned "king" of Poland in 1385. Hers is a story that is only slightly less eventful than Mary's.   

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Marie-Nicole Dumont: The Woman Artist in Eighteenth-Century France

Marie-Nicole Vestier Dumont (born 8 September 1767)

Earlier this year (January 2018), the Museum of the French Revolution in Vizille (le Musée de la Révolution française), in south-west France, announced the acquisition of a painting by Marie-Nicole Dumont, born Marie-Nicole Vestier. 

The painting, a self-portrait titled L'Auteur à ses occupations, shows Vestier, a palette in her hand, standing in front of her son, Antoine Bias--thus demonstrating her dual roles, as mother and as artist.

Born in Paris in 1767, Marie-Nicole Vestier was the daughter of Marie-Anne Révérand and Antoine Vestier, a miniaturist and portrait painter.

In a painting he exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1785, Antoine Vestier shows his daughter, at her easel, painting his portrait.  

In 1789, Marie-Nicole Vestier married François Dumont, with whom she had three children. 

In her self-portrait, The Artist and Her Occupations, the portrait behind Marie-Nicole Dumont is likely that of her husband, who became Marie-Antoinette's court miniature painter in 1786. He remained the "most so ught after" miniaturist in Paris until 1792. (I have also read that the portrait Dumont is engaged in painting is of her father--take your pick.)

It is likely that, after her marriage, Marie-Nicole worked with her husband in his workshop, collaborating on the production of miniatures. No miniature is signed with her name after her marriage--however the name "Dumont" on the workshop's productions may indicate her participation. (In addition to Marie-Nicole, two of François' brothers also worked in the atelier.)

Marie-Nicole Dumont's self-portrait was exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1793. In her discussion of the painter, Melissa Hyde suggests that Marie-Nicole DuPont stopped painting shortly after completing this work. (For Hyde's "'Peinte par elle-même?' Women artists, teachers and students from Anguissola to Haudebourt-Lescot," click here.)

Marie-Nicole Dumont died in 1846.

There is a brief discussion of Marie-Nicole Dumont by Neil Jeffares in the Dictionary of Pastellists before 1800, which includes a reproduction of a pastel portrait of Philibert Calon, completed c. 1787. 

A slightly longer discussion of Dumont is included in Nathalie Lemoine-Bouchard's Les peintres en miniature: actifs en France, 1650-1850--you may be able to access it by clicking here (I hope so, but no promises--the Boris Wilnitsky Fine Arts Gallery has posted a scan of the essay, and who knows how long it will be available?)

There are several paintings of Dumont online, most of them by her father, but very little of Marie-Nicole's own work is known besides the portrait of Calon, now in the Hermitage Museum, and the self-portrait, recently acquired by the museum in Vizille. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Frances Wright, Abolitionist and Reformer

Frances Wright, Social Reformer, Writer, and Lecturer (born 6 September 1795)

Frances Wright was born in Dundee, Scotland, the daughter of Camilla Campbell and James Wright, a "free-thinking radical and revolutionary." Whatever direct influence her father may have had on her thinking is limited, however--by the time that she was three years old, both of her parents had died.

An 1824 portrait of a young Frances Wright,
painted by George Inman
But, in addition to his radical political views, James Wright was also a wealthy manufacturer, so his children were not left as impoverished orphans after the loss of their parents.

With a significant inheritance, James Wright's two daughters were taken to England by their maternal aunt, who was their guardian. Since herself was young, the girls lived with their aunt in their maternal grandfather's home.

Fanny Wright returned to Scotland when she was sixteen, and was educated there by her great-uncle, James Milne, a moral philosopher. Milne was educated at the University of St. Andrews and was teaching at the University of Glasgow.

In Scotland, Fanny Wright spent her winters studying and writing, her summers in the Scottish highlands. She read widely, having access to the library of the university--she was particularly interested in reading about America and the American Revolution.

She also began to write, beginning with what is described as "youthful romantic verse." But in August 1818, when she was twenty-three years old, Fanny Wright sailed for America with her sister, Camilla, for a two-year tour of the United States. In New York, she produced her play Altorf: A Tragedy, dramatizing the struggle for Swiss independence. (The play was published the following year in Philadelphia.) 

Once she returned to Scotland, she published an account of her trip, Views of Society and Manners in America (1821) and A Few Days in Athens (1822), which has been described as "a novelistic sketch of a disciple of Epicurus that outlined the materialistic philosophy to which she adhered throughout her life." 

Her account of her American trip earned her praise and attention--in particular that of the Marquis de Lafayette, whom she met in France in 1821. She accompanied the Revolutionary War hero when he returned to America in 1824, and she traveled with him when he was entertained by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Wright had been shocked to witness the brutality of slavery on her first visit to the United States. When she returned, it was with the purpose of purchasing, educating, and emancipating slaves, establishing them in a community outside of the United States. As she remarked while traveling in Mississippi in 1825, “The sight of slavery is revolting everywhere. But to inhale the impure breath of its pestilence in the free winds of America is odious beyond all that imagination can conceive.”

The image of Frances Wright that appears in
Elizabeth Cady Stanton et a.,
A History of Woman Suffrage
While planning the community for freed slaves, Wright had visited Robert Owen's utopian community of New Harmony, in Indiana.

She was impressed by Owen's ideas about cooperative labor and universal education--these notions formed the basis of the community she established, the Nashoba Commune, just outside Memphis, Tennessee.

She also published a tract outlining her proposal for ending slavery: A Plan for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in the United States Without Danger of Loss to the Citizens of the South.

Nashoba was founded in 1826, but the initial optimism underlying its foundation was lost after Wright herself left, suffering from bouts of fever and still campaigning for support.

The trustees in whose hands she had left the organizing and running of the community seem to have failed her--there were reports of floggings, sexual misconduct, and unhappiness of parents who lost control of their children. The community had collapsed by 1829, and Wright escorted the remaining emancipated slaves to Haiti, settling them there with promises for their freedom and independence.

(As an interesting note: in order to recover her health, Frances Wright had gone back to England--there she met Frances Trollope, about whom I have posted (click here). Trollope returned with Wright to Nashoba, but she was shocked by conditions, disillusioned with the project. and soon left.)

Returning to the United States, Wright rejoined Owen and, with him, began publishing the Free Enquirer, a newspaper advocating equal rights for women, women's suffrage, education for women, birth control, and liberalized divorce laws. She also condemned capital punishment and worked toward educational reform--with Owen, she argued for the establishment of a system of free state boarding schools offering a religion-free curriculum and industrial skills in addition to traditional subjects. 

With Owen, she also founded the Working Men's Party, supporting small farmers, artisans, and workers in early factories in New York. Those opposing this progressive party gave it the most insulting name they could devise: the Fanny Wright Party.

In 1831, her sister Camilla's health failing, Frances Wright returned to France. There she met and married a French physician, French physician, Guillaume D'Arusmont, whom she had met when they were at New Harmony. They had a child, Frances Sylva, born in 1832. The family returned to the United States in 1835,  when they returned to the United States and took up residence in Cincinnati. But the marriage failed, and Wright began the long process of divorce.

In the mean time, after her return to the United States, Frances Wright delivered public lectures opposing slavery. In 1836 and 1838 she campaigned actively for the Democratic Party, She also became involved in the Popular Health Movement, in particular arguing for the inclusion of women in health and medicine. 

In 1836 she published her last book, Course of Popular Lectures, again arguing strongly for the rights of women: 
However novel it may appear, I shall venture the assertion, that, until women assume the place in society which good sense and good feeling alike, assign to them, human improvement must advance but feebly. It is in vain that we would circumscribe the power of one half of our race, and that half by far the most important and influential. If they exert it not for good, they will for evil; if they advance not knowledge, they will perpetuate ignorance. Let women stand where they may in the scale of improvement, their position decides that of the race. 
Wright's health failed again after her efforts in the 1838 elections. and she withdrew from her active life. 

In 1850 she was finally divorced from her husband, but it came at a particularly high cost. Given divorce laws, which Wright had fought to reform, her earnings from her lectures and royalties belonged to her husband. 

She died just two years later, on 13 December 1852, after a fall on the ice. She was fifty-seven years old.

Wright was buried in Spring Grove Cemetery,
Cincinnati, Ohio
In addition to the entry on Wright in the Tennessee Encyclopedia, to which I've linked above, you might also be interested in the biographical note on Wright in the Encyclopedia Britannica (click here).

Celia Morris Eckhardt's 1984 biography, Fanny Wright: Rebel in America, is out of print, but used copies are readily available.

Wright's own work is also easy to find. There are a number of print-on-demand editions available (through Amazon, for instance), but you can find easily find and read her work through the Internet Archive or Project Gutenberg.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Beatriz Enríquez de Arana and Cristóbal Colón

Beatriz Enríquez de Arana (son born 15 August 1488)

A few words today about Beatriz Enríquez de Arana, about whom not much is known. She had a brief sexual relationship with Christopher Columbus, gave birth to his son, Fernando, cared for Columbus's elder son, Diego, and Fernando during their father's first voyage, did not claim the inheritance Christopher Columbus left her upon his death, and then died, in 1521 or 1536, take your pick--in either case, years after the explorer's death.

Beatriz Enríquez de Arana,
an imagined portrait,
from the Mary Evans Picture Library (UK)
And that is really pretty much it, as far as history is concerned. If you try to investigate further, you find odd contradictions--most sources indicate that Beatriz Enríquez de Arana was the daughter of Pedro de Torquemada and Ana Núñez de Arana, who were peasant farmers, but frequently this very same point is followed by noting that she was from a family of noble origins. What??? (It won't surprise you, perhaps, that Wikipedia juxtaposes these two points, but this site is far from alone.)

Nor will it surprise you that there is some "confusion," shall we say, about the duration of her relationship with Columbus, with some online sources indicating that their sexual relationship was short, ending after the birth of Fernando, and others suggesting that Columbus spent the last years of his life with her. Who knows?

But this much seems clear enough. Born about the year 1465 in the small village of Santa Maria of TrassierraBeatriz Enríquez de Arana moved with her mother to Cordoba after her father's death, and there received a certain amount of education from her grandmother and her aunt--she could read and write, uncommonly for women of her background.

There, in Cordoba, she met Columbus, who was seeking the support of the Catholic monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand, for his proposed "enterprise of the Indies." Beatriz Enríquez de Arana gave birth to Fernando on 15 August 1488. 

Columbus seems to have left both of his children, Diego and Fernando, in the care of Beatriz Enríquez de Arana for the next few years while he campaigned to raise the money for his proposed venture. According to the biographical essay in Diccionario Biográfico Español of the Real Academia de la Historia (which seems to be the best online resource available), Columbus also left both boys with Beatriz Enríquez during his first voyage, in 1492. She seems to have been commended by the queen for her care for both boys.

When he returned to Spain in 1493, Columbus retrieved Diego and Fernando and took them with him to court. Beatriz Enríquez de Arana's son was made a page in the household of Prince Juan, and after his death he was transferred to the service of Queen Isabella.

Pilar Bartolomé, in her article on Beatriz Enríquez de Arana in El Día de Córdoba, indicates that there is no evidence that Columbus and Beatriz Enríquez met after 1493. After his return, Columbus did make sure she received a pension, however, and in 1502, as he is about to leave on his fourth voyage to the New World,  he instructs his older son, Diego, to care and provide for her, reminding him that she had cared for him as a mother:  "a Beatriz hayas encomendado por amor de mi, atento como tenías a tu madre."

An eighteenth-century engraving of
Christopher Columbus and his two sons,
Diego and Fernado, and, I kid you not,
"a woman"--no identification!

A great deal has been suggested about why Columbus never married Beatriz Enríquez--was it because of his own ambitions and her low social class? That his promotion to the rank of nobility barred their marriage? The possibility that her family had Jewish roots? There are no clear answers.

In a 1506 addition to his will, Columbus acknowledges his debt to Beatriz Enríquez, "mother of Fernando, my son"--and the fact that her pension has not always been paid--and wishes that she should be paid all that is owed to her, "that she may be able to live honestly, being a person to whom I am under a very great obligation." 

He adds, cryptically, that he does this as an act "of conscience," because "it lies heavily on my soul"--though what "it" is, he does not specify, saying, "The reason for it is not lawful to write here." (In the original: "Digo y mando a Diego mi hijo o a quien heredare [...] que haya encomendada a Beatriz Enríquez, madre de don Fernando, mi hijo, que la provea que pueda vivir honestamente, como persona a quien yo soy en tanto cargo. Y esto se haga por mi descargo de la conciencia, porque esto pesa mucho para mi ánima. La razón de ello no es lícito de la escribir aquí."

Although she lived in poverty, Beatriz Enríquez de Arana never claimed her inheritance after Christopher Columbus's death. 

Although Ferdinand Columbus writes a biography of his father (1536-39)--and mentions Columbus's well-born Portuguese wife--he includes no mention at all of his own mother. 

I've linked here to the most credible sources for information on the life of Beatriz Enríquez de Arana. If you look at biographies of Christopher Columbus, her name is not to be found (at least not in most of the ones I have been able to check).

As an interesting note, while writing this post, I came across Doris Weatherford's 2015 "The Lack of Historical Curiosity about Women" (a not surprising piece), but found she had some great information about Christopher Columbus wife, who also mainly goes unmentioned. 

She's just finished reading Laurence Bergreen's 2012 Columbus: The Four Voyages, 1492-1504, published by Penguin and a New York Times bestseller, and on page 8, she's already noticed a serious problem with the book: 
. . . 2012 certainly is recently enough for question marks on gender to appear in the bubble over every writer’s head, and yet we have men appear on the scene as though other men bore them. Which brings me back to page eight, where the author refers to Ferdinand Columbus, son of the great mariner, with no mention of a mother. I confess I learned something here, as I had thought that Diego was Columbus’ only child.
According to Weatherford, Bergreen "doesn’t bother with dates or locations for either [Columbus's] wife or son." Nor does she name Columbus's wife. But Weatherford herself fills in a great deal:
Bear with me while I explain. I began my Milestones: A Chronology of American Women’s History (1994) with this entry for 1492: “Christopher Columbus uses maps obtained from his mother-in-law in his historic voyage. A widow, Dona Isabel Moniz carefully preserved maps, logs, and other useful items that had belonged to her husband. Columbus also benefits from the experience of his late wife, Filipa Prestrello e Moniz. She not only explored dangerous waters with her father, but also made valuable geographical drawings that her widower, Columbus, will use."
An imagined portrait of
Filipa Pestrello e Moniz.
In her piece, Weatherford also mentions other women associated with Columbus, including Dona Ines Peraza de Garcia,  goboernadora, or governor, of the Canaries, with whom Columbus spent time during his second voyage, and many indigenous women. It's well worth a read!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Luisa de Medrano, the First Female Professor

Luisa de Medrano (born 9? August 1484)

Born in Atienza (Guadalajara), Spain, some time in August 1484--on 9 August, according to some sources--Luisa de Medrano was one of the doctae puellae (learned young womenfavored by Isabella of Spain, who attracted and supported a number of such well-educated women to her court. (Women like Beatriz Galindo, about whom I have already posted.)

In Juan de Pereda's Sibyls of Atienza,
the face of the sibyl on the left has been
identified as belonging to Luisa de Medrano
Medrano was the daughter of Diego López de Medrano and Magdalena Bravo de Lagunas.

Her paternal family was one of the "Twelve Lineages of Soria," a chivalric military order established in the Middle Ages.

Little biographical information is available in English, and my Spanish is more than a little rusty, but the bare outlines of Lucia de Medrano's story emerge nonetheless. 

After Luisa de Medrano's father and grandfather were killed during the campaign to conquer Granada, at the battle of Gibalfaro (1487), her mother and her eldest sister, Catalina, were established at the court of Isabella of Castile. The rest of the Medrano children--eight of them, including Luisa--were likely to have been too young to have served at court, but seem to have joined other noble children, including those of the Spanish monarchs.

Medrano received an extraordinary humanist education, probably tutored by a professor associated with the University of Salamanca. According to an account of her life in El Mundo, Medrano may have been present at the reception for Christopher Columbus, celebrating his return from his first voyage, and she is likely to have met Beatriz Galindo.

In 1508, when she was twenty-four years old, Luisa de Medrano addressed scholars at the University of Salamanca. The event was noted by the rector of the university, Pedro de Torres: "Ad 1508 die 16 novembris hora tertia legit filia Medrano in Catedra Caconum" ("on November 16, 1508, at the third hour, read the daughter of Medrano").

The nature of this event isn't clear--Medrano may have read a lesson, perhaps on Latin or even canon law, or she may have actually have taken up a position, likely for the year 1508-09, following the departure of the scholar Antonio de Nebrija. In either case, Medrano is regularly cited as the first (known) female professor at a European university.

A further tribute was offered by the Italian scholar Lucio Marineo Sículo, who taught at the University of Salamanca (1484-96), in a 1514 letter to Luisa de Medrano: 
Ahora es cuando me he convencido de que a las mujeres, Natura no negó ingenio, pues en nuestro tiempo, a través de ti, puede ser comprobado, que en las letras y elocuencia has levantado bien alta la cabeza por encima de los hombres, que eres en España la única niña y tierna joven que trabajas con diligencia y aplicación no la lana sino el libro, no el huso sino la pluma, ni la aguja sino el estilo.
[Now I have been convinced that Nature did not deny women intelligence ("wit"), because in our time and through you it can be proven that in letters and eloquence you have raised yourself head high above the heads of men, that in Spain you are unique, a young woman who works with diligence and application not in wool but in the book, not with the spindle but the pen, not the needle but the stylus.*]
In a will written in 1527, Magdalena Bravo de Laguna, Luisa de Medrano's mother, notes her daughter's recent death. If she died in 1527, Luisa de Medrano was just forty-three years old. 

Medrano is said to have written poetry and philosophy, but if so, none of her work has survived.  

Today an institute of secondary education in Salamanca is named for her, the Institute of Lucia de Medrano. The Luisa de Medrano International Prize, named in her honor, is awarded by the Instituto de la Mujer, Castilla-La Mancha. In announcing the name of the prize, the awards committee noted that Medrano was "the first female professor of a European university." 

Logo for the prize named in honor of
Luisa de Medrano

*Sorry for any inaccuracies in my translation!

There is a brief biography in Spanish (click here), as well as a novel, María López Villarquide's La catedrática.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Labor Organizer "Mother Jones": "Pray for the Dead and Fight Like Hell for the Living"

Mary Harris Jones, "Mother Jones," Labor Organizer and Activist (baptized 1 August 1837)

Union membership is at an all-time low in the United States--today just 10.7% of American workers belong to unions, compared to 50 years ago, when nearly a third of American workers were union members. 

 Ewan McGaughey, 'Do corporations increase inequality?' (2015)

So today's post is about Mary Harris Jones, schoolteacher, dressmaker, community organizer, union activist, and all-around ass-kicker. 

Mary Harris Jones,
"Mother Jones"
Born in Cork County, Ireland, Mary Harris was baptized on 1 August 1837--her exact date of birth is not known, but the Cork [Ireland] Mother Jones Commemorative Committee celebrated the 175th anniversary of her birth in 2012. 

(Some sources suggest Mary Harris was born in 1830, with the Encyclopedia Britannica offering a precise date, 1 May 1830. If you've been reading this blog, you know how shabbily the EB treats women, so it's amazing they have an entry on Mary Harris Jones at all, no matter what they decide about her date of birth.)

Mary Harris migrated to Canada with her family at some point during the Great Famine (1840-49) though, again, dates are not certain, with some sources suggesting that her arrival in Canada was during the 1850s. Once there, Mary Harris could get an education, which she did at the Toronto Normal School. 

Mary Harris worked as a teacher, moving to the United States in 1859, when she began teaching in a convent in Michigan. But Harris found the convent "a depressing place" and moved to Chicago, where she worked as a dressmaker, and then to Memphis, where she again taught. 

In 1861 in Memphis she married George Jones, an ironworker and member of the National Iron Moulders Union. After her marriage, she again turned to dressmaking, setting up her own shop, and she gave birth to four children.

But in the yellow-fever epidemic of 1867, Mary Harris Jones lost her husband and her children--three boys and a girl, all under the age of five. As Jones later recalled, “the rich and the well-to-do fled the city" while the poor died: “One by one my four little children sickened and died. . . I sat alone through nights of grief. No one came to me. No one could.”

Jones returned to Chicago, opening another dressmaking shop, sewing clothing for the wealthy of the city. But during the Great Fire of 1871, she once again lost everything. At this moment of great loss, Jones found the Knights of Labor, the first great union organization in the United States, founded in 1869. 

Mary Harris Jones transformed herself into "Mother Jones"--and dedicated herself to the labor movement. She traveled throughout the country, organizing strikes, giving speeches, railing against injustice. When asked about her home, she replied, "Wherever there was a fight." 

(It may be that Jones herself first suggested she was born in 1830--she was small, just five feet tall, and chose to dress all in black. She may have been exaggerating her age in order to amplify her role as the fierce, white-haired mother-figure, "Mother Jones.")

She spent the next fifty years fighting. As Sarah K. Horseley notes in her biographical essay on Mother Jones: "From the late 1870s through the early 1920s, Jones participated in hundreds of strikes across the country. Living by the philosophy, 'wherever there is a fight,' she supported workers in the railroad, steel, copper, brewing, textile, and mining industries."

Mother Jones in Seattle, 30 May 1914

In 1902, Mother Jones was called "the most dangerous woman in America" at her West Virginia trial for violating an injunction that banned striking miners from meeting to organize. According to District Attorney Reese Blizzard, "She [Jones] comes into a state where peace and prosperity reign ... crooks her finger [and] twenty thousand contented men lay down their tools and walk out." 

Jones's actions spanned decades and movements:
In addition to organizing laborers in the western US, Mother Jones helped found the Social Democratic Party (1898) and the Industrial Workers of the World (1905) and published articles in the International Socialist Review. . . . 
. . . Jones often demanded that the government address social injustice. She organized children textile workers to march on President Roosevelt’s home in 1903. Four years later she secured a Congressional inquiry into the fate of Mexican revolutionists imprisoned in America. In 1914, the Colorado militia massacred twenty women and children in a miners’ tent colony in Ludlow, Colorado. Jones persuaded President Wilson to insist that the owners and workers arrive at a truce.
Jones was not a participant in the suffrage movement--which she regarded as a movement of well-to-do women, giving them something to do, and distracting from the serious economic issues faced by working women: “the plutocrats have organized their women. They keep them busy with suffrage and prohibition and charity.” 

As for Jones, she fought with and for working women, organizing miners' wives to block strikebreakers, supporting young female mill workers who were demanding better wages, and agitating to change child labor laws. But Mother Jones believed that women should be wives and mothers rather than workers--and thus fought for better wages for men, arguing that "working men deserved a wage that would allow women to stay home to care for their kids."

As for issues of race, she built labor movements that "bridged racial and ethnic divisions," condemning white supremacists in union organizations, working on behalf of African-American miners, and arguing that Mexican and Italian immigrants should be included in unions. As the Mother Jones Museum notes in its essay "Who Was Mother Jones?":
When an African-American woman, impressed with Mother Jones [sic] commitment to their cause, suggested she would kiss Jones’ skirt hem in gratitude, Jones replied, “Not in the dust, sister, to me, but here on my breast, heart to heart.”
For her political actions, Jones was arrested, convicted, and imprisoned more than once--at age 82, she was sentenced to twenty years, though she was released from prison after serving 85 days. 

Although she slowed down after 1920, Mother Jones never quit. In fact, she was back in court in 1924, accused of libel, slander, and sedition, she made an appearance at a dressmakers strike in Chicago in the same year, and she published her autobiography in 1925.

Mary Harris Jones--Mother Jones--died on 30 November 1930. She may have been a hundred years old--or perhaps "just" 93. She was buried in the Union Miners Cemetery in Mount Olive, Illinois. 

Whether you approve of her politics or not, you have to admire this spirit: "I'm not a lady, I'm a hellraiser." 

Agitation the greatest factor for progress - Mother Jones
Mother Jones, c. 1910

I've linked (above) to Eliott J. Gorn's 2002 biography, Mother Jones: The Most Dangerous Woman in America.  For a shorter read, you may like the entry on Mary Harris Jones from the Gale Encyclopedia of U. S. Economic History, available here.