Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Elizabeth of Poland, Queen and Regent

Elizabeth of Poland, Queen of Hungary and Regent of Poland (died 29 December 1380)

Born in the year 1305, Elizabeth of Poland was the daughter of Władysław of Poland, and Jadwiga of Kalisz. 

Elizabeth of Poland's marriage
to the king of Hungary,
from a fourteenth-century manuscript
Władysław had succeeded his father as ruler in one of the Polish principalities in 1275 and was elected by the nobility of Greater Poland as their prince in 1296--but those nobles transferred their allegiance, and Władysław saw a rival crowned as king of Poland in 1300.

Pressing his claim to his title with the pope, Władysław went to war, eventually gaining control of--and uniting--much of Poland. He was crowned king at Krakow on 20 January 1320. 

It was at this point that his daughter, Elizabeth, was married to Charles Robert of Anjou, king of Hungary and Croatia, who had claimed the throne of Hungary through his father, who in turn had inherited the claim of his mother, Mary of Hungary. 

Elizabeth of Poland was the third or fourth wife of the thirty-two-year old Charles Robert (there are disputes about whether or not his first wife was Mary of Galicia). At the time of her marriage to the king of Hungary, she was just fifteen years old, but the alliance brought needed political support to Władysław as he continued his campaign to reunify Poland.

As for the king of Poland--his new young wife brought him, in the words of historian Nancy Goldstone, "an exceptionally determined and energetic partner--manipulative, capable, and eager for power." She managed her own household and advisers as well as administering a number of towns and estates. 

Elizabeth, now queen of Hungary, was also involved in a particularly terrible act of "justice"--in 1330, on a visit from Poland, her brother raped a young woman, and the woman's father, Felician Zah, attempted vengeance, rushing into a royal dining room with a sword. He managed to mutilate Elizabeth's hand, but he failed in his assassination attempt. He was brutally executed, as was his immediate family (including the young woman who had been raped) and his extended family--all his relatives "within the third degree of kingship" were tortured and executed. Yikes.

And yet, during the years of her marriage, Elizabeth of Poland was recognized for her piety, and she founded a number of religious houses. She also fulfilled her duties as queen; unlike her husband's previous wives, she produced sons, giving birth to five boys before the death of her husband in 1342. (Two of these boys died in their childhood, and a third died as a young man; she may also have given birth to two daughters, though they may also have been born to another of the king of Hungary's wives.)

Elizabeth of Poland, queen of Hungary,
and her five sons,
from a fourteenth-century manuscript
Elizabeth of Poland's eldest surviving son, Louis, succeeded his father as king of Hungary, and although he had attained the age of majority (sixteen), his mother acted a kind of co-regent for him. In Goldstone's words, Elizabeth was a "shrewd political tactician," a politician who was "highly proficient at management." 

As her son's political adviser, Elizabeth was particularly intent on "expanding Hungarian influence in Eastern Europe and on maintaining strong ties with her native Poland." To that end, she arranged for her son's marriage to the daughter of the heir to the throne of Bohemia, Margaret of Bohemia, then only seven years old.

Unfortunately, Margaret, the titular queen of Hungary, died when she was just fourteen years old. And so, in 1350, the queen turned to Elizabeth of Bosnia, whom she was fostering at the Hungarian court--Elizabeth of Bosnia was Władysław's grandniece, while the queen herself was related to the girl's mother. Despite the fact that her son and Elizabeth were related within the "prohibited degrees of kinship," the couple were married on 20 June 1353--and sought papal dispensation after the fact. 

Soma Orlai-Petrich's nineteenth-century painting,
The Anger of Felician Zah (1860)

Meanwhile, the queen's second son, Andrew, had been betrothed to Joanna I of Naples in 1333, when he was just a child of six, and he had been sent to live in the Neapolitan court. When Joanna succeeded to the throne as queen in 1343, Andrew assumed, or hoped, he would have a significant role to play as king of Naples, but the young queen regnant had other ideas. 

Although Joanna's position was supported by a papal decision, Elizabeth of Poland traveled to Naples and, before returning to Hungary, bribed the pope, who reversed his decision. But Andrew did not gain any significant role in government--instead, he was assassinated in 1345, when he was just seventeen. 

While Louis pursued vengeance in Naples and, later, undertook an endless string of other military adventures, his mother remained in Hungary as his most steadfast and respected adviser. After the death of her older brother Casimir III, king of Poland, in 1370, Elizabeth's son, Louis, succeeded his uncle as king of Poland. 

Louis was crowned king of Poland in November, but by December he was off again, leaving his mother there to act as regent. Elizabeth of Poland, dowager queen of Hungary, was not beloved in this role, but she remained in the kingdom as regent until 1375, working to ensure the Polish succession for her granddaughters. 

After a Polish rebellion, she returned to Hungary, where she quietly entered a convent. She did return to Hungary in 1379 and again in 1380, again to ensure the rights of her granddaughters. 

She died on 29 December 1380, aged about seventy-five, and is buried at the Monastery of the Poor Clares in Buda (today's Budapest), a religious institution she had established many years before. 

Elizabeth of Poland's granddaughter, Jadwiga, succeeded her father as ruler of Poland. And her granddaughter Mary became queen of Hungary.

To look a bit further, you may want to check out Laura York's brief entry on Elizabeth of Poland in Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia (click here).

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christina of Lorraine, Regent of Tuscany

Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess and Co-Regent of Tuscany (died 19 December 1637)

If you've studied Galileo Galei, chances are you have encountered his Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina (1615), in which he defends himself and his scientific views in a carefully worded explanation of the relationship between science and religion--specifically, the Catholic religion and religious authority. 

Christina of Lorraine, as Grand Duchess,
c. 1588
The woman to whom he addressed this letter is Christina of Lorraine, then regent of Tuscany. As Grand Duchess of Tuscany, she had been married to Ferdinando, Grand Duke of Tuscany, head of the Medici family. After his death in 1609, her son Cosimo assumed his father's title, but when Cosimo died in 1621, Christina and her daughter-in-law, Maria Maddalena, became co-regents for Christina's grandson, then ten years old.

Christina was well-prepared for her role. She was the favorite granddaughter of Catherine de' Medici, who had served as regent of France on many occasions, notably the minority of her son, Charles IX (1560-63), and, after his death, before Henry III succeeded to the throne. Christina's paternal grandmother, Christine of Denmark, had been regent of Lorraine for her son (Christina's father) from 1545 to 1552, during his minority. 

And so the Dowager Duchess of Tuscany was not unfamiliar with the role of the regent. She and her daughter-in-law coordinated their efforts and, despite the insults of contemporary chroniclers, they managed their partnership without conflict or dispute.

With an exceptional education overseen by Catherine de' Medici, Christina of Lorraine was a notable patron of both science and religion. It was she who invited Galileo to the Tuscan court in 1605, where he became the tutor of her son, Cosimo. When he discovered the moons of Jupiter, the "Medicean stars," Galileo named them after Christina's sons.

As a religious patron, Christina was a supporter of a number of institutions, especially female monasteries. 

Born in Nancy on 16 August 1565, Christina of Lorraine, Dowager Duchess of Tuscany, died at the age of 72 on 19 December 1637.

For an excellent essay, see the entry in Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia, which you can access by clicking here.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Deborah Sampson, Soldier in the American Revolution

Deborah Sampson, Revolutionary War Soldier (born 17 December 1760)

Born on 17 December 1760 in Plympton, Massachusetts, Deborah Sampson (or Samson) had distinguished Pilgrim ancestors. Through her father, Jonathan Sampson, she was related to Myles Standish and to Patricia Mullins Alden, both Plymouth colonists. Through her mother, Deborah Bradford Sampson, Deborah was directly descended from Governor William Bradford, the first governor of the Plymouth colony. 

Deborah Sampson, frontispiece,
The Female Review 
Despite this lineage, the Sampson family struggled financially. Deborah's father ultimately abandoned his wife and seven children. Although Deborah believed that her father, having decided to follow the "sea-faring business," was lost at sea, Jonathan Sampson seems to have relocated to Maine, where he lived with a another woman, Martha, and had a second family. Whether this is the same Jonathan Sampson isn't certain--but Deborah's father did return to Plympton in 1794 in regard to a property transaction.

Leaving aside Jonathan Sampson's fate, his family suffered as a result of his absence. According to Herman Mann's 1797 "memoir" of Deborah Sampson's life, the family soon experienced "indigent circumstances," and the seven Sampson children were placed out into the households of friends and relatives because her mother could not support them. When Deborah "was scarcely five years old," she was sent, first, to the home of an "elderly maiden," with the surname Fuller, who was a "distant relation" of her mother's.  

When Deborah was eight, the "honest and discreet" relative who had taken charge of the child and her education died, and Deborah's mother sought another place for the girl. Deborah spent two years in the home of a "Mrs. Thatcher," Mary Prince Thatcher, the widow of the Reverend Peter Thatcher. 

By 1770, when she was ten years old, Deborah Sampson had become an indentured servant, working in the home of Jeremiah Thomas, where she "had stronger propensities for improvement, and less opportunities to acquire it." Denied other opportunities, she got what she could from Thomas's sons, who shared what they learned at school with her.

In 1778, when she reached the age of eighteen, Deborah Sampson's term of indenture was over. She had learned enough, by whatever means, that she was able to find work as a teacher during the summers of 1779 and 1780; during the winters, she worked as a weaver.

But Deborah Sampson was restless. And so, hoping to be able to travel, she thought she could disguise herself in order to avoid the limits imposed on her as a woman. But she soon changed her mind--rather than travel, she would she become a soldier. In the story, as relayed by Mann, Deborah Sampson "determined her to relinquish her plan of travelling for that of joining the American Army in the character of a voluntary soldier":
This proposal concurred with her inclinations on many accounts. Whilst she should have equal opportunities for surveying and contemplating the world, [s]he should be accumulating some lucrative profit[,] and in the end, perhaps, be instrumental in the cause of liberty, which had for nearly six years enveloped the minds of her countrymen.
So in early 1782, disguising herself as a man and calling herself Timothy Thayer, Sampson enlisted in a Massachusetts Army unit--though she ultimately failed to join the company after her enlistment because she was recognized, and her identity as a woman was revealed.

But several months later, this time as Robert Shurtleff, Deborah Sampson enlisted in  Captain George Webb's Light Infantry Company of the 4th Massachusetts Regiment. Her military career was significant. As Alfred Young notes in Masquerade, his 2005 biography of Sampson, the light infantry were elite troops--taller, stronger, and more mobile than the soldiers of regular units. 

Herman Mann's 1797 "memoir,"
The Female Review 
Young gives a careful accounting of Sampson's service, distinguishing reality from the stories incorporated into Mann's version of Sampson's military career. Her period of enlistment extended from May 1782 until October 1783. These dates preclude her participation in the battle of Yorktown (which many sources still cite), but she did participate in a number of battles; during her first, in July 1782, outside Tarrytown, New York, she was wounded in her thigh, extracting two musket balls herself, in order to avoid detection by a doctor.

In June of 1783 she was sent to Philadelphia--although the War of Independence was over, Continental soldiers were protesting delays in their discharges (and pay). There Sampson became ill from a fever. Taken to a hospital for treatment, the attending doctor, Barnabus Binney, discovered her biological sex.

But Binney did not reveal her sex. Instead, he took her to his home where she could be cared for by his wife. She was able to return to her post, though Binney sent along with her a note to her commander, General John Paterson. Without punishment or publicity, Paterson gave her an honorable discharge on 25 October 1783.

With money Paterson had given her, Sampson returned to Massachusetts. On 7 April 1785, she married Benjamin Gannett, a farmer. The couple had three children, a son and two daughters, and adopted another child, a girl.

Reduced to poverty, in 1792 Deborah Sampson Gannett successfully petitioned the Massachusetts State Legislature for back pay. On 20 January, the legislature adopted a resolution granting her the sum of 34 pounds plus interest, dating from the date of her discharge. According to the resolution, "the said Deborah exhibited an extraordinary instance of female heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful, gallant soldier, and at the same time preserved the virtue and chastity of her sex unsuspected and unblemished."

It took longer to gain a pension for her service, however. Mann's The Female Review; or, Memoirs of an American Young Lady, was part of the campaign to secure her recognition and compensation for her service. She also undertook a lecture tour (in 1802), and secured testimonials from luminaries like Paul Revere. Such efforts were needed, since her application for a pension could not be supported by documentation of her service--while she was with the army, she had hidden her wounds and her identity.

In 1805, Congress awarded Sampson a pension of four dollars a month, placing her on the Massachusetts Invalid Pension Roll. Although a petition for an increase was denied in 1809, her pension was later increased to $6.40 a month (in 1816) and to $8.00 (in 1819).

Deborah Sampson Gannett died on 29 April 1827, but her story doesn't end quite there. Although she was not married at the time of her service, her husband petitioned for the continuation of a military pension as the spouse of a soldier. His claim was finally recognized in 1837--though he was not alive to receive the money due to him.

Deborah Sampson Gannett is buried in Rock Ridge Cemetery, Sharon, Massachusetts.

Deborah Sampson's headstone,
posted by David Allen Lambert
at Find a Grave
In addition to the 1797 account of Sampson and to Young's 2005 biography, both of which I've cited above, there are numerous excellent online resources. You may want to start with Debra Michals's entry at the National Women's History Museum site or, for context, Kaia Danyluk's essay, "Women's Service with the Continental Army," among the online resources at the Colonial Williamsburg website. (On this essay, see update, below.)

For an excellent discussion of Mann's "memoir" of Sampson, written in part as support for Sampson's campaign to get her military pension, I recommend Jody Schorb's introduction at Just Teach One, resources for teaching neglected or forgotten American texts (Commonplace: The Journal of Early American Life).

You should also check out the entry online at OutHistory, which explores Sampson's intimacies with women--reported by Mann, whose accounts are at times "unintelligible": 
Several suggestive and curious passages in this work refer to Sampson's romantic, though allegedly chaste liaisons with other women, while posing as a male. Quite apart from any accuracy these tales may have, their very existence in a book subscribed to by respectable New Englanders in the late 1700s is of interest. Sampson's cross-dressing and the nominally "pure," asexual character of her romances no doubt made these stories seem acceptable at the time.

Update, 2 July 2019: A recently discovered diary, kept by a Massachusetts man who knew Deborah Sampson, has cast new light on Deborah Sampson. To read Alison Leigh Crowan's New York Times story, "The Woman Who Sneaked into George Washington's Army," click here.

Update, 1 February 2021: Kaia Danyluk's essay seem to be no longer available at the Colonial Williamsburg website. I can find multiple references to the original essay online, but not the essay itself. The link here takes you to the essay as preserved by the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Alida Withoos, Botanical Illustrator

Alida Withoos, painter (buried 5 December 1730)

Alida Withoos, probably born about the year 1661, was the fourth child (and second daughter) of Matthias Withoos, a Dutch painter, and his wife, Wendelina van Hoorn.

Alida Withoos, persian poppy,
image from ArtNet
The family lived in Amersfoort, a city in the province of Utrecht (the Netherlands) where Alida was born, but in 1672, when the French invaded, the family relocated to Hoorn, her mother's place of birth.

Matthias Withoos trained his children as artists--in addition to Alida, Johannes, Pieter, Frans, and Maria all became artists. (Little is known about the work of Maria.)

Trained by her father, Alida Withoos nevertheless attained some recognition in her own name. She was one of the artists commissioned by the botanist, art collector, and patron, Agnes Block, to work on her estate, Vijverhof (where, in 1687, she is said to have painted the first pineapple bred in Europe). There she worked with other women botanical artists, including Maria Sybilla Merian and her daughter Johanna Helena Herolt-Graf.

Alida Withoos also contributed to the Moninckx Atlas, a nine-volume "botanical album" of 420 watercolor studies of the plants in Amsterdam's famed garden, the Hortus Medicus. While the majority of the illustrations were done by Jan Moninckx and his daughter, Maria Moninckx, Alida Withoos contributed twelve of the images. 

On 31 January 1701, Alida Withoos, then thirty-nine years old, married the painter Andries Cornelisz van Dalen. (Her age was recorded at the time of her marriage, thus suggesting the year of her birth.)

Although she lived until 1730, no work by Alia Withoos is known to have been completed after 1700. She may have stopped painting after her marriage, though she may also have continued to work in some capacity in the workshop of her husband's family. 
Alida Withoos, columbine,
image from ArtNet

For the best information available online, I recommend Liesbeth Missel's biographical essay in the Digital Vrouwenlexicon of the Netherlands; to access, click here.

As an excellent resource for viewing her work, I suggest the online gallery at ArtNet; click here.

One of my most frequently cited sources for information about women artists is Germaine Greer's The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work. Greer refers to Withoos briefly in the context of women and still-life painting, "flower painting," and botanical illustration in her chapter, "Still Life and Flower Painting" (227-49)--I highly recommend it!

Update, 12 January 2023: A helpful friend of the blog has just forwarded information about a recent  exhibition at the Mauritshuis, "In Full Bloom," featuring floral still-life paintings, including those by Alida Withoos. For information about the exhibition itself (February to June 2022), this link to the Mauritshuis is still working, and though it is too late now to see the paintings in person, there are a couple of great videos. You may also like this review of the exhibition from ArtNet.

And here's a link, forwarded by the same friend, to Catherine Powell's recent essay on Withoos published at ArtHerstory,  "Alida Withoos: Creator of Beauty and of Visual Knowledge."

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Back to the Future, Part 12: More Great News on Pay Equity!

Back to the Future, Part 12: More News on Pay Equity (or, More Good News for Women--How Can You Stand All the Winning?)

The Institute for Women's Policy Research has just issued a reassessment of the gender wage gap. In Still a Man's Labor Market: The Slowly Narrowing Gender Wage Gap, researchers Stephen J. Rose and Heidi I. Hartmann have undertaken a "multiyear analysis" of wage data that "provides a more comprehensive picture of the gender wage gap and presents a more accurate measure of the income women actually bring home to support themselves and their families."

In the "Highlights" section of the report (really, that is just about the worst title imaginable), Rose and Harmann note their findings: 
  • Women today earn just 49 cents to the typical men’s dollar, much less than the 80 cents usually reported. . . . Progress [in achieving pay equity] has slowed in the last 15 years relative to the preceding 30 years in the study. 
  • The penalties of taking time out of the labor force are high—and increasing. . . . 
  • Strengthening women’s labor force attachment is critical to narrowing the gender wage gap. . . . 
  • Strengthening enforcement of equal employment opportunity policies and Title IX in education is also crucial to narrowing the gender wage gap further. . . . 
So, yay! Did you see the great news! Instead of, on average, women earning 80 cents for every dollar made by men, in actuality, they earn less than half of what men do!

Rose and Hartmann outline what makes this report distinctive, emphasizing its more comprehensive analysis:
In 2017, the most recent year for which year-round earnings data are available for full-time workers, the gender earnings gap was 20 percent; that is, women earned 20 percent less than men. . . . This figure is based on the ratio of women’s to men’s median earnings for full-time, year-round work and is derived from the annual Census Bureau report on income and poverty that is released every fall using data from the Current Population Survey. . . . This commonly used annual figure, however, understates the problem, especially for women workers, since it leaves so many of them out of the picture. The authors’ 2004 report, which pioneered the analysis of the earnings gap over 15-year periods, found an earnings gap of 62 percent for all women compared with all men (of prime working age) in the period studied, meaning that women made just 38 percent of what men made. . . . The current analysis updates and revises the analysis from the authors’ 2004 report and finds that a wide disparity exists between all workers and the smaller group of workers who work full-time, year-round. Although the earnings gap across the most recent 15 years for those who generally work full-time, year-round in this study is similar to the more commonly used one-year numbers from the same years (23 percent), the earnings gap across all 15 years for all women and men with some earnings is very different, a gender earnings gap of 51 percent (meaning that women earn only 49 percent of what men do across a 15-year period). Among women workers in this study, 43 percent had at least one year with no earnings, while only 23 percent of men did, indicating that being out of work for a year is still a common experience for women but unusual for men. (1)
And, of course, "The long-term gender earnings gap has narrowed since 1968, but it has by no means disappeared." 

This year just keeps on getting better! And we still have a month to go!

For more on issues of pay equity and the gender wage gap, click on the label "pay equity," below. And for more in this Back to the Future series, click on the label below.

Update, 19 December 2018: In yet more depressing news on this front, the World Economic Forum has just published its annual Global Gender Gap Report (2018). I've posted about this report before, in 2017 and in 2016, and you can read those comments by following the links here (for 2017) and here (for 2016).

I don't have the heart for a separate post today, although I will note that this "gender gap" report goes beyond pay equity to examine the gender gap in four areas: four areas: economic participation and opportunity; educational attainment; health and survival; and political participation.

You can find the Global Rankings on pp. 10-11. The US ranks 51st in the 149 countries listed. Here's happy conclusion:
. . . if current rates were to be maintained in the future, the overall global gender gap will close in 61 years in Western Europe, 70 years in South Asia, 74 years in Latin America and the Caribbean, 135 years in Sub-Saharan Africa, 124 years in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, 153 years in the Middle East and North Africa, 171 years in East Asia and the Pacific, and 165 years in North America. 
Read it and weep.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Back to the Future, Part 11: Gilead Redux

Back to the Future, Part 11: Home, The Most Dangerous Place for Women (or, Gilead Redux)

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime has just issued a stunning new report, a Global Study on Homicide: Gender-Related Killing of Women and Girls.*

In the press-release announcing the publication, the UNODC begins with a statement that is shocking but, upon reflection, is not at all surprising: "Home," the study says, is "the most dangerous place for women." 

Why? Because 58% of all murders of women and girls occur at the hands of their intimate partners or family members. To put this in terms that are painfully stark, every hour of every day, some six women are killed "by people they know." 

In other words, "137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day. More than a third (30,000) of the women intentionally killed in 2017 were killed by their current or former intimate partner ̶ someone they would normally expect to trust" (Gender-Related Killing, 10).

And, even more painfully stark,  "little progress has been made in preventing such murders." In fact, the "annual number of female deaths worldwide resulting from intimate partner/family-related homicide . . . seems be on the increase" (10).

The study also examines other forms of "femicide": "gender-related killings perpetrated outside the family sphere." Such gender-related killings include systematic killings of women in armed conflicts, gender-based killing of aboriginal/indigenous women, killing of female sex workers, killings as a result of sexual orientation and/or gender identity, among others (30-38).

UNODC, Gender-Related Killing of Women and Girls, p. 7

Globally, 1 of every 5 homicides is "perpetrated by an intimate partner or family member." But, 
women and girls make up the vast majority of those deaths. Victim/perpetrator disaggregations reveal a large disparity in the shares attributable to male and female victims of homicides committed by intimate partners or family members: 36 per cent male versus 64 per cent female victims. Women also bear the greatest burden in terms of intimate partner violence. The disparity between the shares of male and female victims of homicide perpetrated exclusively by an intimate partner is substantially larger than of victims of homicide perpetrated by intimate partners or family members: roughly 82 per cent female victims versus 18 per cent male victims. (11)
UNODC, Gender-Related Killing of Women and Girls, p. 11

As if all this isn't enough, here's one last cheerful note: "While the killing of a person tends to be recorded by the police more effectively than other crimes, it is well evidenced that violence against women is poorly reported to the police and that a large share of it remains hidden." And, of course, "[v]iolence against women is almost universally underreported" (42-43). 

The problem is global--many of the graphs in the report show statistics for specific countries all around the world. While none of the charts and/or graphs gives statistics for the United States, the situation in homes in the United States is no different than in other countries; as the CDC reported earlier this year, "[o]ver half of all female homicides (55.3%) are Intimate Partner Violence related." 

So, happy holidays?

*As the UNODC notes, "not all female homicides are gender related. Therefore, only a specific, if considerable, share can be labelled 'gender-related killings of women and girls,' i.e. 'femicide'" (9).

For more fun stories on the state of affairs for women and girls, click on the label "Back to the Future," below.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

"Mad Anne" Bailey and the Revolutionary War

Anne Hennis Bailey, Scout and Courier in the American Revolution (died 22 November 1825)

Born in 1742, Anne Hennis emigrated to the colony of Virginia in 1761, after the death of her parents, probably arriving as an indentured servant. Settling in the Shenandoah Valley (where she may have had family), she married the British soldier and frontiersman Richard Trotter in 1765, with whom she had a son, William.

 A drawing of Anne Bailey, frontispiece,
Virgil A. Lewis's Life and Times of Anne Bailey,
the Pioneer Heroine . . .
"copied from Historical Collections of Ohio"
Richard Trotter was a member of the Virginia militia and fought in Lord Dunsmore's War, a conflict between the colony and the Shawnee and Mingo native peoples--Trotter was killed at the battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. 

After her husband's death, Anne Hennis Trotter left their son with neighbors and joined the Virginia militia herself. Clad in a mixture of men's and women's clothing--buckskin leggings and a man's coat and hat but still wearing petticoats--she became "Mad Anne," working as a scout and courier while also recruiting for the militia.

Once the war for independence began, Anne Hennis Trotter also served as a recruiter, messenger, and spy for the continental army.

She married again, in 1784. Her husband, John Bailey, was also a frontiersman and scout. The two relocated to Clendenin's Settlement, now Charleston, West Virginia. Anne Bailey continued to go on patrols for the militia, and she also carried messages between various settlements.

In 1791, when Fort Lee was under attack by Native Americans, and supplies, especially gunpowder, were running low, Anne Bailey made a daring ride--she traveled by horseback 100 miles to Fort Savannah in order to secure supplies. She made the round trip (200 miles) in three days, returning with gunpowder. She is credited with having saved Fort Lee and its defenders.

After she was widowed again in 1794, Anne Bailey continued her restless move west, dying in Ohio in 1825. At the time of her death, she was eighty-three years old.

Memorial for Anne Bailey,
Tu-Endie-Wei State Park
(also known as Battle Monument State Park)
 Point Pleasant, Mason County, West Virginia;image posted at Find a Grave

About "Mad Anne" Bailey, the online History of American Women notes:
In 1823, Ann Bailey was interviewed by Anne Royall, a local reporter. When speaking of her adventures and bravery she said, "I always carried an ax and auger, and I could chop as well as any man. . . . I trusted in the Almighty. . . . I knew I could only be killed once, and I had to die sometime."
You might enjoy Virgil A. Lewis's 1891 The Life and Times of Anne Bailey, the Pioneer Heroine, which you can read at Google Books (click here). Surprisingly, for the source I love to hate, there is a brief entry for this "American scout" in the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Constance of Hauteville, "A Brightness Kindled by All the Light That Fills Our Heaven"

Constance of Hauteville, Queen of Sicily (born 2 November 1154)

The daughter of Roger II, king of Sicily, and his wife, Beatrice of Rethel, Constance was born nearly nine months after her father's death--Beatrice of Rethel had only been married to the king of Sicily for three years, and she was just a few weeks pregnant when he died on 26 February 1154.*

A twelfth-century manuscript illustration of
Beatrice of Rethel, queen of Sicily, and her infant daughter,
Constance, born posthumously
(from Peter of Eboli, Liber ad Honorem
But the succession in Sicily did not have to wait for the birth of the king's posthumous child. Beatrice of Rethel was Roger's third wife. His first, Elvira of Castile, had given birth to six children, including five sons. The eldest, Roger, died before his father, and had had no children with his wife, Isabella of Champagne, but he had two with his mistress, Emma, the daughter of the count of Lecce. (This illegitimate family will become important later.) Roger II and Elvira of Castile's second and third sons, Tancred and Alfonso, also predeceased their father.

So when Roger II died in 1154, he was succeeded by his fourth son, William, who became William I, king of Sicily. William and his queen, Margaret of Navarre, had four sons--but, just as William's elder brothers had died before their father, William's two oldest sons predeceased him. When William I died, he was succeeded on the throne of Sicily by his third son, who became William II of Sicily. William II ruled until his death in 1189. He and his queen, Joan of England (who was one of the daughters of Eleanor of Aquitaine) had no children. 

And that brings us back to Constance--because, it seems, Tancred of Lecce, one of the illegitimate sons of Roger, believed that he, rather than the legitimately born Constance, should succeed to the throne of Sicily. 

Tancred had already caused his share of trouble in Sicily. In 1161, he had rebelled against William I, taking the king, his queen, Margaret of Navarre, and their sons as prisoners. And then there was his involvement in a massacre of Muslims. Once order was restored and William I was back in control, Tancred was exiled to Constantinople. 

Pardoned on the accession of William II, Tancred seems to have behaved himself reasonably well until the king's death in 1189, when he once more rebelled and this time succeeded in seizing power. (And imprisoning Joan of England.) He settled himself uncomfortably on the throne, which he had to defend until his death in 1194. Tancred was succeeded as king of Sicily by his son, William, who reigned as William III of Sicily for only ten months, under the regency of his mother, Sibylla of Acerra. 

Throughout these decades, not much information is available about Constance. In 1168, when she was about fourteen, a rumor circulated that the chancellor had plans to depose William II, put his own brother on the throne, and marry him to Constance--he had to flee, his plot, if it were more than a rumor, coming to nothing.

Some two centuries later, the writer Giovanni Boccaccio would write, of Constance, that there was a monk present at her birth who predicted that Constance "would cause the destruction of the Kingdom of Sicily." Boccaccio claims that her father "believed this prediction." And so, in "amazement and terror," 
he began anxiously to brood on how this could be caused by a woman: the only possibilities he could visualize involved a husband or a child. Out of compassion for his kingdom, he formed a plan to prevent, if possible, this outcome. To remove all hope of marriage and children, he shut up the little girl in a monastery and made her promise God eternal virginity.
Boccaccio says that this "would not have been a reprehensible plan if it had succeeded." But, "powerless fools," our designs are frustrated. 

In her narrative study of Constance, Mary Taylor Simeti offers a version of Constance's life that is no less fanciful: "Constance grew up in Palermo amidst the gilded mosaics of churches and palaces, her youth blooming and fading among the flowers and fountains of Moorish cloisters and gazebos; as a potential heir to the throne, she was too valuable a pawn to international diplomacy to be ceded lightly."

Henry VI and Constance of Hauteville,
Holy Roman emperor and empress
(from Peter of Eboli, Liber ad Honorem
Whatever version of these years is closer to reality, it is true that no marriage was arranged for Constance until she was thirty years old, and her brother, William II, had no heir.

In 1184, Constance was betrothed to Henry of Hohenstaufen, king of the Germans, the second son of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa. Boccaccio claims that Constance objected to the marriage--she "held fast to her religious vows," and she also thought her advanced age "seemed to pose an obstacle."

Nevertheless, because of the "deadly tumult" that might erupt in Sicily--and with the approval of the pope--Constance of Hauteville married in Milan in 1186. Or, as Boccaccio kindly puts it, "Thus did a wrinkled crone abandon the sacred cloister, discard her monastic veil, and, royally adorned, marry and emerge in public as empress." (Constance was only thirty-two at the time of her marriage, and Henry did not become emperor until 1190 . . . )

Recognizing that there would be opposition among Sicily's Norman elite to the influence of the Hohenstaufen family of Constance's husband, the childless William II, who had forged this alliance with the Holy Roman emperor, sought to have Constance's succession in Sicily recognized. 

Although Constance's rights to the succession were widely accepted, Tancred wrested control of Sicily after William's death, as we've seen. Because William II's widow, Joan of England, supported Constance, Tancred imprisoned her. (When he arrived in Sicily, Richard the Lionheart freed his sister--a story I related in an earlier blog post; click here and scroll down.)

After Frederick Barbarossa's death in 1190, Henry and Constance were crowned in Rome as Holy Roman emperor and empress. The two proceeded to Sicily in order to take the crown from Tancred. During the fight that followed, Constance was taken prisoner by Tancred--seeing the support for her among the Norman aristocrats and the people, Tancred's wife suggested he kill her. He did not, but he moved her to Naples, where she could be closely and securely guarded in the Castel dell' Ovo. 

The emperor found himself unable to liberate or ransom the captive empress. Pope Celestine III threatened Tancred with excommunication, so he finally freed Constance, who was reunited with her husband in 1192.

The couple returned to their imperial realm until 1194, when Tancred died. With the aid of the enormous ransom that had been paid for the captive Richard the Lionheart, who had been turned over to the emperor in 1193, Henry immediately turned his attention to Sicily and invaded, deposing Tancred's young son, William III. For her part, Constance followed Henry to Sicily, but she traveled slowly, since she was pregnant. Henry had himself crowned king of Sicily on 25 December 1194. 

Constance, giving birth to her son in front of witnesses
But Constance still wasn't queen of Sicily. She gave birth to her son, Frederick, on 26 December, the day after her husband had made himself king of Sicily. She was finally crowned as queen regnant on 2 April 1195.

(Boccaccio thinks Constance is far older than she really is--he thinks she's fifty-four when she is pregnant, and relates the story of the emperor inviting "all women in Sicily who so desired" to come to witness the birth in order "to remove any suspicion." And thus a multitude of women witness the birth of Frederick, "the monster and scourge not only of Sicily but of all Italy. Thus was the prophecy [made at Constance's birth] fulfilled."**)

Having at last secured the throne, Henry at first offered generous terms to Sibylla and her son, William III. But a conspiracy against the emperor and now king of Sicily was revealed, and Henry took vengeance on those who had supported Tancred, his wife, and his son. 

Henry is said to have had William blinded and castrated; that may or may not be true, but the boy was sent off as a prisoner to Germany, where he is believed to have died in 1198. Many of his supporters were burned alive, some hanged, including Sibylla's brother. Sibylla herself was imprisoned and sent to Germany with her other children, but she eventually escaped and wound up in France, where she died in 1205.

Henry, however, proved to be an unpopular ruler in Sicily, surrounding himself with German troops, who who occupied themselves by looting and pillaging, and he severely repressed the Norman elite who had ruled in Sicily. Nor could he bring peace to the greater Italian peninsula. Sympathetic to the sufferings of the people of all classes, and herself a member of the Norman Hauteville ruling dynasty, Constance rebelled against her husband--she turned the tables on all those who had held her captive and she besieged her husband, keeping him holed up in a castle, eventually forcing him to agree to a treaty.

Henry died in 1197--it was whispered that he had been poisoned, perhaps by his wife. In April 1198, with her son's election as queen of the Germans disputed, Queen Constance of Sicily had Frederick crowned as king and herself named as regent. She died just a few months later, however, on 27 November 1198. She was just forty-four years old.

Her son, Frederick, would marry another Constance, Constance of Aragon, who would also serve as regent of Sicily.

The quotation in the title--"a brightness kindled / by all the light that fills our heaven"--is from Dante's Paradiso, where he includes a few lines about "the great Constance" (Canto 3, 109-20). 

Constance of Hauteville's tomb,
Cathedral of Palermo
(photo by José Luiz Bernardes Ribeiro)

There are many translations of Bocaccio's Famous Women--I've used Virginia Brown's here. 

Much of the information about Constance of Hauteville can be gleaned from histories of Sicily, like Donald Matthews's The Norman Kingdom of Sicily and biographies of various men in her family, like David Abulafia's biography of Frederick II. 

Mary Taylor Simeti's Travels with a Medieval Queen narrates a year in Constance's life, her journey as Holy Roman empress from Germany to Sicily, beginning in May 1194 and ending with her coronation. I'm not crazy about this book--it's a combination of history plus Simetti's own travels with friends--but it does offer the most detail about a critical period of Constance's life. You may also want to consult Jacqueline Alio's Queens of Sicily, 1061-1266 for its chapter on Constance of Hauteville.

*Although Beatrice was only about twenty years old when Roger II died, she did not remarry--she survived her husband by more than thirty years, dying herself on 31 March 1185.

**I'm not sure why Boccaccio thinks Frederick was awful--by all accounts, he was an enormously successful ruler. Here's just one modern historian's view:
This Germany king who was born and bred a Sicilian . . . was one of the most remarkable monarchs in history. A man of extraordinary culture, energy, and ability--called by a contemporary chronicler stupor mundi (the wonder of the world), by Nietzsche the first European, and by many historians the first modern ruler – Frederick established in Sicily and southern Italy something very much like a modern, centrally governed kingdom with an efficient bureaucracy. (Donald Detwiler, Germany: A Short History, 43)
Update, 6 February 2023: John Phillip Lomax's biographical essay on Constance of Hauteville is available online via Routledge Resources Online. Access is free (click here).

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Maria Magdalena of Austria, Regent of Tuscany

Maria Magdalena of Austria, Grand Duchess and Co-Regent of Tuscany (died 1 November 1631)*

Born in the city of Graz on 7 October 1589, Maria Magdalena of Austria was a member of the Habsburg family, the royal house that ruled over a vast empire in Europe and the Americas. 

Maria Magdalena of Austria,
grand duchess of Tuscany, c. 1603
portrait by Frans Pourbus the Younger
Maria Magdalena was daughter of Charles II, archduke of Austria, and his wife, Maria Anna of Bavaria--who was also Charles II's niece. Yes, another good example of traditional marriage: Maria Anna of Bavaria was the daughter of her husband's sister, Anna of Austria. Got that? (Keeping marriage in the family was a favorite Habsburg strategy, as I've noted before on this blog.) 

Maria Magdalena was also the fourteenth of the fifteen children born to the couple, thirteen of whom survived infancy.

She was well educated, taught by Jesuit instructors, her course of studies including Latin. Her father's court was deeply religious, Charles II a keen defender and promoter of the Catholic Reformation. Music played an important role in the court, and Maria Magdalena also performed in "didactic plays," based on the lives of saints. 

In 1608, when she was nineteen years old, Maria Magdalena was married to Cosimo II de' Medici, who would become the grand duke of Tuscany the next year. Between August 1609 and November 1617--just over eight years--she gave birth to eight children, all of whom survived infancy. (Although her first child, a girl, is believed to have suffered from some kind of physical or mental disability.)

Maria Magdalena's husband died when her eldest son, Ferdinando II, was just ten years old. And so, Maria Magdalena and her mother-in-law, Christina of Lorraine, became co-regents of Tuscany. 

In her recent discussion of Maria Magdalena of Austria, Maria Galli Stampino surveys the overwhelmingly negative views of Maria Magdalena's co-regency--though it is important to note that these are historians' views and not those of the regent's contemporaries. Her contemporaries keep up a detailed commentary on what's happening at court--later historians mark her regency as the beginning of the end of Florence. 

Maria Magdalena of Austria,
regent of Tuscany, c. 1621
As early as the eighteenth-century, an Italian historian decided that "everything started to decline from the moment of Cosimo II's death." As recently as 2008, the judgment is still the same: "the regency marked the beginning of the downward slope of the Medici government."

Maria Magdalena was too religious, too stern, too given to "magnificence," too dull and boring (yes, she is criticized for spending too much on lavish display and for not spending enough on lavish entertainment), too powerful, too influential over her son, 

She was "despotic" and "arbitrary," "nefarious" and "sanctimonious." Most important, she and her mother-in-law were both female and foreign. As the historian J. R. Hale concluded in his history of Florence and the Medici, "For the first time Medici rule was woman-ridden not by mistresses, anxious to please, but by viragos, determined to dominate." You can get a similar taste of this virulent attitude toward Maria Magdalena by looking at the Encyclopedia Britannica entry for her son (click here)

All that said, in her role as co-regent, Maria Magdalena developed a foreign policy that favored both the papacy and Habsburg politics. She performed charitable works. She continued her husband's support for Galileo. (A support that would be continued by her son, once he succeeded as grand duke.) She was a great patron of music and painting. And, notably, she did not lead Florence into war. Instead, she, her mother-in-law, and son got along harmoniously

Nor did she overthrow the state--her son, Ferdinando II, quietly succeeded as grand duke of Tuscany when he reached his majority at age eighteen. For many historians, that stability is also bad--he carried on his mother's policies, the people of Florence growing disappointed when "they realized that nothing had changed after his formal accession to power." 

In 1631, leaving Florence under the personal rule of her son, Grand Duke Ferdinando II, Maria Magdalena left for a visit to the Habsburg court in Vienna, where her oldest brother was now Holy Roman Emperor. She traveled with two of her sons, Mattias and Francesco, and after stops in Italy, visited her brother Leopold, archduke of Austria, in Innsbruck. She became ill on her way to Passau, Germany and died there on 1 November 1631. She was forty-two years old. 

Her body was returned to Florence. She is buried in the Medici Chapels, adjoining the Basilica of San Lorenzo.

(Maria Magdalena's daughter, Margherita de' Medici, became duchess of Parma, and, like her mother before her, she served as regent for her minor son.**)

Maria Galli Stampino's essay, "Maria Magdalena of Austria and Grand Duchess of Florence: Negotiating Performance, Traditions, and Taste," is in Early Modern Habsburg Women: Transnational Contexts, Cultural Conflicts, and Dynastic Continuities, ed. Anna Cruz and Maria Galli Stampino. I have used Stampino's excellent biographical information here, and I highly recommend her thorough summary and analysis of three centuries of critical assessments of Maria Magdalena's regency by historians. 

For online reading, I recommend Laura York's entry on Maria Magdalena in Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia.

*Although her name is frequently given as "Maddalena," she herself always signed "Magdalena."

**Another of Maria Anna of Bavaria's daughters, Anne, married Sigismund Vasa, king of Sweden and Poland--after Anne's death, Sigismund Vasa married her younger sister, Constance. More traditional marriage.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Olympia Morata, Scholar, Teacher, and an "Italian Heretic"

Olympia Fulvia Morata (died 26 October 1555)

Olympia Fulvia Morata was the daughter of the Italian humanist Fulvio Pellegrino Morato. A Mantuan, he was exiled from the city by 1517 (for unknown reasons) and made his way to the Este court in Ferrara. There he was appointed to oversee the education of the two youngest sons of the duke, Alfonso I. And there, in Ferrara, he married Lucrezia Gozi. Their eldest daughter, Olympia Fulvia Morata, was born in 1526; her father provided her with an excellent classical education. 

Olympia Morata, c. 1550
But in 1532, Morato left Ferrara--again, the reasons aren't clear--and took his family to Vicenza, in the Veneto, where he secured a post as a public master of Latin. He also gave lectures, wrote, and published.

During the years of his absence from the Este court, Morato also spent time in nearby Venice and began not only expressing anti-clerical views but also opening his home to young intellectuals for discussions of the work of religious reformers like Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin.

All of which drew attention from the Council of Ten in Venice, anxious about the dangerous effect of teachers like Morato on the religious views of their students. Papal legates arrived in Venice in order to investigate, and prosecutions followed. Although Morato was not accused of heresy, he felt himself to be in some danger and, after six years of absence, he returned to Ferrara.

Back in Ferrara, Morato was once again appointed to oversee the education of two young sons of the Este court, these the children of the new duke, Ercole II, and his mistress, Laura Dianti. Morato also took up a position teaching rhetoric, oratory and Latin authors at the University of Ferrara.

The court to which Morato returned had become a refuge and support for religious dissidents, especially those fleeing from France. The duchess of Ferrara, Renée of France, had grown up under the influence of her aunt, Marguerite d'Angouême, a supporter of French Huguenots. Renée had carried her reformist views with her to Ferrara, and she had begun to shelter to religious dissidents, including John Calvin, whom she met in 1536 as he fled persecution in France. She also fostered intellectuals, like the poet Vittoria Colonna, who found themselves investigated for their religious views.

Soon after her father's return to Ferrara, between 1539 and 1541, Olympia Morata joined the court of the duchess of Ferrara, where she was to be the companion of Renée's daughter, Anna d'Este. There she continued her studies, earning praise as a prodigy of learning. As Jennifer Haraguchi notes in her biographial essay on Morata, the young woman, still in her early teens, "was considered a 'fanciulla prodigio,' and won the praise of many intellectuals for her fluency in Latin and Greek."

A poem from this period reflects on Morata's aspirations and her sense of herself:
And I, though born female, have left feminine things,
     yarn, shuttle, loom-threads, and work-baskets.
I admire the flowery meadow of the Muses,
     and the pleasant choruses of the twin-peaked Parnassus.
Other women perhaps delight in other things,
     These are my glory, these my delight.
While at the ducal court, Morata shared tutors and texts with the young Anna, but these educational opportunities came to an end in 1546 when Morata returned home to take care of her sick father. After his death in 1548, Olympia Morata attempted to return to court, but she met with obstacles--her father's interest in Protestantism (some sources indicate he converted to Calvinism before his death) and her own religious sympathies may account for some of the problems. But during Morata's absence, Anna d'Este had been married to a French prince, a member of the Guise family, and had left Ferrara--Morata was no longer needed as a companion. And, finally, increasing pressure on the Calvinist sympathies of the duchess may also have prevented Morata's return.

Having lost her father, her friend, and her position at court, Morata remained in her mother's house, and it seems to have been during this period that she herself became a Protestant. She continued her correspondence with other intellectuals, including one through whom she met a student who had come to study medicine in Ferrara, Andrew Grunthler of Schweinfurt.

In 1550 she married Grunthler, and within a few years the two left Ferrara, taking Morata's younger brother with them, at least in part to evade the Inquisition. Grunthler found a position in Schweinfurth, a Protestant town, where he was physician to Spanish troops that had been stationed there. The couple were caught between opposing forces in the city when religious tensions broke out into war--a Protestant town, pillaged by the Spanish soldiers garrisoned there, trying to withstand the emperor's troops that were besieging Schweinfurth. The city suffered famine, bombardment, plague, and fire.

They were eventually able to escape to Heidelberg, where Grunthler took up a medical lectureship. Olympia Morata began to tutor Latin and Greek.

She did not live long, however. She died on 26 October 1555, just twenty-nine years old. Two months later, her husband and brother were also dead. She is buried, with her husband and brother, in St. Peter's Church, Heidelberg.

Much of Morata's work was lost--some during the siege of Schweinfurth and the hasty flight from the city, some when Renée of France's archive at the ducal court was destroyed in 1559 by the Roman Inquisition. But Morata's husband sent Morata's surviving work to Celio Secondo Curione, who had been Fulvio Morato's friend and who had been one of Olympia's most dedicated supporters and a life-long correspondent.

An Italian humanist scholar, Curione had fled the Inquisition himself, eventually winding up at the University of Basel. Curione published Olympia Morata's collected work (in editions of 1558, 1562, 1570, and 1580): fifty-two letters (most written in Latin), two dialogues (in Latin), two declamations (in both Greek and Latin), eleven poems (eight in Greek and three in Latin), translations of seven Psalms (in Greek), and the first two stories of Boccaccio's Decameron (in Latin).

Curione's 1580 edition of
the works of Olympia Morata

For Haraguchi's essay, part of the University of Chicago's Italian Women Writers database, click here. An extended account of Morata's life and work, in addition to a complete edition of her texts, is Holt N. Parker's The Complete Writings of an Italian Heretic

Jules Bonnet's full-length biography of Morata, The Life of Olympia Morata: An Episode of the Revival of Letters and of the Reformation in Italy, is dated in style and tone (it was originally published in 1854), but it is still a useful source. The biography is prefaced with an extended account of the Reformation in the Italian states, a geographical area not often considered by those reading about the Protestant Reformation. There is also an excellent contextual essay focusing on Renée of France and her daughter, Anna d'Este. And best of all? You can access the entire book via Google Books! (Click here.)