Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

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.