Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Monday, May 20, 2019

Elizabeth of Bosnia, Regent of Hungary and Croatia

Elizabeth of Bosnia, Queen of Poland and Regent of Hungary (married 20 June 1353)

Elizabeth of Bosnia was the daughter-in-law of a remarkable queen, Elizabeth of Poland, queen of Hungary, who was for many years her son's valued and trusted political adviser. Elizabeth of Bosnia  was the mother of two ruling queens, Jadwiga, queen regnant of Poland, and Mary, queen regnant of Hungary and Croatia, and she was also regent of Hungary after her husband's death.

Elizabeth of Bosnia and her husband,
Louis of Hungary,
kneeling at the feet of St. Catherine,
from a fourteenth-century chronicle
Born about the year 1340, Elizabeth of Bosnia was the daughter of Stephen II, the ruler (or "ban") of Bosnia, and Elizabeth of Kuyavia, a Polish noblewoman who was closely related to Elizabeth of Poland. The marriage of the Bosnian ban and a Polish woman was intended to strengthen the ties between Stephen and the Hungarian king, Charles Robert (Elizabeth of Poland's husband).

Not much is known about Elizabeth of Bosnia's early years--but she must have received some education, because she is known to have later written a "manual" on the education of daughters. (See below.) 

By the time she was about ten years old, she was already a valuable commodity in the marriage market. In 1350,  as a way of settling a long conflict between Bosnia and the Serbian empire, Tsar Stefan Dušan suggested a marriage between his son and Stephan's daughter, Elizabeth.

Stephan of Bosnia declined this offer, however. At some point he seems to have sent his daughter to the court of Elizabeth of Poland, where she could be reared by the queen. Elizabeth of Poland's son, Louis, had been married to Margaret of Bohemia (daughter of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV) in 1342, when she was just seven, but the dowager queen seem to have regarded Elizabeth of Bosnia as a spare. And after Margaret died of the plague in 1349 (she was just thirteen of fourteen years old), Elizabeth of Poland arranged for her son to marry Elizabeth of Bosnia. The marriage took place in 1353.

Stephen of Bosnia died just three months after his daughter became the queen of Hungary, but there seems to have been no question that she (or she and her new husband) would succeed him as ruler of Bosnia. Instead, Stephen was succeeded by an underage nephew.

Throughout the next few years, Elizabeth's husband and her cousin, now king of Bosnia, struggled over the payment of her dowry. In Bosnia, the new young king had trouble maintaining the integrity of the state his uncle had crafted, and in 1357, he was forced to cede a great deal of territory to Elizabeth's husband as payment of and in exchange for a recognition of his title. By 1370, Louis gained even more influence when he succeeded to the crown of Hungary and Croatia

Meanwhile, Elizabeth, now queen of Poland and Hungary, had her own struggles. Her mother-in-law, the dowager queen, remained an active and powerful political force (Elizabeth of Poland didn't die until 1380, aged about 75), while the younger Elizabeth herself "failed" in her most important duty as queen, producing an heir--she remained childless for over a decade after her marriage.

During this period of "failure," Elizabeth of Bosnia committed--supposedly--a daring but ultimately shameful act, perhaps motivated by a desire to give birth to a son. During a visit to the shrine of St. Simeon in Zadar, Croatia, she stole a part of the saint's finger. (She may have believed this relic would help her infertility.) As soon as she broke the piece off of the saint's body, it began to decompose. Since she couldn't leave the church without revealing her theft, she returned the finger to the body (where it was restored to its previous state).

The casket of St. Simeon, commissioned by
Elizabeth of Bosnia,
Church of St. Simeon, Zadar, Croatia

To atone for her action, Elizabeth of Bosnia commissioned an elaborately wrought reliquary for the body of St. Stephen, produced by the goldsmiths of Zadar between 1377 and 1380. She donated the silver herself. The casket of St. Stephen is now recognized as a masterpiece of medieval gold- and silver-work, and is under UNESCO protection.

Although she did not give birth to a son, she eventually produced three daughters in quick succession--Catherine, born in 1370, Mary, in 1371, and Jadwiga, in 1373. (Although no copies of Elizabeth of Bosnia's book on the education of daughters survives, a copy is known to have been sent to Louis of France, count of Valois, in 1374.)

Unlike some kings who shall remain nameless (looking at you, Henry VIII of England), Louis made plans for his three daughters, Catherine, Mary, and Jadwiga, to succeed him. 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 his eldest daughter, Catherine, to be married 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.

But plans for a smooth succession began to fall apart in 1378, when Louis and Elizabeth's eldest daughter died. Following Catherine's 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, after Catherine's death and rather than dividing his kingdoms between his two surviving daughters, he hoped to leave everything to the elder, Mary.

Whatever Louis's hopes may have been--for Jadwiga to rule in Hungary and for Mary to rule in Poland, or for Mary to inherit both thrones--his plans never materialized. Instead, Louis died in 1382, and a great deal of turmoil followed. 

Following her husband's death, Elizabeth of Bosnia moved quickly to claim the regency for her two young daughters, but she ran into trouble. Given her husband's reliance on his mother as his political adviser, Elizabeth of Bosnia had little experience in politics upon which to draw. In addition, her reliance on Nicholas Garay, who had also been one of her husband's advisers, was the source of jealousy and suspicion. (As was frequently the case with powerful women and their male advisers, her enemies said he was Elizabeth's lover.)

The succession difficulties and challenges for Elizabeth of Bosnia' two daughters were many. To start, the marriages Louis had arranged for his daughters were both rejected. 

Rather than accepting Elizabeth's regency, the Polish nobility elected Jadwiga, then just nine years old, as "king" (rex) of Poland, crowning her immediately, but in doing so, they rejected William of Austria. 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. Through Jadwiga and her husband, who became King Władysław II Jagiełło of Poland, the Jagiellon dynasty was established.* (For an extended account of Jadwiga's succession in Poland, including the reactions of the rejected William, click here.)

A depiction of Elizabeth of Bosnia handing a chest
to St. Simeon, with her three daughters, below;
detail on the sarcophagus of St. Simeon,
commissioned by Elizabeth of Bosnia
In Hungary, meanwhile, the nobility also 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 had been the marriage partner arranged for Mary's elder sister, Catherine, before the girl's death.)

But the proposed French marriage resulted in even more conflict in Hungary. (For an extended account of Mary's succession in Hungary, and the marital politics involved, click here.)

Although both of her daughters would eventually succeed to the throne as queens, Jadwiga in Poland and Mary in Hungary and Croatia, their powers were limited. They may have reigned, but they did not rule. And both queens would die while they were still in their twenties.

So Elizabeth of Bosnia may have "succeeded" in helping her daughters maintain their rights of succession, but all of her struggles for her daughters did not end well for Elizabeth of Bosnia--in her effort to secure Mary's crown, Elizabeth of Bosnia had been responsible for the assassination of an opponent the Hungarian nobility had invited into the kingdom. A year later, on the anniversary of the assassination, Elizabeth of Bosnia was herself strangled in an act of revenge.

Elizabeth of Bosnia was not a notably successful regent, but she has often been criticized for the very ambitions and failings demonstrated by her male contemporaries--inexperience, ambition, and ruthlessness, for example. But the title of historian Janos Bak's essay noting Elizabeth of Bosnia may more accurately suggest why she "failed" in the eyes of her contemporaries--"Queens as Scapegoats in Medieval Hungary."

Or, maybe you prefer Sophia Elizabeth Higgins's view--in her 1885 Women of Europe in the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries (vol. 1), she writes, "Few episodes in history are indeed more melancholy than the fortunes of [Jadwiga and Mary]. The retribution for their father's sins fell upon them." Higgins regards their mother's weaknesses and failings with a sympathetic eye: Elizabeth of Bosnia was driven by "despairing efforts to avert the ruin of her family," constantly disappointed by the "failure" and "disaffection" of the many rivalries, jealousies, and contending factions that undermined her efforts. (Higgins's discussion of Elizabeth of Bosnia is the most extended account I have found.)

*For three notable Jagiellon queens, see Isabella Jagiellon, queen of Hungary (here), Anna Jagiellon, queen of Poland (here), and Catherine Jagiellon, queen of Sweden (here).

Friday, April 26, 2019

The Midnight Ride of Sybil Ludington, American Revolutionary

Sybil Ludington and her "Midnight Ride" (26 April 1777)

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
 Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, 
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five: 
Hardly a man is now alive 
 Who remembers that famous day and year.

Well, I don't know who Longfellow was thinking about here--everybody hears about Paul Revere and his damn midnight ride. 

Anna Hyatt Huntington's sculpture of
Sybil Ludington, on her midnight ride,
Carmel, New York
(photo by Anthony22)
But not too many people hear about the ride of Sybil Ludington--at the age of sixteen, she undertook a dangerous ride to alert her father’s militia forces of the approach of the British.

On the night of 26 April 1777, during a terrible rainstorm, she road forty miles, from Putnam County, New York, to Danbury, Connecticut. (Revere, by the way, was forty years old and didn't complete his ride--he was captured by the British.)

Born on 5 April 1761, Sybil Ludington was the daughter of Abigail Knowles and Henry Ludington, the eldest of their twelve children.

Henry Ludington was both a farmer and the owner of a grist mill. Ludington began his military service in 1755, at the age of sixteen, when he enlisted in the Second Connecticut Regiment. He fought for the British against the French in the so-called French and Indian War, part of the larger European conflict known as the Seven Years' War. Ludington served from 1755 until 1760. In recognition of his distinguished service, he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in the British Colonial Army. Ludington resigned in protest after the Stamp Act (1765), but rejoined in 1773 when he was commissioned as a captain.

But at the outbreak of the Revolution, rather than continue as a British officer, Ludington joined the Continental Army and took command of a volunteer infantry regiment. On 26 April 1777, Ludington learned of Governor William Tryon's planned attack on Danbury, Connecticut--this was where the stores and munitions for the Patriot army were being stored. 

And now the story turns to Sybil Ludington. Accounts differ about why she made the ride--according to family legend, she volunteered to make the trip, though it may be that she rode at her father's direction. 

In any case, Sybil made the journey, setting off after nine p.m. and riding through the night. Despite the dangers, she carried her father's order for muster, spreading the word to the militiamen to rally at her father's farm. By daybreak, most of the men had gathered. 

The British nevertheless managed to burn Danbury and destroy the Continental Army's supplies. Ludington's men were late for the series of skirmishes that became known as the battle of Ridgefield, arriving "short of ammunition" and "outnumbered by the British three to one," but they nevertheless were able to "harass the British" with their "scattering sharpshooter fire from behind trees and fences and stone walls," and the British retreated to their ships." 

Whether her father's troops won the battle or not, Sybil Ludington's ride achieved its purpose. In a history written by a member of Henry Ludington's family, Sybil and her sister Rebecca are also credited with having aided her father in his espionage work, established under the direction of General George Washington, whom Henry Ludington came to serve as an aide-de-camp. The two girls were "privy" to the "doings" of one of their father's spies; they "had a code of signals, by means of which they frequently admitted him in secrecy and safety to the house, where he was fed and lodged."

And when their father's activities raised hostilities in their neighbors, the two girls also took action:
These children would sit for hours, armed with heavy muskets, at the upper windows, behind casks on the piazza, or in a neighboring cornfield, watching for the approach of suspicious or openly hostile characters and ready to give their father warning.
While her actions in defending her father's spies and her father himself may be part of a family historian's fanciful collection of stories, and while some details of Sybil's ride may have been fancifully embroidered in later retellings (I've left out the fluff here), the fact of her ride is not in doubt.

After the war, Sybil Ludington married Edward Ogden, variously described as a lawyer (Encyclopedia Britannica!!!), a farmer, or an innkeeper. (Then again, sometimes he's named as "Edmund" Ogden--for what it's worth, the family historian identifies Ogden as a lawyer, but says he's named Henry!)

Sybil Ludington Ogden's headstone,
Maple Ave. Cemetery,
Patterson, New York
(note the spelling of her name,
"Sibbell" and "Edmond"
as her husband's name
Now Sybil Ogden, she moved to Catskill, where she had one son, named Henry (the family historian may be confusing Sybil's husband's name with her son's). She died on 26 February 1839, aged seventy-seven. 

There are no known references to Sybil Ludington Ogden's ride before 1880, when Martha Lamb, a New York historian, included it in her History of the City of New York

I know I'm always bitching about the Encyclopedia Britannica's refusal to include women, but as noted above, there is an entry for Sybil Ludington. You may also be interested in Debra Michals's essay on Ludington, posted by the National Women's History Museum.

A profile of Sybil Ludington Ogden is also provided by the town of Patterson, New York, as part of ts "Historic Patterson" website.

Although Sybil Ludington Ogden's application for a Revolutionary War pension was denied--the reason given was that there was insufficient proof of her marriage to Edward Ogden, who had served in the Continental Army--she was honored by a U.S. postage stamp in 1975. 

Sunday, April 21, 2019

The Travels of Egeria

Egeria the Pilgrim (a post for Easter Sunday, 21 April 2019)

One of the earliest surviving texts attributed to a woman writer, the Itinerarium Egeriae (The Travels of Egeria) preserves the account of a female traveler in the Holy land. 

A page from the Codex Aretinus manuscript,
containing Egeria's Itinerarium
(photo posted by Flavio Barbiero)
Although not much is known about the traveler herself, a woman named Egeria, most scholars seem to agree that she started her pilgrimage in northwest Spain, likely Galicia--though there is some disagreement here, with others suggesting she was from southern France.

The date of her travels is also uncertain. Egeria probably made her journey between the years 381 and 384, and since she arrived in Jerusalem in time to celebrate Easter, I have chosen to post about her today. 

Her extant writing takes the form of an extended letter addressed to her sorores--"sisters"--a word that has led some readers to conclude that Egeria was a nun, but there is now a general sense that Egeria was probably a wealthy lay woman addressing herself to a group of women who shared her faith. 

As it has survived, The Travels of Egeria is a fragmentary text, missing its beginning and end. (The missing opening of Egeria's account of her travels might have told us more about the writer.)

The part of Egeria's text that survives is found in a manuscript copied between the ninth and twelfth centuries, now known as the Codex Aretinus. This fragmentary account of Egeria's Itinerarium was rediscovered and identified at the end of the nineteenth century. Two new fragments were identified in 2007, these dating to a copy made about the year 900.

But there are references to Egeria's work made in the centuries after she traveled, showing something of the transmission of her text among Christian readers. Egeria is praised by Valerio of Bierzo, a seventh-century monk from Galicia. A glossary from the eighth or ninth century quotes from her Itinerarium. And the twelfth-century Benedictine monk Peter the Deacon, librarian of the abbey of Montecassino, also refers to Egeria--Montecassino is where the the Codex Aretinus was copied. 

What survives of Egeria's letter is in two parts. The text begins mid-sentence, with Egeria already in Jerusalem (the journey from her home to the Holy Land is missing). In this first part of her "travels,' she writes about her extended stay in Jerusalem, from which she takes a number of shorter journeys.

From Jerusalem, Egeria travels to Mount Sinai and on to Mount Horeb, then to a garden where she sees the burning bush mentioned by Moses; to the "city of Arabia," which is "in the land of Goshen"; to the Jordan Valley; to sites in Mesopotamia, after crossing the Euphrates; to Edessa, Antioch, the shrine of St. Thecla, "a three-day journey from Tarsus," and then to Constantinople. As she travels, she writes about those who serve as guides and interpreters, especially monks, and she relates each place she visits to biblical accounts of the sites. 

The shrine of St. Thecla,
photo by Cobija
The second part of Egeria's letter describes the "daily offices"--the "order of service (operatio) day by day in the holy places" of the city of Jerusalem--followed by a recital of the special church festivals as they are celebrated, including Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. (Interestingly, the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, now 25 December, is not yet mentioned among the festivals of the church year.)

Between 2000-2006, The Egeria Project was established online. The site is still accessible, but it seems not to have fulfilled its goals. Like Egeria's original text, it is incomplete.

Scholars have repeatedly attempted to map Egeria's various travels--the difficulties in doing so are outlined by Cristina Corsi, in her "Topographical issues in the Itinerarium Egeriae: An Essay on the Modalities of Travel in the Fourth Century AD." The essay contains a great deal of fascinating information.

For the text of the surviving Egeria fragments, The Pilgrimage of Egeria is available here.

One of many proposed itineraries of Egeria
(posted by Nicoletta De Matthaeis,
who has an excellent blog post on Egeria,
in Spanish) 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Marguerite St. Leon Barstow Loud: An "Imagination of No Common Order"

Marguerite St. Leon Barstow Loud, poet (born 17 April 1812)

In the preface to Wayside Flowers: A Collection of Poems by "Mrs. M. St. Leon Loud," editor Park Benjamin describes the volume's intended readers as those who "love tenderness and purity of thought, joined to simplicity and grace of expression." 

Marguewrite St. Leon Barstow Loud,
frontispiece from Wayside Flowers, 1851
The poems are "like those 'wildlings of nature,' from which they borrow their title" (by the way, Benjamin has created the title). They are "the spontaneous productions of a fertile soil," "the free growth of an unartificial mind." They represent "nature's growth," not "exotics." And thus are better than "cultivated efforts."

Oh, dear. No work at all, then, right? The poems just happen????? Without intention, work, effort?

In his last months of life, Edgar Allen Poe happily accepted the "relatively lucrative opportunity" to edit Wayside Flowers--he writes to a correspondent that he is on his way to Philadelphia to edit the work of the "poetess," whose wealthy husband had hired him. Poe writes, "[t]he whole labor will not occupy me 3 days." (Poe had been offered $100 by Marguerite Loud's husband--Poe had earned only $166 the entire year before.)

Oh, dear. On the website of the Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore, Marguerite St. Leon Barstow Loud is identified as a "minor American poet."

Aside from this rather disparaging information--and from Benjamin's preface in the volume of poetry, Wayside Flowers--not all that much is known about Marguerite St. Leon Barstow Loud. No Wikipedia entry, for example!!!

Marguerite St. Loud Barstow was born in Wysox, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Seth T. Barstow and his wife, Clarissa Woodruff. According to Benjamin, both parents were from New England, and Marguerite's father was a successful physician. 

In his preface to Wayside Flowers, Benjamin also indicates that Marguerite Barstow's education was an informal one--her mother was her teacher, her parents both loved poetry, and the home had an "ample library."

Her date of birth has been variously given. She died in Kenyon, Minnesota, and her gravestone indicates that she was born on 17 April 1812, but there are questions about this date, principally the fact that some sources indicate she was married in 1824--which would make her only twelve years old at the time of her marriage. Thus other dates for her birth are suggested--even a date of 1800 (see the University of Virginia's Collective Biographies of Women database, for example)!

But the preface to her volume of poetry specifically addresses the date of her marriage as well as explaining the source of the confusion--Marguerite Barstow was married in 1834, not 1824, an erroneous date that appeared in Caroline May's 1848 The American Female Poets.*

Title page of the 1851 Wayside Flowers

So there's no need for anyone to twist themselves into pretzels or question the date of birth on the headstone. Marguerite Barstow was born in 1812, and she married in 1834. Her husband, John Loud, was a successful piano manufacturer in Philadelphia. A daughter, Caroline, was born in 1834, and Clara was born in 1837. (There may have been other children born after Clara, perhaps a daughter named Danvina, born in 1842.)

Edgar Allen Poe died before he could travel to Philadelphia to edit Wayside Flowers. The book was finally published in 1851, and it did not sell well. Of the 550 copies that were printed, 360 copies were returned, unsold, to the Louds.

In his discussion of Poe's intention to edit Wayside Flowers and Poe's death, Matthew Pearl notes that "according to electronic library database Oasis, only fourteen original copies of the book are held by American libraries."

Which may account for the fact that Loud's elegy, "The Stranger's Doom," one of the earliest poems that seems to be about Poe's death, has "attracted little critical attention."

But, thankfully, you don't have to search out one of the few print copies of Marguerite St. Leon Barstow Loud's Wayside Flowers. It is now widely available online

Poe himself seemed to think well of Marguerite Loud as a poet. Of her he wrote in 1841:
Mrs. M. ST. LEON LOUD is one of the finest poets of this country; possessing, we think, more of the true divine afflatus than any of her female contemporaries. She has, in especial, imagination of no common order, and unlike many of her sex whom we could mention, is not content to dwell in decencies forever. 
While she can, upon occasion, compose the ordinary metrical sing-song with all the decorous proprieties in which are in fashion, she yet ventures very frequently into a more ethereal region. We refer our readers to, a truly beautiful little poem entitled the “Dream of the Lonely Isle,” lately published in this Magazine. 
Mrs. Loud’s MS. is exceedingly clear, neat and forcible, with just sufficient effeminacy and no more.
Marguerite St. Leon Barstow Loud died on 4 November 1889. She was seventy-seven years old. 

Detail from headstone of
Marguerite St. Leon Barstow Loud
(photo by Dave Vangsness,
posted at Find a Grave)

*The link here is to the edition of 1854, which reprints the 1824 date in its biographical note for "Marguerite St. Leon Loud."

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Back to the Future, Part 14: More Good News for Women--We're Still Missing!!

Back to the Future, Part 14: Women and Wikipedia

I rarely refer to Wikipedia in my posts. It's not that I'm a research snob (well, okay, I'm a research snob), it's just that I hope to include information in these entries on women that wouldn't necessarily appear at the top of the page after a quick Google search. 

Logo of WikiProject Women in Red
But here's the thing, which should surprise no one: women are vastly under-represented in Wikipedia. Despite many efforts to redress the balance, the "pages" of Wikipedia are heavily skewed toward men--male historical figures, artists, writers, musicians, politicians, athletes, even goddamn video game characters. Etc., etc. Ad nauseam. 

And now a bit of happy news about just how bad it is. 

According to an April 2019 report released by Wikimedia, of the 1,618,509 biographies in the English Wikipedia, only 287,852 of them are biographies of women!!! Just 17.79%!! (This is reported by WikiProject Women in Red.)

This number--17.9%--is up from 15%, reported in 2014. Yay????

A similar number is reported by Le project les sans pagEs: "en octobre 2018, Wikipédia en français compte 547 599 biographies d'hommes, contre 94 021 de femmes, soit seulement 17,3%" (in October, French Wikipedia includes 547,599 biographies of men, compared to 94,021 of women, only 17.3 percent).

Logo of Le project les sans pagEs

Why the disparity? A recent story in the New York Times suggests that it's not because women don't care. Rather there are continued barriers to women writers and editors--Wikipedia is a place of "relentless harassment" for women. According to a report by the Wikimedia Foundation, the Foundation itself is "seriously concerned about the idea that cisgender women and transgender editors could be repelled from Wikipedia by online abuse."

It's not only the online abuse: there is a "systemic bias in policies," "implicit bias within the [Wikipedia] community," and "poor community health"--which includes, in addition to harassment, a lack of support for "gender equity work" and a "lack of diversity in leadership."

Banner posted by Wotancito,
Spanish "Women Love Wiki" project
("making women invisible in history is also violence")

I've filled this blog with complaints about women written out of history, women written out of the literature, women written out of art, the lack of public monuments for women's achievements, and, especially, the terrible treatment of women by "reliable" sources like the venerable Encyclopedia Britannica. I'm always bitching about something, I guess . . .

Update, 16 April 2019, afternoon: And, then, there's this--
The man charged with throwing a 5-year-old boy off a third-floor balcony at the Mall of America told police he was angry at being rejected by women at the Minnesota mall and was "looking for someone to kill" when he went there last week, according to a criminal complaint Monday.
But, hey, he wasn't murdering his wife, his girlfriend, or his own child . . .

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Back to the Future, Part 13: Men Killing Women, New and Improved!

Back to the Future, Part 13: More Intimate Partner Violence! What a Surprise!

First, I hate the anodyne phrase "intimate partner violence." Because we wouldn't want to offend anyone's tender sensibilities by saying "men slaughtering wives, girlfriends, and children," now would we?

"Domestic Violence" is better than "Intimate Partner Violence--
but does it say enough?

And second, such acts of domestic terrorism (a phrase I first heard Gloria Steinem use to describe men killing women several years ago) are so commonplace that they are frequently overlooked in the media. For example, today the Huffington Post reports on the deadly slaughter of his wife and two daughters by a Phoenix man. (He also killed a family friend while he was murdering his family.) The death of his oldest daughter was particularly gruesome--instead of shooting her, as he had his wife and five-year-old daughter, he clubbed the seven-year-old to death. (Police found the youngest daughter, three, hiding under a bed.)

While this horrific murder merited an article in today's Huffington Post, the story did not appear in The New York Times, but a quick Google search shows that it was reported in the Washington Post two days ago, and on NBC, ABC, and CNN. 

But what did appear in today's New York Times was this story: "Murders by Intimate Partners Are on the Rise, Study Shows."

Yup. Rather than less frequently, horrific slaughter like the one in Phoenix is happening MORE frequently: "Homicides by intimate partners are increasing, driven primarily by gun violence after almost four decades of decline." 

Just a few facts: "The number of victims rose to 2,237 in 2017, a 19 percent increase from the 1,875 killed in 2014." Yes, men are killed too, but the "majority of the victims in 2017 were women, a total of 1,527." 

And, "gun-related domestic killings increased by 26 percent from 2010 to 2017. . . . In 2017, 926 of the 1,527 women murdered by partners were killed with guns. In 2014, it was 752 of 1,321 women."

The Times article refers to the finds of Emma E. Fridel and James Alan Fox, "Gender Differences in Patterns and Trends in U.S. Homicide, 1976–2017" (in Violence and Gender 6 [March 2019]).

Interestingly, it was the Huffington Post that first reported on this new study. And adds these gems to what appears in the Times story: "Domestic violence groups often repeat the statistic that three women a day are killed by domestic violence. But according to Fox’s most recent data, it is four."

And: "Nearly half of all women who are murdered die at the hands of their partners. Only 5 percent of men suffer the same fate."

And: "Every 16 hours, according to one estimate, a woman is fatally shot by her boyfriend, husband or ex."

The House of Representatives recently voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which had expired in February of this year.

Reauthorization of the act is opposed by the NRA. 

The Senate has yet to act.

Here's my modest proposal

For more in the "Back to the Future" series of blog posts, click on the label, below. The label "domestic terrorism" will take you to more posts on men killing women.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Margaret Ansell, Needlework Artist

Margaret Ansell, Artist in Needle and Thread (estate sale, 20 February 1782)

Recently I've posted about two English artists who specialized in "needle painting," Mary Linwood and Mary Morris Knowles. We know a fair amount about both of those women: Linwood exhibited her own work and had something of an international reputation, while Knowles was a writer and anti-slavery activist as well as an artist.

Much less is known about Margaret Ansell, like Linwood and Knowles an artist whose medium was needle and thread.

Along with Mary Linwood and six other female artists, Margaret Ansell was included in the 1776 Society of Artists of Great Britain's exhibition in London. Something of the attitude toward their work is indicated by the exhibition catalog: they were considered "honorary exhibitors." 

Ansell's pieces for the 1776 exhibition included needlework renderings of two paintings by Benjamin West, The Death of General Wolfe (oil painting, 1770) and Penn's Treaty with the Indians (oil painting, 1771-72).* Interestingly, as Lea C. Lane notes, "Engraved versions of both West paintings rendered by Ansell also appear in the 1776 Society of Artists exhibition, but [the artists] are given full billing (i.e., not [listed as] honorary exhibitors)."

Further, as Lane indicates, "needlework artists had a rapidly dwindling number of venues that would accept their work. . . . The rival Royal Society of Artists explicitly stated in newspaper notices for upcoming exhibitions that “NO COPIES WHATSOEVER, Needlework, artificial Flowers, Models in coloured Wax, or any Imitations of Painting will be received.” (And thus, perhaps, Mary Linwood's decision to exhibit her own work at her own gallery.)

Nothing more is known about Margaret Ansell until February 1782, when a sale of her household and boarding school is recorded. This sale may mean that Ansell had died. (A label on the back of her version of Penn's Treaty adds a corresponding bit of information: the artist is said to be "of the Boarding School/ Lordship Lane Tottenham/ Middlesex.")

In her analysis of Ansell's work, Lane adds one further intriguing possibility. The final exhibition of the Society of Artists occurred in 1791, and its catalog includes a "Mrs. R," who saw twelve of her needlework pieces exhibited.** In Lane's estimation, these works are "startlingly similar to those shown by Margaret Ansell." Lane has also discovered that a woman named Margaret Ansell, a spinster from Tottenham, married a man named James Roberts in 1781: "Perhaps the 1782 sale of the 'late Miss Ansell’s' property only marked the close of one chapter of her life, but not the end of her participation in the evolving landscape of public art in London." 

Lane's 2017 essay on Ansell, "Freak Pictures: The Needlework Paintings of Margaret Ansell," represents research conducted after a piece of embroidery work was donated to the Winterthur Museum. The piece proved to be Ansell's Penn's Treaty with the Indians.

Ansell's needlework version of Benjamin West's
Penn's Treaty with the Indians,
now at the Winterthur Museum

*The catalogue also indicates Ansell exhibited a piece titled "Dutch Boors"--likely based on one of David Teniers's paintings of peasant life. According to a "complete dictionary of contributors" to the Society of Artists of Great Britain, "M. Ansell, Needle Worker" also exhibited a third piece, a "Dutch Landscape; from Teniers." This list of contributors and their work also identifies the M. Ansell who exhibited in 1776 as "at the Boarding School, Tottenham."

**Interestingly, the dictionary of contributors to the Society of Artists of Great Britain also notes that "M. Ansell" contributed two needlework paintings to the 1780 exhibition, "Dead Game" and "A Bird."

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Mary Morris Knowles: Poet, Artist, and Anti-Slavery Activist

Mary Morris Knowles, Artist and Activist (died 3 February 1807)

The daughter of prosperous Quaker parents, Moses and Mary Morris, the younger Mary Morris, born in Rugeley (Staffordshire) on 5 May 1733, was "carefully brought up in substantial and useful knowledge," according to one contemporary account. As she would demonstrate in her later life, she knew the classics well enough to cite them, she could write poetry, she could understand current scientific theories, she was familiar with botany, and she was fluent in French.

Mary Knowles, self-portrait in needlework
Royal Collection Trust
She would later write that when she was young, she was sometimes regarded as a "romantic chatter-brain" by her Rugeley neighbors, a description that belies her intellect, accomplishments, and activism.

Also said to be "the great beauty of Staffordshire," she would later downplay her appearance by describing herself as "a damsel of middle stature, and ruddy complexion," comparing herself to a milkmaid who is "blue" on a "frosty morning."

Her sense of humor and self-deprecation were accompanied by her determination. As a young woman, she resisted her parents’ authority to arrange  her marriage, declining a husband of her parents’ choice and insisting on her right to choose her own husband--which she eventually did. Her resistance, however, brought her into conflict not only with her parents but with important Quaker authorities.

In her satirical autobiography, Memoir of M. M., Spinster of this Parish, she reiterated her view of marriage: she planned to "bestow the treasure of my inestimable Self on some lucky, happy individual, as a very proper and suitable help meet."

Which is presumably what she did when she finally married in 1767, at the age of thirty-four. Her husband, Thomas Knowles, was also a Quaker, an apothecary by trade. Although she had consented to be a "proper and suitable help meet," at last, Mary Morris Knowles also made it clear that she did not intend to be "a poor passive machine . . . a mere smiling Wife."

But some aspects of marriage were unavoidable for an eighteenth-century women, no matter how determined or independent. The birth of her first child in July 1768 nearly killed her--and the baby, a boy, lived only a day. She wrote movingly of her experiences in letters and in poetry.

After this traumatic labor and delivery, Mary Knowles began creating embroidered pictures, her needlework an example of "needle painting," a technique "so highly finished, that it has all the softness and effect of painting."

As Knowles described her art, "my employment is working in divers colours, and fine-twined woolen, and it is work of curious devices, and of exquisite cunning in the art of the needle."She also produced "printwork"--she drew pictures onto silk or linen, then worked these images with lines of fine black silk stitches so that the finished piece looked like an engraving.

By 1771, Knowles's reputation as an artist had drawn the attention of Queen Charlotte, who commissioned Knowles to produce a needle painting of a portrait of George III. Knowles's version of Johann Zoffanny's portrait of the king brought her praise and an excellent "gift" (rather than a commission) from the queen--indicating that the relationship was personal rather than professional.

However the payment was regarded, it allowed Mary Knowles to fund her husband's training to become a doctor. After Thomas Knowles completed his education, the couple settled in London. He was successful in his career, while Mary Knowles developed a circle of literary and political friends and associates. At the age of forty, she also gave birth to a boy.

In London, Knowles became an active supporter of the abolitionist movement. She also met a young woman named Jane Harry--the daughter of an English planter and a Jamaican woman. After she converted to Quakerism, Harry's British guardian cut ties with her, and the young woman came to live with Knowles.

Knowles's argument for religious toleration--her support for Harry's decision to convert from Anglicanism to Quakerism--brought her into conflict with Samuel Johnson. James Boswell's account of their debate has, as Judith Jennings notes in her study of Knowles, had a long and negative effect on Knowles's reputation.
1803 engraving of
Mary Knowles
National Portrait Gallery

When Thomas Knowles died in 1786, he left a considerable estate, inherited by his wife. She did not remarry. She did continue her activism, and she also continued to write. In addition to her earlier autobiography and poetry, as well as the tract entitled "Compendium of a Controversy on Water-Baptism," she collected "A Poetic Correspondence" (between herself and a Captain Morris," and produced more tracts and poems supporting her political views. While most of these were circulated in manuscript, she eventually published her account of her dispute with Samuel Johnson, "Dialogue between Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Knowles" (1791).

Mary Morris Knowles died at the age of seventy-three on 3 February 1807.

My own interest in Mary Knowles began with her needle-painting--I came across her name when I was reading about the needle-painter Mary Linwood. I had no idea about her literary and political endeavors. Interestingly, however, there seems to be nothing much written about her artwork after her completion of the painting of George III.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Blessed Osanna of Mantua

Osanna d'Andreasi, Mystic and Spiritual Adviser
(born 17 January 1449)

Born in Carbonara di Po, near Mantua, on 17 January 1449, Osanna d'Andreasi was the daughter of Niccolò Andreasi and his wife, Agnese Gonzaga. Her family belonged to the nobility, but whether Agnese Gonzaga was related to the Gonzaga family, rulers of Mantua from the mid-fourteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, is not clear.

Francesco Bonsignore,
Veneration of the Beata Osanna Andreasi,
In writing about the Blessed Osanna of Mantua, Benedict Ashley, O.P. notes the influence of Catherine of Siena upon the fifteenth-century mystic: 
St. Catherine of Siena provided Dominicans, especially Italians, with a new model of spirituality which was not only mystical but political, directly concerned with the reform of Church and State. A century after her death this model was strikingly exemplified by Dominican men . . . but comparatively little attention has been given to Dominican women . . . who just as faithfully followed in Catherine’s footsteps. One of these on whom we are best informed is Osanna D’Andreasi.
Osanna's life and faith are documented by two contemporaries who knew her and who wrote about her shortly after her death: the first of these biographies, Beatae Osannae Mantuanae de tertio habitu ord. Fratrum praedicatorum vita, was written in 1505 by the Dominican scholar Sylvester of Ferrara.

Two years later, another life, Libretto de la vita et transit de la b . Or . from Mantua, was completed by her confidante, Father Girolamo (Jerome) de Monte Oliveto, a Benedictine monk whom Osanna would come to consider her "spiritual son." His biography is comprised of extended accounts of Osanna's spiritual experiences, relayed to him through conversation. He also appended twenty-four letters by Osanna to his account of her life. 

According to Jerome, Osanna's mystical experiences began when she was quite young, although she kept them to herself. At the age of five or six, while walking along the Po River, she had her first vision, of an angel who raised her to heaven, telling her, “To enter Heaven it is necessary to love God very much: See how all created things sing His glory and proclaim it to men.” 

In the same spot, she later experienced a vision of Jesus as a child wearing a crown of thorns, and later still met him again, this time in the family garden. Called to the religious life, the girl was said to have begged her father to let her study theology--when denied, she received instruction from the Virgin Mary herself. And since her father didn't think that, as a girl, she needed to learn to read and write, another legend says that--like Catherine of Siena--she miraculously recognized the words "Jesus" and "Mary" one day, and from that point on, she could read.

Osanna d'Andeasi's desire for a religious life did not conform to her family's plans for her. When she was fourteen years old, she discovered that her father was arranging a marriage for her; although she did not defy him by joining the Dominicans, she did assume the the habit of a Dominican tertiary and told her father that she had vowed to wear it until she was allowed to enter the religious life.*

When she was eighteen, she experienced yet another vision in which she experienced a mystical marriage to Jesus. For the following twelve years, while the Italian city-states suffered invasion and war, she prayed to be able to share in the sufferings of Jesus. At the same time, she assumed the burden of caring for her many brothers and sisters after her parents' deaths. 

In addition to experiencing visions, Osanna Andreasi received the stigmata, first on her head, then her side, then her feet. As Ashley describes the particular of these manifestations in Osanna's case, "the stigmata do not seem to have bled, but simply to have appeared as red, intensely painful swellings. She kept them hidden from everyone except her servants, but at times the pain in her feet was so great that she was unable to walk."

Ippolito Andreasi,
The Assumption with the Blessed Osanna Andreasi,
c. 1575
Her piety, her acts of charity, and her spiritual experiences brought her to the attention not only of the people, who began to look to her as a spiritual adviser, but also to the ruling Gonzaga family, in particular to Isabella d'Este, marchesa of Mantua, for whom Osanna Andreasi became a spiritual adviser.

In 1501, after waiting thirty-seven years, Osanna  was finally able to take her vows as a Dominican tertiary. She died four years later, on 18 June 1505. In 1515, at the request of Isabella d'Este, Pope Leo X established a feast day for Osanna in Mantua. She was beatified by Innocent XII in 1694. 

Today Blessed Osanna of Mantua's remains are enshrined in Mantua, in the Cattedrale di San Pietro apostolo. There is also a museum dedicated to her in Mantua--you can see a gallery of images of the House of the Blessed Osanna by clicking here.

In addition to Ashley's "Blessed Osanna d’Andreasi and Other Renaissance Italian Dominican Women Mystics," cited above, there is an account of Blessed Osanna of Mantua in Short Lives of the Dominican Saints (the author of which is, no kidding, given as "A Sister of the Congregation of St. Catharine of Siena). 

You may also enjoy Sally Anne Hickson's essay, "Popular Devotion: Isabella d'Este, Blessed Osanna and Depictions of Female Sanctity in Mantua," in her Women, Art and Architectural Patronage in Renaissance Mantua: Matrons, Mystics and Monasteries 

*Like the Franciscans, the Dominicans also had a "third order": those who, for a variety of reasons, could not take formal vows to join a religious order, could live as a lay person, outside the community according to the ways of life of those who live inside. 

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Women and the 116th U.S. Congress

The 116th United States Congress and a "Record Number of Women" (convenes 3 January 2019)

A great deal has written about the changing demographics of the 116th U.S. Congress--the House of Representatives, in particular, is remarkable for its great diversity. The Center for American Women in Politics notes that a "record number of women will serve in the U. S. Congress in January 2019."

But before we get too excited, here is a graphic illustrating the change in the number of women Representatives, from the 115th Congress to the 116th:

The 115th U.S. Congress,
Men and Women in the U.S. House of Representatives,
graphic from Business Insider

And here is the make-up of the  House of Representatives, 116th Congress:

116th U.S. Congress,
Men and Women in the U.S. House of Representatives,
graphic from Business Insider*

Wow. See that???? Huge change, huh?

There may be "historic gains" for women, men and women of color, and members of the LGBTQ community, and a greater range of ages, but "historic gains" still doesn't mean that much. 

The "record number" of women elected to the House this year is 102--of a total of 435 Representatives.* That may be a gain of 22%, but women still hold fewer than 24% of the seats in the House.

In the Senate, where there are 100 Senators, five women were newly elected; added to a woman appointed after the election and to the sitting members who are women, that brings the total to 25. So, 25% of the U. S. Senate is female.**

My math skills are not the best, but all this means that about 24% of the seats in the U.S. Congress will be held by women in 2019. May I remind you that women constitute nearly 51% of the population of the United States (50.8%, according to the most recent statistics of the U.S. Census Bureau).

If you've read many entries on this blog, you will probably be saying, "Damn, this crazy woman is just never satisfied." And you'd be right.

*As of 1 January 2019, the seating of a representative from North Carolina is still questionable, so there may be 434 congressmen at the beginning of the 116th Congress.

**After the CAWP report, dated right after the election, Martha McSally was appointed to the Senate in Arizona, bringing the number of women to 25.