Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
The Writer Christine de Pizan at Her Desk

Friday, July 5, 2019

Francisca de Lebrija, Humanist and Academic

Francisca de Lebrija/Nebrija (5 July)


Francisca de Nebrija was the daughter of the humanist scholar Antonio de Nebrija and Doña Isabel Montesinos de Solis. Her father was born Antonio Martínez de Cala, but Latinized his name as "Aelius Antonius Nebrissensis"--"Nebrissensis" the Latin version of his native birthplace, Lebrija. In Spanish, he was thus known as Antonio "de Nebrija" or "de Librija." His daughter's name is similarly confusing, at times given as "de Lebrija," at times as "Nebrija."

The list of female writers and scholars
appended to Nicolás Antonio's 1672
Modern Spanish Writers
(image from Google Books)
Aside from the name of her father and mother, little else is known about Francisca's life. The reason for posting about Francisca de Librija* today is thus a bit odd--her father died on 5 July 1522. Since I can find no dates for Francisca's life,  not even a birth date nor death date, I am posting about  her  today.

Although no biographical information survives, Francisca de Librija does occupy a place in history, however scant the evidence. What is said about her is brief but often repeated: she was tutored by her father, a distinguished poet and lexicographer, she substituted for him as a teacher of rhetoric at the University of Alcalá, and she may have assisted him in his research and writing. 

The entry for Lebrija in The Feminist Encyclopedia of Spanish Literature indicates she was born in the sixteenth century, but since her father was born in 1444 and died in 1522, at the age of 78, it seems likely that Francisca was born in the late fifteenth century. 

As Emilie Bergmann notes in "Spain's Women Humanists," although "[c]enturies of repetition established the commonplace" about both Francisca de Librija and her contemporary, Luisa de Medrano--that they lectured on rhetoric at the University of Salamanca--little evidence survives.

For example, in his massive Modern Spanish Writers (Bibliotheca hispana nova, first published in 1672), Nicolás Antonio includes an appendix, "Gynaeceum Hispanae Minervae," listing the names of Spanish women known for their writing--but whose work had (already) been lost (if you click this link, the appendix begins on p. 337). The five-line entry for "Francisca de Lebrixa" notes that she is the daughter of Antonio "Nebrissensis," that she taught the art of rhetoric, and that her teaching was applauded by all. 

The entry for Francisca "de Lebrixa" in Nicolás Antonio's
1672 Modern Spanish Writers
(image from Google Books)
Such an account of Francisca "de Nebrija" was still being given in the nineteenth century. In his Escritoras y eruditas Espanolas (Spanish [Women] Writers and Scholars), Diego Ignazio Parada included a brief account of Francisca de Lebrija among other "teachers and writers in Latin prose," writing that she substituted for her father when he was ill and when he was occupied with other business. While noting that no work by her hand survives, Parada suggests that she may well have contributed to some of her father's works.

A note of caution is sounded by Mary Agnes Canon in her 1916 The Education of Women in the Renaissance. In a chapter on the educated women in Spain and Portugal during the Renaissance, she calls Francisca de Lebrija "her father's right hand in his literary labors." She also notes that some scholars have "conjectured" that she might have contributed to her father's work. but, Canon observes, there seems to be "no warrant for the conjecture," since nothing survives.

Which takes us back to Bergmann. Like the scholar Beatriz Galindo, "La Latina," Francisca de Lebrija is a female scholar whose scholarship, unfortunately, has been lost. 


*I am using "Lebrija" as this is the way her name is spelled by Elizabeth T. Howe in her brief entry in The Feminist Encyclopedia of Spanish Literature.

Francisca de Lebrija's name is included on the Heritage Floor in Judy Chicago's massive art installation, The Dinner Party.



Saturday, June 29, 2019

Mary Jones and the Great Library War of Los Angeles

Mary Letitia Jones (born 29 June 1865)


Born on 29 June 1865, Mary Letitia Jones was the daughter of a minister, William R. Jones, and his wife, Jane, both of whom had immigrated to the United States from Wales. In the 1870 U. S. Census, four-year-old Mary is living with her family in Wisconsin; by the time of the 1880 Census, the family has moved to Nebraska. 

Mary Letitia Jones,
from the collection of the Los Angeles Public Library
Mary Letitia Jones graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1885 and then attended New York State Library School, founded by Melvil Dewey (of Dewey Decimal fame), where she graduated in 1892. 

After finishing her education and carrying with her a recommendation from Dewey himself, she returned to Nebraska, recruited by James H. Canfield, chancellor of the University of Nebraska. She was hired not only to head the library but to help in the planning of a new library building. By 1895, she was head of a staff of 10 and had doubled the size of the library's holdings. (She also converted the library to the Dewey Decimal system.)

After leaving the University of Nebraska, Jones worked at the University of Illinois and the State Library of Iowa, moving to the Los Angeles area by 1899 to join her family--her father had retired to Pasadena. 

She was soon hired by the Los Angeles Public Library, as an assistant librarian, working with city librarian Harriet Child Wadleigh. When Wadleigh retired, Mary Jones became the city's head librarian. As Nicholas Beyelia notes, Jones was "the first Los Angeles City Librarian working for the Los Angeles Public Library who was both a college graduate and a graduate of library school."

Despite Jones's qualifications and career accomplishments, all did not go well--just five years later, she was asked to resign so that the city of Los Angeles could replace her with a man. Jones refused, noting her reasons in a letter delivered to the library's board of directors:
At first it was my inclination immediately to yield to the request relayed upon me by the president. But, upon reflection, I have concluded that it would not be fitting for me to tender my resignation as the head of a department where only women are employed. When such a resignation is tendered solely on the grounds that the best interests of the department demand that its affairs no longer be administered by a woman. Ever since the adoption of the present city charter, the library has been presided over by a woman with a staff of assistants composed exclusively of women.
Since Jones refused to resign, she was fired. Her firing set off the "the Great Library War." (I love this statement that Jones made to the Los Angeles Times, when she was asked about why she had been replaced by a man: “Those directors seem as crazy after a man as though they were a board of old maids.”

This "war" certainly demonstrates sexism and misogyny--but there is a healthy bit of nepotism and favoritism as well, and of course the usual chicanery, harassment, espionage, and bureaucratic finagling. It engulfed the city, but the war went beyond the city's limits, eventually bringing Susan B. Anthony to town!

Susan B. Anthony, "laying down the law,"
Los Angeles Herald, 13 June 1895

After she was fired, Jones left Los Angeles, at least temporarily. She went next to Berkeley, where she taught at the university for two years, then headed to Bryn Mawr, where she was head of  the library for six years. In 1920, she returned to Los Angeles, where she helped to set up the Los Angeles County Library system. During the first world war, she helped to create a library on a local military base, Camp Kearney. Jones remained in Los Angeles after retiring and died, age 80, in 1946. 

I could write much more here--I always tend to write more than I plan to write! But, truth be told, I would be taking information from the incredibly readable, detailed blog of Nicholas Beyelia, who has posted a four-part series. That's where you need to go to read much more of this incredible story! For the first part of Beyelia's account of the Great Library War ("Have You Met Miss Jones?"), click here.

You may also be interested in Susan Orlean's The Library Book (2018), a book about the 1986 fire in the Los Angeles Public Library that destroyed 400,000 books (and damaged 700,000 more). Orlean writes about the library's history, including the story of Mary Letitia Jones. 


Monday, June 24, 2019

Urraca Alfonso, Queen of Navarre and Regent of Asturias

Urraca Alfonso, queen of Navarre and regent of Asturias (married 24 June 1144)


Urraca Alfonso was the daughter of Alfonso VII of León (the son of a woman whom we have met before, Queen Urraca of Castile and León) and Gontrodo Pérez, member of a noble Asturian family, which accounts for the name by which her daughter is also know, La Asturiana.

Gontrodo was the wife of a feudal lord (tenente), Gutierre Sebastiániz, at the time of her relationship with King Alfonso, whom she seems to have met when he was in Asturias to quell a rebellion.* 

Urraca Alfonsa's tomb in the cathedral of Palencia
(with a questionable date of death)
At the time of Urraca Alfonso's birth, Alfonso VII's queen and wife was Berengaria of Barcelona, to whom he had been married in 1128, when she was just twelve years old--the first of their seven children would be born in 1134.

(After the death of Queen Berengaria in 1149, King Alfonso would go on to marry Richeza of Poland in 1152, with whom he would have two more legitimate children, one of whom was Sancha of Castile, queen of Aragon.) 

A contemporary life of King Alfonso, the Chronica Adefonsi Imperatoris, notes that Gontrodo was "extremely beautiful and of the highest nobility." But historical judgments differ. About this relationship, the nineteenth-century historian of Spanish queens, Anita George, concludes that, while the king "loved [Gontrodo] with the most ardent passion," she was a "worthless" rival.

Worthless or not, Gontrodo gave birth to Urraca in 1133, making her the king's first-born child. According to a seventeenth-century Jesuit historian of Asturia, Alfonso treated this daughter as he did his legitimate children, in particular his sons--he awarded her land and titles and arranged for her to be educated, along with his other children, by his sister, Sancha Raimúndez of León. 

The king also secured a significant marriage for Urraca Alfonso—to García Ramírez, king of Navarre, on 24 June 1144. The twelfth-century chronicle of Alfonso contains a lengthy account of this politically expedient decision and of the lavish marriage ceremonies that celebrated the match. (Urraca Alfonso's half-sister, Sancha of Castile--one of Alfonso VII's daughters with Berengaria--would marry King García Ramírez's son in 1153. Another interesting example of "traditional marriage"--half sisters marrying a father and a son. And yes—Alfonso VII has two daughters named Sancha of Castile, one born to each of his two wives. No wonder this gets confusing!)

After the death of the king of Navarre in 1150, Urraca, now dowager queen, was sent to Asturias by her father. There she took up residence in Ovieda, where King Alfonso allowed his daughter to retain her title of "queen" and entrusted her with the administration of the province. 

In 1153, she confirmed the charter of the Monastery of Santa María de la Vega, her mother's foundation. After the death of King Alfonso VII in 1157, Urraca's half-brother, Fernando II, continued to allow her to administer Asturias, although he himself returned to Oviedo and ruled as king of "Galicia and León"--Asturias was a province of Galicia.

Urraca Alfonso, dowager queen of Navarre, remarried in 1163. A charter from that year indicates that the Urraca and her second husband, Álvaro Rodríguez de Castro, were now managing Asturias together: "Alvaro Rodríguez with his wife Urraca governing Asturias" (Alvaro Roderici cum uxore sua regina Urraca Asturias imperante).

At some point in early 1164, the two were involved in an uprising in Asturias, a rebellion that was crushed by her half-brother, now king of León. 

Urraca Alfonso gave birth to two children. Her daughter Sancha was born in 1148, while Urraca Alfonso was queen of Navarre. During her second marriage, she gave birth to a son, Sancho Álvarez de Castro, in 1164. Like his mother, he would eventually control Asturias, a chronicle noting, "Sancho Álvarez [was] governing Asturias" and describing him as "the son of Queen Urraca" (Dominante Asturias Sancius Alvari filius regina Urrace).

There is some dispute about the year of Urraca Alfonso's death--the Oviedo Enciclopedia cites her date of death as 1164. This date is also accepted by the online biographical dictionary of the Real Academia de la Historia, which notes that Urraca Alfonso's second husband, Álvaro Rodríguez de Castro, was free to remarry in that year, since Urraca had died. Finally, the notes to the twelfth-century chronicle of Alfonso VII indicate that Urraca Alfonso died "after" 1164. 

However, a document from the Monastery of Villaverde de Sandoval records a gift made by "La infanta Urraca, hija de Alfonso VII" of significant property in 1178. The donation is made for for songs to be sung for her soul and that of her father (Hace la donación para que en el cabildo del monasterio, en el que desea ser enterrada, se cante un aniversario por su alma y la de su padre el día de San Juan Bautista). This date may be confused, however--in his edition of the chronicle of Alfonso, Glenn Edward Lipskey notes "References to dates will follow the original manuscripts of the chronicle which utilize the calendar of the Spanish Era. Thirty-eight years must be subtracted in order to arrive at the corresponding year within the Christian calendar." Could the 1178 year in the original document be in the old-style calendar? 

Finally, to further confuse matters, Urraca Alfonso's tomb in the chapel of Santa María Magdalena in the Cathedral of Palencia, though constructed later, gives her year of death as 1189. (Urraca was buried in the Romanesque cathedral at the time of her death, but it was rebuilt in the fourteenth century in the Gothic style.)

So this breathtaking gap--Urraca Alfonso may have died in 1164 or as late as 1189--is just another indication of the failure of documentation for many historical women's lives. 


*There are variant spellings for Gontrodo's name, and some discussion about exactly how noble her family. Born about the year 1105 or 1106, she had three children with her husband. After 1137, the name of her husband, Gutierre Sebastiániz, disappears from the records. Gontrodo's name appears only sporadically in the records, and the evidence suggests that she retired to a convent after her liaison with Alfonso VII--she donates an inheritance to the Monastery of San Vicente in 1141, and several years later, property that had been given to her by Alfonso VII. But the twelfth-century Chronica Adefonsi Imperatoris claims that, after her daughter's marriage, Guntrodo became a nun:
Now Guntroda, King García's mother-in-law, recognized the enormous honor paid to her daughter who bad become a queen. . . . Even though she possessed many worldly desires, Guntroda looked eagerly to spiritual matters as much as she could. She consecrated herself to God and remained in his service. Accordingly, she became a nun in Oviedo. There she joined a religious community in the church of Saint Mary. She felt that with help from the Mother of God she certainly would be able to discover some joy in life. She would appease God by praising him continually through the Divine Office. She would then await the glorious end of her life persevering in this devout practice. Praying constantly in a true spirit of sincerity, she would repent for all of her sins. 
In 1153, Gontrodo founded the Monastery of Santa María de la Vega in Oviedo, where she became a nun, dying there on 26 June 1186. Online information is available online at the Oviedo Enciclopedia.

Alfonso VII would also have a daughter with a another woman named Urraca, Urraca Fernández de Castro, widow of a Leonese nobleman, Rodrigo Fernández. The date of Stephanie Alfonso's birth isn't clear, but her mother seems to have begun her relationship with the king in 1139, after her husband's death. Between that date and 1148, the king awarded property and privileges to Urraca Fernández and Stephanie Alfonso.

A twelfth-century manuscript drawing of
Urraca Fernández (right) and her husband, Rodrigo Martínez

After Alfonso VII's death in 1157, his son, Fernando II, now king, arranged for the marriage between his half-sister and the head of his household, Fernando Rodríguez de Castro. In 1180, Stephanie's husband murdered her--he stabbed her to death. He suspected his wife was unfaithful to him . . .  But, oops, maybe not. Whatever the case (and there is a dramatic, romanticized story that he realized he was wrong and was sorry afterwards), King Fernando forgave him for having murdered his half-sister . . . Which is why Stephanie is also known as Stephanie the Unfortunate (Estefanía la Desdichada).

Stephanie was buried near her grandmother, Queen Urraca of Castile and León. Her epitaph makes no mention of the circumstances of her "unfortunate" death: 
Here lies the Infanta Doña Estefanía, daughter of Emperor Alfonso, wife of the powerful Fernán Ruiz, mother of Pedro Fernández Castellano, who died on July 1, 1180. 
(The Latin inscription reads: HR INFANTISSA DOMINA STEPHANIA, FILIA IMPERATORIS ADEFONSI, CONJUX FERDINANDI RODERICI POTENTISSIMI BARONIS, MATER PETRI FERDINANDI CASTELLANI, QUAE OBIIT WAS MCCXVIII. KAL. JULII.)

Friday, May 31, 2019

Margherita de' Medici, Regent of Parma and Piacenza

Margherita de' Medici, duchess and regent of Parma and Piacenza (born 31 May 1612)


Margherita de' Medici was the daughter of Maria Magdalena of Austria, grand duchess and regent of Tuscany, and Cosimo II de' Medici, archduke of Tuscany. Like her mother, Margherita would become regent for her minor son after the death of his father.

Margherita de' Medici, c. 1628,
about the time of her marriage,
by Justus Sustermans
Born on 31 May 1612, Margherita was given an excellent humanist education, worthy of a woman of her social class and family status--in religion, art, classical literature, music, statecraft, and science, as well as in Latin. As the product of this education, she could compose odes and epigrams in both Italian and Latin.

Although Marie de' Medici, dowager queen of France, hoped to marry her son, Gaston, duke of Orléans, to Margherita, the Florentine girl was promised instead to Odoardo Farnese in 1620, when they were both eight years old--Odoardo had been born just a month before Margherita. 

Odoardo's father, Ranuccio I Farnese, was the duke of Parma, Piacenza, and the alliance between his son and a daughter of the archduke was intended to strengthen the alliance between Parma and Tuscany.*

Odoardo Farnese succeeded to his title when he was still a child, in 1622, at the time of his father's death. His uncle was regent of Parma until 1626, and after he died, the young Odoardo's regent was his mother, Margherita Aldobrandini.** She continued as regent until her son reached his majority, in 1628, when he and Margherita de' Medici were married in a spectacular ceremony in the Florentine cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.

In Parma, Margherita de' Medici, now duchess of Parma and Piacenza, gave birth to eight children, the first in 1629, a year after her marriage, the last in 1641. During his frequent absences in pursuit of his territorial ambitions, Odoardo trusted at least some of the political duties to his wife. In 1635 he appointed her governor of Piacenza, for example. (As for Odoardo's ambitions--among other failures, he was excommunicated in 1641 and lost the Farnese fief of Castro, though it was eventually returned to him in 1644 as part of a peace negotiation with the Barberini family. After his death, however, papal forces razed Castro.)

As Adelina Modesti notes, Margherita was able to "[use] her cultural background, family connections, and force of personality to navigate successfully the transition between her natal and marital families, enabling her to gain an extraordinary degree of political power and cultural influence, which she used to enhance the interests of her marital family without losing her sway with the family she left behind."

Margherita de' Medici,
duchess of Parma and Piacenza,
copy of a portrait by Sustermans,
Galeria Nazionale
In August 1646, the dowager duchess and former regent of Parma, Margherita Aldobrandini, died. A month later, in September, Margherita de' Medici's husband, Odoardo Farnese, died. Since her eldest son was still a minor, Margherita de' Medici, now herself dowager duchess of Parma and Piacenza, became regent for her son. Her regency lasted until 1648, when her son, Ranuccio II of Farnese, achieved his majority.

As Modesti notes, however, Margherita de' Medici continued to exert a great deal of influence even after her son became duke, acting as his "political advisor and diplomatic ambassador even after he became an adult, married three times, and ruled officially in his own right."

Margherita de' Medici lived another thirty years. She died on 6 February 1679, aged sixty-six, noted as "a woman of extraordinary talent with good taste in the arts: mourned by the people and the court, she was greatly famed for her acute judgement, eminent compassion, and exquisite traits."

The most complete treatment of Margherita de' Medici, duchess of Parma and Piacenza, is Adelina Modesti's “Margherita de’ Medici Farnese: A Medici Princess at the Farnese Court,” in Medici Women: The Making of a Dynasty in Grand Ducal Tuscany.

*There is some evidence to suggest that the marriage negotiations at first involved the eldest Medici daughter, Maria Christina, but she seems to have been born with some kind of physical disability--when the duke of Parma discovered this, he insisted on renegotiating the alliance. Maria Christina lived in the Florentine convent of the Holy Conception (Santissima Concezione), founded by her great-grandmother, Eleanor of Toledo, duchess of Florence (wife of Cosimo I de' Medici). She remained there until her death, at age twenty-three, in 1632.

**Whose story is an interesting one! The granddaughter of Pope Clement VIII, Margherita Aldobrandini was married to the thirty-year-old Ranuccio I Farnese when she was just twelve years old. She remained childless for a decade, leading Ranuccio to the conclusion that she had been cursed! Or he was . . . Or something. When at long last a child was born to Ranuccio and Margherita, the baby was deaf. Convinced that his wife was cursed, Ranuccio had a former mistress, Claudia Colla and her mother, Elena tried for witchcraft--and executed in 1611. And Odoardo was born, as I said, in 1612 . . . 

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. 




















http://www.historicpatterson.org/Exhibits/ExhSybilLudington.php

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.