Why We Should All Celebrate International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is not just a day for feminists. It’s for everyone.

History is full of amazing achievements and world-changing events. It is also full of amazing women who accomplished incredible things, made discoveries and inventions that had significant impacts on the world as they knew it but also on the future, and did it all despite being suppressed — and sometimes oppressed— by social structures that gave the power, property and privileges to men. 

A photo of a statue of Millicent Fawcett, campaigner for women’s rights
Photo credit: dimitrisvetsikas1969 on Pixabay

Don’t get me wrong — I like men as much as the next girl, but it’s fair to say they’ve held the lions share of the power, wealth and privilege in times past. That’s why I have particular respect and admiration for those women who had the temerity and confidence do do their thing regardless of what men, and many other women, thought. 

I’ve written a number of posts about some of these strong and inspirational women, and I have honoured their legacy in poetry

Today, I want to encourage everyone to celebrate International Women’s Day by considering everything they have been taught or given by women – not just historical figures but, more personally, their mothers, aunts, teachers, carers, family members… and the list is endless. 

Women have spoken into our lives and invested in us individually in countless ways. Whether personally or professionally, casually or consistently, they all deserve our recognition and thanks. 

While we should be doing that every day, International Women’s Day gives us an excellent reminder to make a special effort to thank and acknowledge the women who have got us where we are today. 

Sure, there is still progress to be made and true equality to be achieved. But we’d be a whole lot further behind if it were not for those women who have gone before us and set alight the lamps that have shown us the way. 

Why We Should All Celebrate International Women’s Day
#InternationalWomensDay #WomensHistory #IWD2020

If you’d like to read some of the poems I’ve written to celebrate the strength and resilience of women, you can read Her Light Burns Brightly and Stained Glass on my wordynerdbirdwrites blog.

These poems are also available in my collection dedicated to strong women, titled ‘Stained Glass’.

‘The Seafarer’: An Anglo-Saxon Poem

I really enjoy the story of Beowulf. I read it with my Year 9 students in English, and we explore the ways in which the poetry and storytelling are similar or different to the ways in which things are done now. 

That’s why I was excited to learn of the existence of The Seafarer, another AngloSaxon poem of similar vintage, which was almost lost to history for all time.

Image by Stefan Keller from Pixabay

It, too, is written in Old English, and uses similar devices of imagery and poetic narrative to those found in Beowulf, such as kennings and alliteration. This poem, though, reads more like a dramatic monologue than an epic heroic adventure, and is far more religious and deeply spiritual than the secular, wildly fantastic and, at times, quite superstitious story of Beowulf. 

What treasures these stories and poems are – snippets of the past that have survived the centuries despite the best efforts of warring tribes and religious authorities alike to destroy everything that stood between them and the power they sought over Britain and her people. 

You can read a translation of the poem in today’s English at The Anglo-Saxon Narrative Poetry Project website

You can read Dr Oliver Tearle’s thoughts on the poems at the Interesting Literature blog. It is to this blog that I owe my thanks for drawing my attention to the poem. 

The Black Prince’s Cursed Ruby and Richard III?

Medieval British history is my absolute favourite era to read and study, so this article really appealed to me.

Seriously, who isn’t going to be intrigued by a series of kings who faced various challenges and misfortunes, connected by a ruby that is said to be cursed? What a fascinating historical mystery!

I hope you enjoy this post from the murreyandblue blog. If you’re at all interested in English medieval history, you should definitely give that blog a follow.

murreyandblue

Imperial State Crown, with the Black Prince’s Ruby at the front
from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Prince%27s_Ruby

“….It is said that Henry V wore it [the Black Prince’s Ruby] in his jewel-encrusted helmet at the battle of Agincourt, and Richard III did also at the battle of Bosworth….”

I found the above sentence in a post on the British Medieval History Facebook group. How very intriguing. It’s something I had never heard before. Did Richard really wear the priceless but cursed gem at Bosworth? If so, was he (as one friend has suggested) emulating Henry V? Or even the Black Prince himself?

The ruby is actually “a magnificent 170-caratredspinel, the largest uncut spinel in the world. This particular precious stone, known as ‘the Great Imposter’, has a traceable history dating back seven centuries and is rumoured to be cursed, as its consecutive royal owners have been dogged by…

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Hal-arious.

We were watching Antiques Roadshow this evening. The host was enthusing over a large wooden table that he identified as a genuine piece of Tudor furniture. 

“Look at those gorgeous Tudor legs and lovely drawers!” he said. 

“Henry VIII had gorgeous Tudor legs and lovely drawers!” I quipped. 

“That thing’s bloody huge!” my husband observed. 

It’s not often I get such a perfect opportunity. There was only one thing left for me to say: “So was Henry by the end of it.”

I know, right? Comic genius. 

Two More Reasons Why History is Not Boring

I’m always a bit lost for words when people remark that history is boring. Not because I have nothing to say— far from it— but because I know they are never going to be anywhere near ready for the conversations I want to have with them.

I accept that in the past, some teachers have been guilty of making history very, very dull, but it was not the history that was boring: it was the teacher. 

I’ve had some of my own students question, “Why do we need to learn about this? How am I ever going to use this in real life?”
My responses vary depending on the topic at hand, but they are consistently positive and enthusiastic about how interesting and inspiring history can be. 

I have recently discovered two new examples to offer to students or friends who complain about history. 

A week or so ago, I read a story of a 14th century nun named Joan who faked her own death to get out of the convent she was living in.
How’s that for dedication?

Apparently, she wasn’t the only one who wanted to escape either. Having studied medieval history and knowing the lifestyle adhered to by monks and nuns of the time, I can’t say I blame any of them.

Faking your own death is definitely taking it to the next level, though, so I feel that Joan deserves a bit of recognition and applause for her commitment to the performing arts. 

Original painting: Jan Van Helmont Portrait of the Sisters of the Black. Public Domain
The clever edits are my own. 

Then, today, one of my favourite History blogs on WordPress posted about “the mythical animal with a deadly rear end”. I followed the link to the full story about the Bonaccon, and did a little more research after that.

I now know more about this amazing creature than my friends will ever think beneficial. You can bet I’m going to tell them all about it, and I know my Year 9 boys are going to love it, too. I almost can’t wait until they complain again, so that I have a good reason to get the story out and share it. 

Seriously, take a look at this beast. This picture from a medieval bestiary, or book of animals, portrays this particular bonnacon as being rather pleased with himself and his toxic poop. He’s never going to be sorry. 

Go on. Tell me now that history is boring. I dare you. 

Not Wrong.

My friends and I were standing in front of a portrait of Oliver Cromwell at the Tudors to Windsors portrait exhibition at the art gallery in Bendigo. .   

As I often do, I added my own commentary. In a posh English accent and lower vocal register, I quipped, “Look at me being all godly and humble and unroyal and stuff before I go and kill a bunch of people and destroy all the monasteries… you know, on God’s behalf.”

A well-dressed elderly gentleman had come to stand beside me. When I finished speaking, he added in a crisp, upper class accent: “Bastard.”
He was not wrong. 

The Tradition Of ANZAC Day.

As my post about my local ANZAC Day ceremony generated a number of questions from around the world, especially via my social media posts, I thought I would follow it up with an explanation of the history and traditions of ANZAC Day.

This article from the Australian War Memorial explains everything very clearly, so I hope you enjoy it and learn a little more about your Australian friends through it.

Dingley Dell Cottage: Home of poet Adam Lindsay Gordon

Nestled in the countryside at Port Macdonnell, South Australia, is Dingley Dell Cottage, once the home of Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon. He came to South Australia from England as a mounted policeman in 1853, and also made a name for himself as a jockey and steeplechase rider before entering politics in 1865.

His first published poem was’The Feud’, printed in the Border Watch newspaper in July, 1864. Two volumes of his poetry were published in 1870, after which Gordon suicided. 

After falling into disrepair over the years, Dingley Dell Cottage has been restored and now operates as a museum, displaying Gordon’s horse-riding themed drawings, letters, and some of his personal possessions. 

I was privileged to visit Dingley Dell on Saturday and see Gordon’s home and belongings for myself. My time there gave me a sense of connection with a poet whose works I confess I have read and studied less than other Australian poets, and motivated me to address that oversight. 

Poem: ‘Ozymandias’ by Percy Bysshe Shelley

Shelley lived at a time when there was enormous interest in the archaeology of the Ancient Near East, following Napoleon’s victories in Egypt. Archaeological finds were being brought back to British and European museums, fuelling the creative imaginations of writers and stimulating a most fashionable interest in ancient history.

‘Ozymandias’ was inspired by a fallen statue of the Egyptian pharaoh Rameses II, who is believed by many to be the arrogant pharaoh of Exodus in the Bible. It should be noted, though, that this is not the same statue that Shelley writes about.

There isn’t  any archaeological evidence for the existence of the statue Shelley describes in this poem, which instead seems to be based on a statue and inscription described by the 1st century Greek historian Diodorus Siculus- but that isn’t the point: the poem is about the fact that the statue created in honour of one so powerful and wealthy ended up broken down and surrounded by nothing but endless desert. 

Shelley’s message is clear: whatever we build for ourselves in this life does not last, and people may not actually remember us for the things we’d like them to remember.

This short poem presents some powerful contrasts: vanity and ruin, honour and despair, sculpture and degradation, commemoration and mockery. 

Ozymandias

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

If you’d like to know more about the relationship between Shelley’s poem and the history of Ozymandias, you can read this article by Stephen Hebron that provides a detailed explanation in plain English. 

Women In History: More Fabulous, Famous Femmes

History is full of amazing women who had strength, courage and determination and showed men a thing or two about how things should be done.

There are so many great women that I would have loved to write about, but I couldn’t get to them all because I wanted to focus on featuring some of the less heroines of history with whom many people would not be familiar. I did find this excellent post that includes quite a few ladies who were on my list, so I thought I would share it with my readers on this final day of Women’s History Month.

I hope you enjoy this great post from Nerdome featuring some fabulous famous femmes including feisty royals Elizabeth I and Catherine the Great, and two of my literary loves, Jane Austen and Maya Angelou.

Nerdome

Happy Women’s Day ! , Today we are going to remember , powerful and inspirational women who have been pioneers for women’s rights and racial equality and have defined the worlds of science, mathematics, aviation and literature.

Whether these famous females were inventors, scientists, leaders, politicians, or literal Queens, these  strong women undeniably changed the world for the better.

Cleopatra, 69 BC-30 BC Egyptian pharaoh

cleo.jpg

Cleopatra. (Photo By DEA PICTURE LIBRARY/De Agostini/Getty Images)

Final ruler of Egypt’s Ptolemaic dynasty, Cleopatra was more than the famous beauty her subsequent, simplistic portrayals often depict. A formidable, politically shrewd monarch, she was directly involved in the running of a kingdom that faced challenges on many fronts.

Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603)elizabeth.jpg

“Though the sex to which I belong is considered weak you will nevertheless find me a rock that bends to no wind.”

The Armada portrait of Queen Elizabeth I painted in 1588

Elizabeth called herself ‘The…

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