Women’s History Month
by Sigourney Young | Podcast images from In Our Time
March is Women’s History Month around the world and this month I intend to get into the spirit and celebrate a few of the women that helped shape the world around me. It is a month when we actively seek to uncover women’s stories from the past, so many of which remain untold. It is also a time to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women to all societies across the globe and to remember those who struggled (and continue to struggle) against oppression and discrimination. This year Women’s History Month aims to celebrate the visions of women who championed peace and nonviolence.
Over the course of the month, I want to emphasise those positive role models who have inspired me in my art and the importance of women from all backgrounds. I’ll be writing some blogs sharing with you the current women artists and creatives I love, as well as women from the past that have inspired me.
To start this series of blogs I want to focus on just a few women from history. You might not know this about me, but I love history. Since I moved to York, I’ve been filling my studio with the sounds of your songs, as well as endless episodes from the BBC podcast series, In Our Time which explores the history of ideas in areas of history, philosophy, science, culture and religion.
Discovering stories from the past helps us better understand the world we live in now, with the challenges women from the past faced, ultimately, leading us to know ourselves better. Melvyn Bragg and the academics who join him chart the images, representations, challenges and achievements women faced and overcame, or were hobbled by.
In Our Time is heavily focused on Europe and the UK, thus slanting the representation here towards European experiences, but each episode is insightful and well discussed. I would love to hear your recommendations in the comments for history podcasts focusing on women’s experiences from other areas of the globe and backgrounds not represented here.
In the best instances, history also helps us learn who we are and power our dreams. In selecting these episodes I wanted to share with you the five episodes on women from the past that have inspired me to think about what I can do to make the world a better place.
Whilst not exactly a group of real-life women, the Amazons are an ancient Greek myth that formalised in Western thought a fear of powerful women. These formidable female warriors were said to come from the very periphery of the Ancient Greek world, and the image of the aggressive warrior woman from beyond the horizon became a trope that even the Spanish conquistadors feared.
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Everybody knows the noble and warlike King Richard the Lionheart from Robin Hood! But did you know the most powerful royal of the age was his mother Eleanor of Aquitaine. A bold, resourceful, determined woman and fiercely loyal to her sons, Eleanor went crusading with her first husband the King of France, and raised an army against her second husband, the King of England. Able to outwit any adversary during a time of political intrigue, empire building and violence, Eleanor was able to govern her realms, whilst her sons and their father went charging across Europe to their own detriment.
A prominent sociologist, some argue the founder of sociology, Harriet Martineau pioneered the way we in the modern world learn, analyse and understand societies around us. Harriet argued to truly know the interactions that make up human lives’ sociologist had to examine the role of women in society and their links to marriage, children, religious life, and race relations. It seems obvious now, but it was ground-breaking in the mid-nineteenth-century.
Mary Wollstonecraft was a writer, philosopher and a woman who advocated for the rights of women during a time when nearly all men agreed with the term “the lesser sex”. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman is one of the greatest texts of the European enlightenment and written during a time when enlightened ideals were turning radical in France, her life and her work is a defiant stand against inequality.
The Bluestockings were a group of women intellectuals in London during the middle of the eighteenth century who advocated for women’s place at the table of knowledge and learning. Led by Elizabeth Montagu and the classicist Elizabeth Carter, the two women held informal gatherings where ideas, thoughts, feelings, fact and perception were discussed by women, with women and those men who were the most influential thinkers of the day. As In Our Time argues, “their accomplishments led to far greater acceptance of women as the intellectual equal of men, and furthered the cause of female education.”
And don’t forget to let me know your favourites in the comments.
March 4, 2019
I’m a synesthesia artist that will be forever found with paint on my nose, dancing around the studio in my yoga pants. I love travel, gluten-free brownies and working from the home studio I share with my husband. My goal? To bring you into the world of synesthesia and to create a space online that celebrates the colour and meaning of music.
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