Meet Marie Tharp the controversial geologist who produced the first ever map of the Ocean floor

Cross-posted from: Women Rock Science
Originally published: 21.11.14


Meet Marie Tharp the controversial geologist who produced the first ever map of the Ocean floor. Her work completely turned geology upside down and proved that the ocean floor was not just a boring flat plane of mud but actually filled with extreme mountains, volcanos, canyons and moving masses. Her most controversial discovery is that of the Mid-Ocean Ridges, chains of moving mountains that cover the entire earth. At that time anyone who believed in plate tectonics or continental drift was considered an idiot, Marie’s work proved that they were in fact real.  “I was so busy making maps I let them argue [….] there’s truth to the old cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words and that seeing is believing.“
Read more Meet Marie Tharp the controversial geologist who produced the first ever map of the Ocean floor

Helen Sharman was the first British astronaut in space

I have to admit, I had never heard of Helen Sharman until I saw this tweet from Samantha Gouldson, the official science reporter for our member Jump!Mag last night.

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And, I’m not in the least bit shocked that the British media is erasing Sharman’s record as the first British person in space more than 20 years ago. It’s pretty much par for the course. It’s exactly what the media did when Andy Murray won Wimbledon in 2013 claiming it was Britain’s first win in 77 years completely erasing Virginia Wade and Ann Jones.

Social media, at least, gets it right.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 09.57.20 Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 09.57.04 Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 09.56.50

‘Surf’s Up! In praise of the second wave’ by Finn Mackay

Originally published: 19.04.04

Where were you in the 1970’s? If you were anything like me you were probably in the process of being born, going to primary school and watching ‘Bagpuss’, ‘Basil Brush’ and other such frivolities. At my tender 27 years I missed out on so much, the communes, the town hall politics, Greenham Common… Its certainly not the 1970’s any more, but one thing hasn’t changed – and that’s the fact that there is reason to be angry!

There is so much to be angry at in the world, and so many people who seem not to notice or, worse still, to see our own oppression as some kind of progressive liberation. Really, the oppression of women is nothing new, its only been going on for centuries and it isn’t over yet. In this country 2 women every week are murdered by a male partner[1], women in Britain still earn around 20% less than men in like for like jobs[2], rape convictions are plummeting while reporting continues to rise[3], 1 in 4 women in the UK will experience rape or attempted rape in their lifetime[4], women have better political representation in Rwanda than here in the UK, globally women make up over 70% of those living in absolute poverty and everywhere in the world women earn on average at least 25% less than men[5]. Its hardly equality is it? So why do so many women think the battle is over and where is this perfect rosy world they speak of where women have got it all?
Read more ‘Surf’s Up! In praise of the second wave’ by Finn Mackay


Cross-posted from: Suppressed Histories Archives

The Private War of Mrs. Packard by Barbara Sapinsley is a classic case of the legal subjugation of women in Euro/American society, a legacy of Pauline scripture and medieval law all the way through Blackstone and the Napoleonic code. An Illinois housewife in Kankakee, married to a  Calvinist minister, dared to disagree with the dogma of humankind’s “total depravity” (by original sin) and to refuse the absolute obedience that her husband demanded.

After browbeating her for years, in 1860 Theophilus Packard had his wife  forcibly removed from home and locked up in a mental hospital for years. Illinois law, as of 1851, allowed husbands absolute authority to do this,  without any restraint whatsoever: “Married women and infants who, in the judgment of the medical superintendent of the state asylum at Jacksonville, are evidently insane or distracted [i.e., distressed or upset] may be entered or detained in the hospital at the request of the husband of the woman or the guardian of the infant, without the evidence of insanity required in other cases.” [p. 66]

There was ample precedent for this in the chattel status and legal minority of women in most European law. The medieval term for it was couverture; the male literally covered the woman, eclipsing her personhood, her name, and her rights with his own privilege as head of household. Countless laws allowed him to beat, to “chastise” and “correct” his wife (and children), with the smug approval of church and state. He had absolute control over her body, her property, and her children.

Meet Dr Jane Cooke Wright, the pioneering Harlem surgeon who revolutionised cancer treatment

Cross-posted from: Women Rock Science
Originally published: 04.11.14

This article is a collaboration between Women Rock Science and HER, An empowerment organization dedicated to community awareness about women’s health, education, and rights

Meet Dr. Jane Cooke Wright , the pioneering Harlem surgeon who revolutionised medical research and cancer treatment. She developed the first ever chemotherapy drugs to treat solid tumours and spearheaded the use of tissue cultures for medical testing as opposed to live human bodies or mice. Jane’s methodical testing and cataloguing of samples generated the first clear dosing protocol for chemotherapy drugs and she, along with other researchers, took chemotherapy from being a joke in the medical community to a well-respected treatment option for cancer patients.

Jane was born in 1919 and comes from a long line of activists and medical trailblazers with an extensive list of firsts to their names. Her father, grandfather, step-grandfather, uncle and sister were also all doctors, a huge feat considering many universities and hospitals refused to take black students or doctors and that her grandfather was a former slave. Jane attended New York Medical College and worked for several years at Bellevue and then Harlem hospital. In 1949 at the age of 30 she joined the Cancer Research Foundation, a Harlem based organisation founded by her father determined to find effective treatments for cancer. Three years later she became head of the foundation.
Read more Meet Dr Jane Cooke Wright, the pioneering Harlem surgeon who revolutionised cancer treatment

Get her to an asylum! On Downton Abbey and unmarried mothers. by @sianushka

Cross-posted from: Sian & Crooked Rib
Originally published: 05.10.15

One of the many things that have happened since I moved back into my childhood home is that I’ve been watching TV programmes I had never really engaged with before. Some of it is great (Great British Bake Off! Where had you been my whole life?); some of it less so (why does Nicholas Lyndhurst talk posh in New Tricks?) and some of it is Downton Abbey.

Now, I did watch the first series of Downton Abbey on Netflix, mainly because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. And because of Lady Sybil. I got bored halfway through the second series, however, and increasingly frustrated at the total lack of engagement with class politics by the writers. Downton, I decided, was not for me.

However, I ended up half-watching an episode the other night which featured Lady Edith losing her child at the country fair and then finding her again.

What is this? I asked my mum. Where did this kid come from?

It turns out that Lady Edith had an illegitimate child and then the family gave the baby girl to a local family to look after. However, Lady Edith missed her daughter so much that the family agreed to give her back and now the Downton Abbey family are raising it.

I sat in silence for a moment. I looked at Lady Edith’s frantic expression; the paternalistic glow in Hugh Bonneville’s face as he reunites daughter and granddaughter.

‘They would have put her in an asylum,’ I responded.



Read more Get her to an asylum! On Downton Abbey and unmarried mothers. by @sianushka

Vesta and Ana Mendieta: Sacred Altars Re-visited by @rebecca9

Cross-posted from: The Daly Wolf
Originally published: 09.10.15

I am intrigued by asteroids. Peculiar asymmetrical floating formations of carbon, stone, and metal. Piles of streaming space rubble, some astronomers conclude. There are literally thousands (and more being discovered) of these eccentric objects in orbit around the sun ranging in size from pebbles to hundreds of miles of surface. Their home is called the asteroid belt, that celestial territory between Mars and Jupiter. Astronomers conjecture that asteroids are the leftover material of our solar system, or the fractured remains of what was once a planet, but they don’t know for sure. The four major asteroids (major because of their size) are Ceres, Vesta, Pallas, Hygiea; allegorically symbolized in the astrological literature as females with mythological roots in the Roman and Greek storied timeline.

Many astrologers don’t often include the asteroids in readings, partly, I think, because so little is known about them. The Dawn Spacecraft mission has been orbiting the asteroid belt for about eight years now and we can expect to hear much more about the features and mechanics of the main asteroids.

Read more Vesta and Ana Mendieta: Sacred Altars Re-visited by @rebecca9


Cross-posted from: Suppressed Histories Archive
Originally published: 01.01.06

This is a brief summary of a visual presentation, first shown in 1986, which was given in September 2005 at the Shamanic Studies Conference in San Rafael, California.

A Chukchee proverb declares, “Woman is by nature a shaman.” (1) Yet the female dimension of this realm of spiritual experience has often been slighted. Mircea Eliade believed that women shamans represented a degeneration of an originally masculine profession, yet was hard put to explain why so many male shamans customarily dressed in women’s clothing and assumed other female-gendered behaviors. Nor does the masculine-default theory account for widespread traditions, from Buryat Mongolia to the Bwiti religion in Gabon, that the first shaman was a woman.

In fact, women have been at the forefront of this field worldwide, and in some cultures, they predominate. This was true in ancient China and Japan, as it still is in modern Korea and Okinawa, as well as among many South African peoples and northern Californians such as the Karok and Yurok. There are countless other examples, including the machi of the Mapuche in southern Chile and the babaylan and catalonan of the Philippines.
Read more WOMAN SHAMAN by Max Dashu

If Julian of Norwich Were Your Professor, She’d Kick Judith Butler’s Arse by @LucyAllenFWR

Cross-posted from: Reading Medieval Books
Originally published: 05.08.15

The Toast just published a piece titled ‘If Julian of Norwich Were Your Professor‘, and it’s awesome.

In general, The Toast is awesome, and particularly their medievalism, and particularly their medieval feminism, so, really, you should go read it and you should not be surprised it’s awesome. But, for once, it’s also wrong like a wrong thing. Laura Moncion speculates:

“If Julian of Norwich were your professor, she would be good friends with Judith Butler. Sometimes you would hear their uproarious laughter coming from Julian’s office. You’d peek in and find both of them in front of the computer, watching cat videos together.”

No. No, this is Not Right.

Judith Butler, you see, writes pretentiously dense musings on gender which (I strongly suspect, if only I could ever concentrate for more than three seconds on her tortured use of the English language), boil down to ‘let’s write “epistemology” more often and make sure we don’t exclude any men from the feminism’.
Read more If Julian of Norwich Were Your Professor, She’d Kick Judith Butler’s Arse by @LucyAllenFWR

The Cailleach in Irish Megalithic Traditions

Cross-posted from: Veleda
Originally published: 08.01.15

Irish oral tradition associates the Cailleach with many ancient hilltop monuments that date to the neolithic era. Some passage graves are called by her name, often named as her “house.” Others she is said to have built, or created by tossing boulders from hilltop to hilltop, or by carrying stones in her skirt or apron, which she drops, or the apron-strings break, scattering the stones across the landscape.

Read more The Cailleach in Irish Megalithic Traditions

The Pontifical Council for Culture has an agenda on women: the same tired old cage

Cross-posted from: Veleda: Source Net
Originally published: 14.02.15

The Pontifical Council for Culture meets in Rome on 4-7 February 2015 to consider “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference.” They’ve issued a preliminary document that tips their hand, in case you entertained any doubts that their ideas about women have changed a whit. It’s titled “Women’s Cultures: Equality and Difference,” and it endeavors — yet again — to convince women of what the male hierarchy insists is their rightful place:

“At the dawn of human history, societies divided roles and functions between men and women rigorously. To the men belonged responsibility, authority, and presence in the public sphere: the law, politics, war, power. To women belonged reproduction, education, and care of the family in the domestic sphere.”

Hold it right there. What happened to female responsibility and authority — women chieftainsand medicine women and clan heads? For a long time, it was possible to get away with claiming that public female leaders never existed, but too much documentation has been piled up for this to fly anymore.

Manchu woman shaman, a major public authority in her culture

“In ancient Europe, in the communities of Africa, in the most ancient civilizations of Asia, women exercised their talents in the family environment and personal relationships, while avoiding the public sphere or being positively excluded. The queens and empresses recalled in history books were notable exceptions to the norm.”

Invocatory female figure from Netafim, circa 5000 bce

These prelates are advancing a claim of universal male domination — a doctrine to which the church hierarchy is deeply attached. They don’t feel any need to substantiate this claim with evidence. Their fiat has been enough for such a long time, they can’t recognize that the world has moved on. Taking state-based societies as the norm, they pass over long epochs of human history, including neolithic societies with their many depictions of female leadership, and a vast array of Indigenous societies that don’t fit into the cramped sexual politics being touted here.

Women's ceremonal leadership is a central theme of predynastic Egyptian art

Women in ancient societies did not “avoid the public sphere”: not the African warriors, nor the Cretan and Iberian priestesses, nor even the Sumerian and Babylonian and Phoenician priestesses. Here we are talking recorded history, that leaves no room for ambiguity. Even in much later periods, we know of Turkic epic singers, the judges and scribes of Cambodia, the powerful market women’s associations of West Africa. But why discuss only these continents, leaving out the Americas, Australia, and the Pacific islands? They also count as ancient societies, and they have their own histories of prominent women, of female law-makers and diplomats and chieftains, of ceremonial leaders and warriors.

The Lady of Cao, a priestess-chieftain in 4th century Perú

The Iroquois and Cherokee remember that “mocassin-makers” had the right to act as “war-breakers,” refusing to supply men who wanted to go to war without consent of the women’s council. In Yunnan, the Lisu people say that men had to stop fighting if a woman of either side waved her skirt to call for an armistice. Similarly, on the Pacific island Vanatinai, a woman could give the signal for war or peace by taking off her outer skirt. This is female authority. It is not a fantasy. It is historical reality.

The Huastecs sculptured a large number of female monuments in stone, in eastern Mexico

The Pontifical Council’s statement passes over the great majority of Indigenous societies, including those in which female responsibility, authority, and public presence were and remain integral. Among the Six Nations of the Iroquois, the Gantowisas have structural authority to select chiefs and to “knock off their horns” if they fail in their responsibilities. These chiefs act as delegates of the people, not lords over them, a fact that continued to astound European observers who made very different assumptions about leadership, as well as about female power.

But there’s more: the women’s council of Gantowisas (“matrons” in European accounts) discussed issues and, as Seneca historian Barbara Mann writes, the men’s council could not debate any issue until the women’s council forwarded it over to them. They had a structural balance between male and female sovereignty. Mann also calls the women elders the “federal reserve board” of the Six Nations, referring to their control of economic resources.

Hopi women carry out the Lakon ceremony; men have no authority over women in their matrilineal / matrilocal culture.

And where, in the priesthood’s blinkered view, where are the female founders, like Ti-n-Hinan, the ancestral mother of the Imushagh / Tuareg people of the Hoggar, whose 4th century tomb is the most prominent  monument of the region? What about the female chieftains of the Edomites whose names are listed in Genesis, or for that matter, Miriam the prophetess, Deborah and Huldah? Where are the Montanist prophetesses who were denounced as heretics in 3rd century Asia Minor? The women who led rebellions against conquest and colonization, labor movements, whose actions struck the sparks for the French and Russian revolutions?

Ti-n-Hinan, ancestral founder of the Imushagh/Tuareg people of the Hoggar

The denial of female spiritual leadership is especially fraught for a institution fighting with all its might to hold back the tide of female ordination. To admit the massive  evidence for female priesthood — the wu in ancient China, the mikogami in Japan, the mudang in Korea, to name some of the East Asian societies where female shamans once predominated (and still do in Korea) — would be to pull out the last struts supporting the crumbling edifice of an all-male power structure. This hierarchy has been severely shaken by scandals over pandemic child-rapes, and over the cover-ups by bishops, as well as over financial corruption in the Curia. Many people readily declare that women would do a far better job at running the church.

Wu (female shamans) acted as healers, prophets and rainmakers in ancient China. Bronze hu circa 4th century bce

Having pretended that male leadership was a historical universal, an innate and essential quality, the Pontifical Councillors move on to the subect of women’s movements that have challenged and overturned old customary constraints:

“From the latter part of the 19th century onwards, especially in the West, the division of male and female ‘spaces’ was put into question. Women demanded rights, such as that of voting, access to higher education, and to the professions. And so the road was opened for the parity of the sexes.”

That sounds really good, right? That women gained our rights, and things opened up. Oh… wait. Uh-oh: “This step was not, and is not, without problems.”

What were these problems? They tell us: that women were taking on roles “that appeared to be exclusively meant for the male world” [meant, by whom?] and their reflections on their situation were “sometimes becoming entwined with political and strongly ideological movements.” These realizations, we are meant to understand, are far more problematic than the “strongly ideological” doctrines of female subordination that the institutional church has enforced through “political” means, from crusades to inquisitorial trials and witch hunts, to the modern laws and policies the church espouses, that still make women second class citizens whoselives and very bodies are expendable.

The Pontifical Council doesn’t deem patriarchal structures to be problematic; it continues to maintain that they are in line with god-given essential qualities. It is the female pushback against them that it dislikes and deplores. Women! stay in your place.

“Which kerygmatic proclamation [“preaching,” in plain English] should there be for women, one that is not closed in on a moralistic vision? Which indications do we need for a new pastoral praxis, for a vocational path toward marriage and family, toward religious consecration, in view of the new self-awareness that women have?”

What is “new” about pushing women “toward marriage and family”? This much is clear: by “religious consecration” they do not mean female ordination to the priesthood. More likely, they are dreaming up some new religious trappings for the role of wife and mother as a sop to women’s longing for greater inclusion in the church.

The worst thing that could happen, in the minds of the writers, is that women reject the feminine role as they define it“It is a matter of protecting the dignity of women, respecting what is genuinely feminine (and this is the real equality), and avoiding that the woman, in trying to insert herself responsibly into society that is markedly masculine, lose her feminility [sic].”

This is nothing less than a restatement of the old patriarchal principle: women belong in the private sphere, under the authority of men. Not only that, but “society” means “men.” If women are included in how you think about “society,” there is no need for us to “insert” ourselves into it. We are already part of it. But the statement shows no awareness of that simple fact. These high-ranking prelates don’t believe that women belong in the public sphere at all — and least of all the priesthood.

In fact, they don’t really want women’s input in this initiative on “Women’s Culture.” As Soline Humbert informs me, “The Pontifical Council for Culture has 32 permanent members, all male,appointed for 5 years. Almost all are cardinals, bishops and priests, and a couple of lay men (“men of culture”…No “women of culture”…) There are also Consultors who are appointed by the pope… There are 27 male consultors, and 7 women, ( if I remember correctly), appointed last Summer by Pope Francis.”

In other words: that’s zero females among the 32 permanent members of the Pontifical Council, while in the outer circle of Consultors the ratio of men to women is 4:1, for a total of 59 men and 7 women. This is who is going to issue a definitive statement on “Women’s Culture” — and they expect that to pass for change, in their  initiative to engage Catholic women.

This is a familiar pattern of high priestcraft: barring women entirely from the core of power, and admitting a few carefully screened females to an outer circle, where they are greatly outnumbered (and outranked) by men. Soline adds that “there has been a mention of a group of women working on the outline discussion document now released, but I have not seen the names of the members of that group (anonymous women?) nor how they were selected. In addition, while they mentioned there would be an ‘Open Day’ it seems it’s again by invitation only for a select few….”

Venus in bondage: the hierarchy's vision of Women's Culture

The image selected for this initiative is highly symbolic: a naked, headless, armless, legless woman in bondage. It is Man Ray’s 1936 photo “Venus Restored.” This is their idea of Women’s Culture?!? It has already outraged countless women. Soline Humbert sums up the background of this piece on the We Are Church Ireland blog:

“Man Ray had a strong interest in Sade and sadism and there is a recurrent sadistic streak in his artwork, as well as in his relationships with women, characterised by domination and aggression. Man Ray photographed women wearing implements of bondage and enacting scenes of torture. He also helped others, like William B Seabrook realise in real life his fantasies of women bondage.

“What is behind this choice of female bondage image by the (all male)Pontifical Council for culture? Is it the choice of the group of women (Who are they?) behind this document? What message does it seek to convey?”

We may well ask.

The same goes for Pope Francis’ recent scoldings of Pilipina women for their high birth rates, after decades of churchmen steadily advocating the rhythm method! As if abstinence is a real option for most married women in this world. He does not have the least clue about the reality that these women live.  When it comes to women, nothing has changed.

Neither has the cold attitude toward Indigenous people, whose enslavement, starvation, floggings, and other abuse in the mission system is being affronted by the planned canonization of Junípero Serra. (See 8:50 >> on linked video, where descendants talk about kidnappings, about their ancestors being starved on 700 calories a day, while being forced to labor, and made to kneel on tiles during the entire Mass, kept in line by guards with whips and bayonets.) In these two important social justice issues, women and Indigenous people, the tone-deaf pontiff does not even pretend to want change.


The backlash against women has even reached liberal San Francisco. It took 16 centuries to get the ban on females at the altar overturned, for a couple of decades, in some places, and now some priests are trying to turn it back. “The Rev. Joseph Illo, pastor at Star of the Sea Church since August, said he believes there is an “intrinsic connection” between the priesthood and serving at the altar — and because women can’t be priests, it makes sense to have only altar boys. “Maybe the most important thing is that it prepares boys to consider the priesthood.”

“The Richmond District parish is now the only one in the Archdiocese of San Francisco that will exclude girls from serving at the altar. Such a decision is “a pastor’s call,” said archdiocese spokesman Chris Lyford. “An altar boy program would be a male bonding experience, one that helps them socialize and develop their leadership potential, Illo said. Girls would still be allowed to perform readings during Mass.” Isn’t that special;  girls will be allowed to read out loud.

Mexicana curandera smudging the pope: gifts and blessings from sources as yet unrecognized

This is not going to fly, because too many Catholics have awakened to the realization that they are the church. The women, especially, know that things must change, because they are the ones who are out there doing the real work, holding things together and picking up the pieces, as the number of ordained men drops and the hierarchy scrambles to find men to be in charge. All this has to change. The option for the poor doesn’t mean much without a recognition that women are the poorest of the poor, the ones who carry a tremendous load, on whose shouders the whole edifice rests. You can’t have a progressive agenda without recognizing that their responsibilities give them a spiritual authority of their own. It’s well past time for the prelates to recognize women’s knowing, women’s authority, women’s rights.

Source Memory (Veleda) My blog ranges over whatever subjects on global women’s history and culture I happen to be working on, or that come across my screen. The idea is to bring forward cultural traditions that usually get sequestrated from the view of all but the most specialist scholars. Recent posts have looked at prophetic women in the Pacific Islands, pagan culture of the Kalasha in upper Pakistan, medicine women and soul retrieval in Manchuria, Notre Dame de la Vie in Savoie, and the Women’s Dance as depicted in art around the world.

Frida Kahlo by @MurderofGoths

Cross-posted from: Murder of Goths
Originally published: 05.06.15

I’m currently suffering from the twin nightmares of severe period pain and EDS pain, my body feels utterly cripple by pain. Just typing this hurts, but I feel like I need to turn this pain in to something constructive, and it got me thinking about one of my idols – Frida Kahlo.

I knew about her and liked her art, but didn’t know a great deal about her life when I watched the film Frida. The film was a real eye opener for me, and also hugely inspirational.

This painting is one of my favourite Kahlo paintings, if you’ve read about my health problems you should be able to see instantly why.
Read more Frida Kahlo by @MurderofGoths

Philomel must lose her tongue to-day: Memory, Memorial, and the Emptiness of Women’s Speech by @LucyAllenFWR

Cross-posted from: Reading Medieval Books
Originally published: 31.05.15

A few weeks ago, I read a beautiful piece by Sarah Ditum. She explores the ways in which women’s work – partly because it is inherently open-ended, needed to be done over and over – is dismissed, ignored, excluded from historical memorial. Drawing on a parallel history of women’s art, lacemaking and broderie anglaise, which create objects literally ‘spun around nothing’, she sets up a shockingly poignant contrast between the image of frivolous vanity and the reality of relentless, thankless labour. Ditum’s post was written in response to the news that the 2005 memorial to the women of World War II had been defaced, and so she explains how she found herself having to explain to her son why women weren’t originally included on the main memorial itself: 
Read more Philomel must lose her tongue to-day: Memory, Memorial, and the Emptiness of Women’s Speech by @LucyAllenFWR

Women Surfers in Old Hawai’i by Veleda

Cross-posted from: Veleda: SourceNet

Read more Women Surfers in Old Hawai’i by Veleda

Rocket Girls at Women Rock Science

Cross-posted from: Women Rock Science


Meet Mary Sherman Morgan, rocket scientist, munitions and chemical engineer and one of the most instrumental players in the launch of America’s first satellite, Explorer I (shown above). According to her colleagues she “single-handedly saved America’s space programme”.

Mary started out life as a poor farm girl in North Dakota, her parents chose not to educate her by choice so that she could work on the farm. Eventually, she managed to graduate high school and then ran away from home to go to college and study chemical engineering.

During her studies, WWII broke out and there was a shortage of chemists in the country. Mary was offered a “Top Secret” job at a factory and had to accept without being told what the factory made or what her job would be. It turned out it was a munitions factory – Mary was put in charge of the manufacture of 3 different types of explosive. In her tenure the factory produced over 1 billion pounds of ordnance for WWII.
Read more Rocket Girls at Women Rock Science

The Acaaju of Abkhazia at Suppressed Histories Archive

In the western Caucasus, the Abkhazians call women who act as oracles, medicine women and ritual leaders acaaju, “questioner.” Their origin story says that they were preceded by male seers who became mediators between humans and gods. The first of these was the brave warrior Achi Zoschan. He chose a young relative Azartl to succeed him, but that candidate made a deal to give up the post if his sick female relative was cured. She then became the new mediator, and quickly proved her mettle during a severe cattle plague.

My reconstruction of what an acaaju might have looked like, in cross-gendered regalia.


“The herds were saved, and since this time, the prophetesses, acaaju, have been active. They were given to living in mutual enmity, since some of them were subject to Afy, others on the contrary to Zoschan.” [One a thunder god, the other a deified hero.]

The acaaju determined which deity had caused an illness and what remedies should be used. “Sometimes she obtained ecstatic inspiration and cried out the name and the demands of the angered divinity. At other times she went lightly across the room or even sat on a high seat and acted as though she was carrying on a conversation with the divinity, to whom she directed questions and from whom she received answers. After a while, she made known the result.” The forge god might be angry over a false oath made in the smithy, a cult place. Blacksmiths worked closely with the acaaju.

In cases of false oath, she divined: “she spread out beans in front of her, and on the basis of the arrangment of these found out the name of the transgressor.” She also used astrology. Once she’d made her determination, the acaaju told people what kind of animals were to be offered. “She often carried out the sacrifice herself. Beyond that, she also performed various actions of a magical sort. Thus, for example, she led some domestic animal three times around the sick person, after which it was driven away toward the forest, supposedly carrying the sickness away with it.” People paid her in skins and meat of sacrificed animals, or in sizeable amounts of money.

The acaaju did not always lead the ceremony, but “selected other women for them, who acted on the instruction of this—as one may say with reason—authoritative medicine woman and carried out her secret lore.”

A major Abhazian deity was Dzidlan, the Water Mother or Mistress of Waters. She was especially important for women in childbirth, who offered her prayers and sacrifices after a successful birth. Some illnesses such as long fevers were ‘caused by the water’ and could be cured with the help of this goddess. Her ceremonies  were carried out at a sanctuary “usually at a pure sweet water lake or a stream.” It was common for a “blameless old woman” and a prayer woman to lead the afflicted to the waterside. The first secretly took something belonging to the sick person and went to the water. “There on the bank she drew herself up and spoke: ‘Water Mother, Mistress, if the invalid is bound by you, release him.’ Thereupon she touched the water three times with the article taken along and, using alder leaves, took a few drops of the water which she had carried home and put over the hearth. Then she ran out of the house with the words, ‘Just so, may your sickness also run away!’”

If this gave relief, then the prayer woman was invited to continue the ceremonies, with a hen, cock, filled loaf of unleavened bread and three candles. One candle went to Water Mother, one to her husband, and one to her Maidservant or Benefactress, who acts as an intercessor. The patient went to the water with the prayer woman and knelt while she successively lit the candles  and placed them on the shore, praying to the three divinities. “At the conclusion, the prayer woman rubbed her hand over the back of the patient and with this gesture she liberated him from the illness.”

Another ceremony aimed to cure a serious illness caused by the Rainbow. It too was carried out with offerings at the stream, but this time the women “threw a twisted yarn bridge from one bank to the other.” They covered the person with a piece of cotton; then “the prayer woman walked around him with a previously prepared doll in her hands and turned, with prayers, to the Water Mother and the Water Father. Little pieces of each sort of food were consecrated and thrown into the water. The doll was set into a gourd decorated with a lit candle which the prayer woman put into the river saying, ‘Instead of the patient, be satisfied with this.’ Finally, the old woman passed her hand over the back of the sick person, lifted him up, and told him to go home, however with a sharp warning not to look back.”

Johanssens notes that “the acaaju was called by a masculine name during the prophecy, and that one generally spoke to her as though she were a man.” Explained as her representing the legendary Zoschan. He adds that this was “a ritual change of sex” typical of shamanism; “her change of sex was fictive and temporary, that is to say, limited to the execution of the prophecy…”

“The social position of the acaaju was very strong, and her opinion was counted on in all public affaris, for example, even in the hearing of witnesses in criminal procedures. There were some among them who had succeeded to fame among all the Abkhazians and to whom people from distant regions came in order to get advice.” People wanted to be related to the acaaju, and sometimes sought be be adopted into her family.

The acaaju “exhibits elements, such as ecstasy, communication with supernatural beings, an exceedingly powerful social position, and last but not least, the change of sex…” which he sees as linked to shamanism.

He notes the influence of ”ancient Anatolia with its ecstatic religious practices,” as well later conquests by the Mongols who dominated the Caucasus during the 13th and 14th centuries. Doubtless there were other influences in between.

© 2012 Max Dashu

SOURCE:: Andrejs Johansons, “The Shamaness of the Abkhazians,” History of Religions. Vol. 11. No. 3 (Feb. 1972) pp 251-56
Image © copyleft Max Dashu (may be used with attribution only without alteration)


Suppressed Histories Archive : The Suppressed Histories Archives uncovers the realities of women’s lives, internationally and across time, asking questions about patriarchy and slavery, conquest and aboriginality. About mother-right, female spheres of power, indigenous philosophies of spirit– and the historical chemistry of their repression. Even more important, their role in resisting oppression. A global perspective on women’s history offers fresh and diverse conceptions of women’s power, as well as of men and gender borders. It overturns stereotypes of race and class, and the structures of domination that enforce them. It digs under the usual story of lords and rulers, looking for hidden strands, and reweaves knowledge from the divided fields of history, archaeology, linguistics and folk tradition. So we cast a wide arc, looking for patterns and gaps and contradictions which, where vested power interests are at stake, are trigger points for controversy. Some of the flashpoints are women’s power; neolithic female figurines; gender-egalitarian mother-right cultures; patriarchy; witch-hunts; “heresies” such as goddess veneration or shamans; and the rise and fall of empires, including the doctrines of supremacy and inferiority that prop up all systems of domination.

A Significant Miniature: the work of Shazia Sikander

(Cross-posted from Collage)

Collage loves the work of Shazia Sikander. The Lahore born artist’s study of the traditional techniques for painting Persian portraits has led to an exceptional body of of internationally exhibited work which ranges from miniatures to large scale paintings and animations. You can find more information on herwebsite and this article by Hilarie M. Sheets on ArtNews is an excellent introduction to her work.

A murky black rectangle glistens and undulates on the screen of Shahzia Sikander’s laptop as the artist shows a visitor to her New York studio a passage from her animation in progress. Gradually, the field seems to disintegrate into a

the scroll sikander detail

 dense accumulation of irregular black marks that vanish one by one. Viewers familiar with Sikander’s work may recognize that these seemingly abstract black shapes are in fact precise renderings of the stylized hairdo of the Gopi women—worshippers of the Hindu god Krishna, whom Sikander often depicted in her miniature paintings from the 1990s. The hairdos have reappeared, disembodied, in many of the animations that set her repertoire of painted imagery in motion, including SpiNN (2003), in which the hair rises from the women’s disappearing bodies and takes flight in a menacing swarm that invades an imperial Mughal court.

“I found the hair had this wonderful silhouette that, if you turned it around, could look like bats or birds—that was a very exciting moment in animation for me,” says Sikander.(click here to read more)


Collage: Art, Culture, Gender: Collage is a blog & on-kind magazine about art and culture. I review mostly work by women artists and other reviews/articles are written with a gendered perspective.

Norah Lofts and why you should read her by @KatharineEdgar

(Cross-posted from Katharine Edgar)

I had a massive Norah Lofts binge over Christmas. Lofts is a deeply unfashionable writer who people in the know keep saying should be rediscovered. Alison Weir has been plugging away at it, and, brilliantly, was instrumental in getting some Lofts books back into print, while the availability of ebooks and the possibility of finding out-of-print books on ABE or Amazon means that there’s never been a better time to discover her.

Lofts was born in Norfolk, in 1904. She came from a farming family, something which had a lasting influence on her writing, as you will see, but worked as a history teacher before she turned to writing full time. Over a long and busy career she wrote more than 60 books, mostly historical, but with a good handful of excellent psychological thrillers too (the Hammer horror film The Witches was based on one). The Oxford Book of Historical Stories calls her ‘one of the undisputed queens of historical romance.’

I first came across Norah Lofts at thirteen, when I was making my first forays into historical re-enactment and was advised by the organiser to read Lofts for her incomparable grasp of historical detail, and because many of her books are set in Suffolk, where the Tudor house we were re-creating, was. Her ability to handle historical detail, work it effortlessly into a story and endow it with great emotional charge, is certainly second to none. I came to Lofts for the research. But I stayed for the storytelling. How’s this for an opening?

‘At the age of seven I was a skillful pickpocket. I could also sew neatly, write a tolerable hand, make a curtsey and a correct introduction, dance a little and play simple tunes on the harpsichord.’

It’s the start of ‘Felicity Hatton’s Tale,’ the first story in the third book of her fabulous Old Vine trilogy. Lofts had a particular liking for taking a house and tracing its residents through history. Other people have done this with towns (notably Edward Rutherfurd, in SarumLondon and others) but no-one has done it as convincingly as Lofts.

The house at Old Vine is built by Martin Reed, a runaway serf at the turn of the fifteenth century, who takes his own destiny into his hands after his lord refuses him permission to marry the girl he loves. The rest of the first book, The Town House, takes place over Martin’s lifetime. But the fabulous thing Lofts does is to shift viewpoint with each chapter, to the old woman who comes to look after him, then his daughter-in-law, Anne, daughter of an impoverished knightly family who marries beneath her, then his grand-daughter Maud, then his secretary. They’re all such different people, in motivation, life-experience and style of thinking, and the fresh perspectives allow us to see the characters we have come to know intimately, as other people see them. Thus we see them change and grow old – young, hopeful, Martin keeping stoically on, Anne who we first knew as a teenager becoming bitter, alcoholic and cruel.

The second book in the trilogy takes us through the sixteenth and seventeenth century, and the third book from Georgian times to the modern day, when the house is no longer lived in by Martin’s descendants. Throughout the series there are incredible stories, and, I should add, incredible TEENAGE stories. Ethelreda Benedict, forced out of the island home she shared with her father when it was flooded by the draining of the Fens. Felicity Hatton, who has to survive in Georgian London after her father’s gambling addiction has beggared her family. And (perhaps my favourite), the dreadful Anne, who calculates that marrying the woolmaster’s son and living in a town house with glass windows might be a come-down for her family but it will lead to a far more comfortable life for herself than staying in her parents’ isolated hall forever unable to afford the dowry for a respectable match.

Like Alison Weir, I rate the House trilogy the most highly, but the prolific Lofts produced many more books worth reading. Broadly speaking, her historical fiction falls into two categories – historical biography, and Suffolk books. The historical biography is not confined to England – there is a splendid book, Crown of Aloes, about Isabella of Spain – and includes one of the most sensitive fictions written about Anne Boleyn, The Concubine.

The Suffolk books, which include the House trilogy, all take place in or around a fictional town called Baildon, which is similar to (though not identical with) Bury St Edmunds. One of the joys of being a hardcore Norah Lofts fan is the way places and families recur across the books, so the fictional world becomes deeper and richer than anything that could be achieved in one book alone. We know which family has a streak of gambling addiction, which breeds the best horses, which local in is best and who built the Assembly rooms. One particular strength of Lofts as a writer, in a genre which can often focus on the rarefied and privileged lives of the wealthy, is that she is as interested in the lives of the ordinary people as those of kings or queens. Even her Anne Boleyn book is told from the viewpoint of a serving maid. Lofts’ farming background comes into this in a big way, writing as she is about a rural country through centuries when most people were closely tied to the land. Martin Reed first meets Anne Blanchfleur when he is visiting his sheep, and her mother lets him heat his tar pot on their fire. Lofts understand the economics of farming: what it means to have a farm of a certain size, or to carry out the work yourself (as another knight’s child, Henry Tallboys, does in the Knight’s Acre trilogy).

There is another sense, too, in which Norah Lofts’ books are realistic, and it is one of the things I like most about her work. Despite her designation as ‘historical romance’, which would conjure up images of happy endings, for Lofts the world is a brutal, unfair place. Good deeds go unrewarded, and, often to a very disturbing extent, bad ones unpunished. Murders are regularly concealed, and criminals live on benefiting from their crimes. This lack of idealising makes her world feel very real. When I used to borrow Norah Lofts books from my local library, their spines would be stickered, seemingly at random, with either a black castle to designate ‘historical fiction’ or a pink heart with a crown on top for historical romance. I wonder how many readers picked them up expecting to be transported to a delicious tale of swooning damsels, only to find they had been sucked into a gritty story of murder and medieval farming practices. Sometimes there is supernatural, and there is often evil – the Gad’s Hall books involve Victorian girls and devil worship – but the down-to-earth nature of her style adds to the plausibility and creepiness, as, for example, in the one I have just finished, The Devil’s Own (also called The Witches, Catch As Catch Can and The Little Wax Doll), published under the name of Peter Curtis, in which the prim heroine is horrified by the sight of the unattractive bodies of her middle-aged neighbours as they dance naked at the Halloween meeting of their coven.

So, where to start with Norah Lofts? To begin with, she did write two books specifically for teenagers, both based on characters from the Old Vine trilogy, Rupert Hatton’s Tale and Maude Reed’s Tale. I would recommend these to younger readers, but really these date to a time before Young Adult fiction had reached the no holds barred place it is in today. Older teens will be perfectly comfortable reading her adult books (and their parents/teachers should be happy with most of them too – if delicate you might want to give the Peter Curtis ones a miss, and The Claw should probably have an advisory sticker but mostly there’s nothing more shocking than you will find in Jacqueline Wilson). The Old Vine books are a good place to start, as is Bless This House, which uses the same ‘house through history’ technique but in a single volume. The first Knight’s Acre book is eventful, and interest in the characters will probably carry you through the second two, even if they are a bit heavy on the farming. Of the biographical books, I have already mentioned The Concubine, and The King’s Pleasure is a sympathetic portrait of Katherine of Aragon, and Crown of Aloes a fascinating book about Isabella of Spain. For those who like their history earlier, The Lute Player is about Richard the Lionheart, or, earlier still, Esther fictionalises an Old Testament book. Lofts is equally comfortable in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and The Lost Queen is a moving book about George III’s younger sister. Goodreads has plentiful reviews, and there is a thriving group there for the hardest of hardcore fans – a group which, I suspect, is destined to grow and grow as a new generation of readers discover the Queen Of Historical Romance. Or rather, Of Gritty, Dark, Agricultural Histfic With Lots And Lots Of Murders….


Katharine Edgar: is a Yorkshire-based feminist who writes young adult fiction, including the forthcoming Five Wounds. She blogs about her historical fiction writing: Tudor history, women’s history, crafts and writing.

Reading Audre Lorde is changing my life by @psycho_claire.

(Cross-posted from The Psychology Supercomputer)

As my interest in feminism has grown, I’ve started reading some of the works of feminist writers. I’ve started slowly and avoided certain topics completely (due to self care), but I’m learning so much. I’ve loved the books I’ve read so far and they’ve all been helpful to me in their own way. But none have spoken to me in the way that Audre Lorde has.

I started reading her “Sister Outsider” just after a trip to visit a friend. Said friend had me read the essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action” from this book. And I was hooked! In this particular essay Lorde points out that our silence hasn’t ever protected us from violence, victimisation and ridicule. As women we get those anyway, whether we are silent or whether we “speak”. This essay spoke to me because this is how I view my move into feminism and activism. Through twitter and blogging I found my voice. I am able to speak against injustice where I see it and people respond to my writing. I’ve written not just on my own blog but for other campaigns too, and I continue to do this. It allows me, in some small way, to feel like I am fighting. But more than this, I’m fighting using something I am good at. I LOVE writing. I always have. And because I love it, and have done so much of it (for fun) over the years, I’m pretty good at it. I’m confident about my writing, in a way that I am not always confident about “speaking” in person. So being able to write, to use writing as my voice, as a way to break the silence has been immensely powerful for me. And reading Lorde’s essay felt like a validation of all of those feelings. I feel stronger because I write; I feel empowered because I write; I feel like I’m contributing because I write; I broke my silence because I write.

But, Lorde’s impact on me doesn’t end there. When I got home I went to the uni library and picked up Sister Outsider. I started reading and was blown away by the essay “Poetry is not a Luxury”. In this piece Lorde talks about the power of poetry and how it is not a trivial thing. I was moved almost to tears (I kid you not) by this paragraph:

“For women then, poetry is not a luxury. It is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hopes and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought. The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.”

When I read those words, they hit me in the chest, took my breath away, and filled my eyes with tears. Here Lorde was putting words to a feeling I’ve had my whole life but never been able to articulate. I’ve always used poetry to cope and process. When I’m dealing with trauma I write poems. When I’m hurting and sad, those feelings express themselves through words on a page. I rarely let people read these poems. They are MINE, for me. A way to deal with my life experiences, to process my pain. The act of writing these poems frees me somehow. Lets me see the hurt and deal with it. It moves it from within me to on the page. Poetry is and always has been my survival tactic. To see that this is true of other women, and to see Lorde articulate it so clearly, changed my life. It moved me, in a way no other piece of writing ever has. It switched something in my head and again, made me feel stronger and more connected to other women.

It was so powerful that I had to share it: I tweeted it. And since then it has sat in my heart and in my head, I’m pretty sure those words have taken up permanent residence inside me. 🙂

After this I was besotted with Lorde and her writing, but sure that her words were done moving me so much. And then she hit me again, with her essay “Uses of the Erotic: The Erotic as Power”. In this essay Lorde talks about reclaiming “the erotic” as not just referring to sexual behaviours and actions, but as that feeling of love and passion. That these feelings do not just pertain to sex and relationships but to our passions, such as writing, art, to everything:

“The erotic is a measure between the beginnings of our sense of self and the chaos of our strongest feelings. It is an internal sense of satisfaction to which, once we have experienced it, we know we can aspire. For having experienced the fullness of this depth of feeling and recognizing its power, in honor and self-respect we can require no less of ourselves.”

Again, this hit me in the chest. These words gave me permission for my pursuit of my education. For the direction I am trying to push my career. My path is one which follows the erotic in this sense, when I research, teach and write I feel this sense of satisfaction. I KNOW it is what I am supposed to be doing. What I was made for. There have been times when I have felt like this pursuit is selfish. That the sacrifices my family make for this are too much to ask. But these words again freed me. Lorde spoke to me and let me know that what I am doing will make me a stronger, more whole person. And in truth, that to not pursue this sense of satisfaction would be a betrayal of myself.

Like I said, this book is changing my life. Sister Outsider contains so much other wisdom, words about being a black woman, a lesbian, about intersectionality and multiple oppressions. I know it’s a book I will return to again and again throughout my life. If you haven’t read it, DO. It is truly an amazing work. I intend to find EVERYTHING Audre Lorde has ever written, because I have a feeling she has much more to say to me.

To my London friend (you know who you are) THANK-YOU, thank-you for putting this book in my hands.

To the memory of the amazing Audre Lorde I say: Your words changed my world. Thank-you!


The Psychology Supercomputer: I write about Psychology, Science Communication, Women in Science and feminist issues. I also tweet as @psycho_claire.

I Should Of Known: Julian of Norwich and the Venerable History of Dodgy Auxiliary Verbs by @LucyAllenFWR

(Cross-Posted from Reading Medieval Books)


Thrilling title, I know.

And no, this post isn’t technically about feminism or medieval romance, so you’ll have to forgive me for a moment, because I’m going to bang on about bad grammar and dyslexia. I’m writing this because for about the ninth time this month, I’ve heard someone insist that it’s perfectly fair to judge people who make grammatical slips, because there’s no reason to do that except for ignorance or laziness.

Now, personally, I’m not wild about judging people for ignorance. It seems like educational privilege to me. But I’m even more fed up with people who assume grammar errors can only be made through ignorance of correct standard English. In my experience, the same people tend to have a wildly idealistic attitude towards the history of the English language, so it’s always fun when you notice something in a medieval text that is a dead ringer for one of the ‘modern’ mistakes that horrify the pearl-clutchers.

And I found a nice one of those today.

When I’m reading medieval texts, I sometimes record them as audio files, and doing that really makes you pay attention to each author’s habits of expression, in a way that I don’t remember to do so much if I’m just reading silently. At the moment, I’m recording Julian of Norwich’s Shewings, a text written in the late fourteenth century by a woman who’s often seen as one of the leading religious thinkers of her time, one of the few women whose writing survives.

I’ve been noticing how much easier Julian’s prose is to read than the previous text I recorded (Piers Plowman, which is written in verse, specifically, what’s called an alliterative long line). Langland, the author of Piers, is a book fetishist. The poem is crammed with references to this or that book, this legal document or that charter, these words in the margins or that bit of rubric. Someone or other is always opening up scrolls or reading out papers, and there’s even a character called ‘Book’. Essentially, this poem was written by someone who, in 2014, would be going around the British Library licking the display cases.

Not so Julian. Her style is theologically complex, but you don’t get the impression she writes (or dictates) her prose with an image of a finished written page in her mind’s eye. This isn’t because she writes grammatically simple English, but because she (or whoever wrote the text down for her) has a really good ear for which sounds are easy to pronounce next to one another.

Here’s the piece where she describes her horror, and pity, at her vision of Christ’s crucifixion. Be warned, it’s deliberately gruesome:

“And … I saw that the swete skyn and the tender flesh, with the heere and the blode, was al rasyd and losyd abov from the bone … And that was grete sorow and drede to me. For methowte I wold not for my life a sen it fallen.”

(“And … I saw that the sweet skin and the tender flesh, with the hair and the blood, was all raised, and loose out over the bone … And that was a great sorrow and terror to me. For I thought I would not for my life of seen it fall.”

It’s not actually that hard to understand in modern English, if you read it out loud (and if you know a couple of tricky words). But what you may notice is that Julian doesn’t use the standard modern English grammar ‘I would not for my life have seen it fall’. She uses ‘a’, which is a homophone for an elided ‘have’. Here, it creates a slow sighing sound at the end of the sentence, perfectly appropriate to the image she pictures. 

Elsewhere, she’s perfectly capable of writing ‘I would have’ and ‘I could have,’ so we can’t put this down either to pure incomprehensible medieval dialect: what we have is a situation where this was simply quite acceptable. It’s not because she, or her scribe, doesn’t understand grammar, or confuses an indefinite article with an auxiliary verb. It’s simply because they sound similar enough that, when the rhythm of the sentence demands it, she can blur ‘have’ into ‘a’ with no harm done.

Now, obviously, in formal, standard English, writing “I should of done that” or “I shoulda done that” is incorrect, and we know that.

To get technical, the reason people make this mistake (other than genuine ignorance, which is pretty simple to correct) is that “should’ve” and “should of” are homophones in some accents. You might think this would be a one-time mistake: you heard something incorrectly (aged six or so), and wrote it down phonetically once, before being corrected. But it’s not so, because of the way our brains process language as we write. As we write, we are aware of the sequence of familiar physical movements made to form letters (what we often call ‘muscle memory’). We’re also aware of the visual shapes made by familiar groups of letters on the page. And we’re aware of the sounds those letters should make. All of these three things are, for fluent readers, more or less on auto-pilot while we think about what we intend to type – or write – next.

If your auto-pilot is a bit faulty, you can find your fingers provided you with a word that’s not quite what you intended (as a medievalist who writes a lot about religion I can’t type the name Chris without adding a final ‘t,’ which is very flattering to any Christophers I know). And you can find you end up typing one homophone when you intended to pick up the other one, which was sitting neatly alongside it in the box your brain marks as ‘phonetically identical’. It’s thought that dyslexia results from some kind of fault in the way the brain processes aural and visual information, and so this is a characteristic dyslexic error – an auto-pilot error, rather than an error of grammatical knowledge.

So, why did I burden you all with this incredibly dull post on grammar? Well, it’s because I wanted to try to refute two really common misconceptions. One is that this sort of error is something it’s ok to judge people for making – or at least, it’s an error that ‘proves’ their ignorance, rather than their disability. The other is that this sort of error is one of the host of peculiarly modern mistakes, to be blamed on the (fictitious) decline of the English language in recent years.

When I started writing this blog, I decided that instead of spending hours painstakingly proof-reading each post, I’d give them a quick once-over and refer anyone who was bothered by the inevitably typos and errors to my disclaimer, which points out that I’m dyslexic and don’t proof-read well. This turned out to be a really good decision, because around a week after I wrote that disclaimer, I had my PhD viva and came away with a list of corrections only slightly shorter than the thesis itself.

Those corrections were appropriate: when I’m writing formal standard English, it needs to be spot on. But when I’m writing this blog, occasionally I’ll slip up. And that’s ok. And maybe, next time you see someone making an error like this, instead of judging, you’ll take a minute to consider they might be dyslexic, and to remember that, six hundred years ago, a medieval woman was writing shoulda woulda coulda all over the shop.


Reading Medieval Books! I rant about women in literature and history, occasionally pausing for breath to be snarky about right-wing misogynists. I promise pretty pictures of manuscripts and a cavalier attitude to sentence structure. [@LucyAllenFWR]