Remembering Women in History by @CeliaHubbartt

(cross-posted from du erkennst mich nicht)


Throughout time, women have done extraordinary things, yet remain quite unknown to the public. Here are two women who deserve to be known by all.

  •  Alexandra David-Néel (1868-1969)

Alexandra David-Néel as a teenager.

This French explorer, spiritualist, Buddhist, anarchist and writer has done more in her life than most people could dream of. She traveled to Lhasa, Tibet when it was forbidden to foreigners. She wrote over 30 books about her travels, philosophy and Eastern religion.

David-Néel, whose desire for freedom and spirituality, began her adventures by traveling around Europe before the age of 18 on her own. During this time, she studied at Madame Blavatsky’sTheosophical Society.

Throughout her travels, she went to India, became an opera singer in Vietnam, traveled to Sikkim, where she met her lifelong traveling companion, a Sikkimese monk, Aphur Yongden (born 1899), she also traveled to Japan, Tibet and later returned to France for a short time in 1928. She began another trip to the east Tibetan highland in 1937.

David-Néel and Yongden.

At at 101, David-Néel passed away. Her ashes were mixed with Yongden and were dispersed in the Ganges by her friend Marie-Madeleine Peyronnet.

  • Qiu Jin (1875–1907)

Qui Jin

Qiu was a writer, poet, feminist and is considered a national hero in China. She was executed after participating in a failed uprising against the Qing Dynasty.

In the beginning of her life, Qui wrote poems about joyful subjects ranging from flowers to visiting historical places and domestic activities. She also would write about female heroes and warriors from history. She found inspiration from their strength, courage and beauty. This was a reflection of her self-confidence and desire to be a great writer.

When she married the son of a wealthy merchant against her own wishes, her self-confidence took a sever hit.  She wrote about her husband saying, “That person’s behavior is worse than an animals.. He treats me as less than nothing.” and “When I think of him my hair bristles with anger, it’s absolutely unbearable.” Her poetry was the exact opposite as before. It was filled with self-doubt and loneliness.

In 1903, Qui and her husband moved to Beijing where she began reading feminist writings and also became interested in women’s education.

In that year, she left her husband to study in Japan. During this time, she became quite vocal about women’s rights and pressed for improved access for women’s education. She also spoke out against foot-binding.

She joined a group of Triads who worked towards overthrowing the Qing Dynasty and other anti-Qing societies after her return to China in 1905.

Qiu wrote her own journal, “Zhongguo nubao” (Chinese women’s journal) in 1906. It consisted of feminist and nationalist writings. She did not hold on to the idea that women’s places were as mothers and educations in traditional family role, instead she found traditional family life as oppressive to women.

In 1907, she was appointed head of the Datong school in Shaozing, Zhejiand Province. The school was actually used for military training of revolutionaries. While there, she frequently cross-dressed and wore western-style men’s clothing. She became well-known for her aid of the poor and weak.

On July 6, 1907, Xu Xilin, Qui’s cousin with whom she worked with, was captured and tortured for information. He was executed the next day.

After learning of her cousin’s death, Qui decided to stay at the school where she known she would be caught. She believed that her cause was worth dying for. On July 13, Qui was arrested, tortured and two days later was beheaded publicly in her home village at age 31.

The public was shocked by the brutal execution of a woman and many people were strengthened by this and their resentment of the Qing Dynasty was multiplied. She was immediately made a hero and became the subject of drama, poetry and fiction. Her own poetry and letters were published after death.


Du erkennst mich nicht: My blog ranges from anything and everything that could do with feminism. I also add in random articles that I find interesting, but the heart of the blog is about feminism.