Celebrate International Women’s Day with these titles on women in history, art, fiction, and more! See our entire list of selected titles for International Women’s Day here.
The Mirror of Venus
Though images of women were ubiquitous in the Roman world, these were seldom intended to be taken simply at face value. The importance of marriage, motherhood and political stability was often conveyed to the Roman people through carefully constructed representations of the women of the ruling house. Mythological representations were used to present moral and political lessons to the women of Rome. Ancient sexual politics are apparent everywhere. Roman society was, on most levels, male dominated and women’s roles were sometimes subordinate to political and cultural needs and imperatives.
This is the first general book to present a coherent, broad analysis of the numerous images of women in Roman art and to interpret their meaning and significance, all set against the broader geographical, chronological, political, religious and cultural context of the world of the Roman republic and empire and of Late Antiquity. Images of mortal women – empresses and other female members of the imperial family, elite women from around the empire, and working women from Rome, Ostia, Pompeii and elsewhere – will be analyzed alongside images of goddesses and personifications of complex mythological figures such as Amazons. This book will examine images of women in the form of sculptures and coins, historical friezes and decorated tombstones, mosaics and wall paintings, metalwork and many decorated everyday items.
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Using historical sources ( Livy, Suetonius, et al) as well as numismatic and sculptural evidence, Rome Women details the lives of Rome’s most influential women to examine, uniquely, what effect they had on contemporary politics, and or how far they and their reputations and actions reflected and affected women generally in Roman society. No existing book provides biographies of these extraordinary women and then examines the contemporary and later socio-political effects they had. Existing titles look at the bad women – notably the wives and mothers of emperors; Rome Women does that but also, uniquely, examines the good women too: the icons and the role models. No other book puts all if this in a socio-political context to form valuable conclusions about the effect these women had on Roman politics and society down the years. Good women such as Lucretia and Cornelia and the loyal wives described by Tacitus and Pliny are covered as are less virtuous but sophisticated and permissive women such as Clodia, Sempronia, Cynthia and Delia. The bad but politically significant are represented by Fulvia and Cleopatra (not a Roman but embroiled in things Roman) and many of the wives and daughter of the Emperors.
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Henry VIII’s six wives have made a name for themselves in English history. After Henry broke with Rome in order to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and marry his second, Anne Boleyn, he managed to fit five marriages into the space of fourteen years. These six women brought queenship into the early modern era. His daughters, Mary I and Elizabeth I, found themselves in an almost unprecedented position as reigning queens. From these Tudor women to the present, each queen has a unique story to tell. The unhappy Sophia Dorothea of Celle was imprisoned for over thirty years by her husband George I when her affair was discovered. Her lover, Count von Konigsmarck was murdered. Queen Victoria spent her childhood secluded with her overprotective mother, even sharing the same bedroom until the day when she was proclaimed queen and finally freed herself from her mother’s control.
Nearly eighty women have sat on the throne of England, either as queen regnant or queen consort and the voices of all of them survive through their writings and those of their contemporaries. For the first time, the voices of each individual queen can be heard. This volume charts the course of English queenship from Henry’s wives through the Tudors, Stuarts, Hanoverians, right up to the House of Windsor and our current queen, Elizabeth II.
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Rising from the ashes of the First World War and initially conceived as a way of improving the food supply for the nation, the Women’s Institute became one of the really important movements for women in the twentieth century. It provided education, opportunities to practise public speaking and opened the eyes of countrywomen to the wider world around them. The first organisers were ex-suffragists who felt that now they had the vote women needed an education to give them the confidence to make their presence felt in this new world opening up to them.
Responding to the national crisis at the outbreak of the Second World War, the Women’s Institute again proved its worth by tackling food shortages and organising schemes such as finding billets for evacuee children.
A further challenge in the 1960s and 1970s was the rise of the Feminist movement. Membership of the movement started to decline and the executive searched for ways to improve its image and keep it relevant to younger women. Then out of the blue came the Calendar Girls. Any idea that the WI consisted only of jam and ‘Jerusalem‘ was swept away by the energy, imagination and sheer courage of the women of Rylstone WI and led not only to a renewed interest in and respect for the countrywomen of Great Britain but to a flourishing of new branches in both town and country.
The WI remains a powerful force in women’s lives, a source of fun, friendship and creativity.
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Joan of Kent
Immortalized by the chronicler Froissart as the most beautiful woman in England and the most loved, Joan was the wife of the Black Prince and the mother of Richard II, the first Princess of Wales and the only woman ever to be Princess of Aquitaine. The contemporary consensus was that she admirably fulfilled their expectations for a royal consort and king’s mother. Who was this ‘perfect princess’?
In this first major biography, Joan’s background and career are examined to reveal a remarkable story. Brought up at court following her father’s shocking execution, Joan defied convention by marrying secretly aged just twelve, and refused to deny her first love despite coercion, imprisonment and a forced bigamous marriage. Wooed by the Black Prince when she was widowed, theirs was a love match, yet the questionable legality of their marriage threatened their son’s succession to the throne. Intelligent and independent, Joan constructed her role as Princess of Wales. Deliberately self-effacing, she created and managed her reputation, using her considerable intercessory skills to protect and support Richard. A loyal wife and devoted mother, Joan was much more than just a famous beauty.
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The Medieval Housewife
Have you ever wondered what life was like for the ordinary housewife in the Middle Ages? Or how much power a medieval lady really had? Find out all about medieval housewives, peasant women, grand ladies, women in trade and women in the church in this fascinating book.
More has been written about medieval women in the last twenty years than in the two whole centuries before that. Female authors of the medieval period have been rediscovered and translated; queens are no longer thought of as merely decorative brood mares for their royal husbands and have merited their own biographies. In the past, historians have tended to look at what women could not do. In this book we will look at the lives of medieval women in a more positive light, finding out what rights and opportunities women did enjoy, attempting to uncover the real women beneath the layers of dust accumulated over the centuries.
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“A paradise … tall, slender, grey-eyed, possessing an extreme pallor.” The contemporary view of Henry VIII’s younger sister, Princess Mary Rose, as one of the most beautiful princesses in Europe, was an arresting one. Glorious to behold, this Tudor Princess, with her red hair flowing loose to her waist, was also impossible for Henry to control.
She first married the King of France, a match of great importance to Henry’s diplomatic plans. He was dead within three months, ‘danced to death’ by his young bride according to the court gossip of the period. She then secretly married her longtime admirer, Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, one of the more notorious lovers of the Tudor period. After some uncomfortable arguments with her brother, she was publicly wedded to Brandon in 1515, at Greenwich Palace. Henry remained deeply attached to his sister, and may have named his great warship after her. He continued to support her, in spite of her later opposition to his wishes.
David Loades’ biography, the first for almost 50 years, brings the princess alive once more. Of all Tudor women, this Queen of France and later Duchess of Suffolk remains an elusive, enigmatic figure.
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Just a few short years after WWII ended, Audrey Hepburn was discovered in a Monte Carlo hotel lobby by the French novelist Colette to assume the title role in the Broadway production of Gigi. Having barely survived the war in her home in Arnhem, Netherlands, Audrey was forced to give up her dream of being a prima ballerina because she was both too tall and too malnourished from the starvation and deprivation she suffered during the war years. An immediate success as Gigi, Audrey was whisked away to Rome to film Roman Holiday with Gregory Peck. The role of Princess Anne would win her an Oscar for Best Actress, the first of five nominations throughout her career. This book tells the story of Audrey Hepburn, one of only ten actors to win a competitive Oscar, Tony, Emmy, and Grammy. But, in her eyes, possibly the best role of her career was that of Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF. Her firsthand experiences in the Netherlands during WWII uniquely qualified her to relate to children devastated by war and famine and to convincingly advocate on their behalf to the most powerful men and women of the 1980s and 1990s.
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A Home Front Diary 1914-18
“One of the saddest and yet most thrilling sights to me was to see parties of those young fellows who had just volunteered being marched from the recruiting office – perhaps 30, 50 or 100 of them – in all sorts of dress – top hats, caps, soft hats, morning coats, jackets – shabby men and ‘nuts’, laborers, clerks, partners in great city businesses, hooligans – all mixed up, marching side by side, all having made the great decision, ready to lay down their lives for their country … It made one’s heart ache.”
On Tuesday 29 July 1914 Lillie Scales heard that war was imminent. Four years of turmoil ensued, and from her home in north London, Lillie recorded it all in the pages of her diary.
By 7 August she had turned up for first aid classes along with a thousand other women. Men had rushed to enlist. By October Lillie and her husband George had offered to take in Belgian refugees and later in the war they gave a home to many ANZACs while they were on leave. As a result, Lillie’s diary also holds accounts of daring escape and of Front Line action. Through her diary we hear of Zeppelin raids, rationing, the sinking of the Lusitania, the shelling of Scarborough, and the loss of dear friends.
Lillie’s detailed diaries provide insight and lend immediacy to this fascinating subject.
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Mary of Galilee
Mary is a young woman living a simple life in Nazareth, when an angel’s visit changes her life forever. She has been chosen by God to bear him a son. She alone amongst women has been chosen to bear the agony and the joy. From the moment of his birth, she knows that Jesus’s life will be like no other: she has been warned of the pain that lies ahead. When Jesus begins his work, how will she react to her increasing awareness of the dangers facing her son? When Mary experiences anguish that no mother should ever experience, is her faith strong enough to sustain her? Might there be grounds for joy in the midst of such brutality? Real Reads are accessible texts designed to support the literacy development of primary and lower secondary age children while introducing them to the riches of our international literary heritage. Each book is a retelling of a work of great literature from one of the world’s greatest cultures, fitted into a 64-page book, making classic stories, dramas and histories available to intelligent young readers as a bridge to the full texts, to language students wanting access to other cultures, and to adult readers who are unlikely ever to read the original versions.
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Contrary to popular belief, Anglo-Saxon England had queens, with the tenth century Elfrida being the most powerful and notorious of them all. She was the first woman to be crowned queen of England, sharing her husband King Edgar’s imperial coronation at Bath in 973. The couple made a love match, with claims that they plotted the death of her first husband to ensure that she was free. Edgar divorced his second wife, a former nun, after conducting an adulterous affair with Elfrida, leading to an enmity between the two women that lasted until their deaths.
During her marriage, Elfrida claimed to be the king’s only legitimate wife, but she failed to secure the succession for her son, Ethelred. Elfrida plotted against her stepson, King Edward the Martyr, before arranging his murder at Corfe Castle, where she lived with her son. She then ruled England on behalf of her young son for six years before he expelled her from court. Elfrida was eventually able to return to court but, since he proved himself unable to counter the Viking attacks, she may have come to regret winning the crown for Ethelred the Unready.
Wife, mother, murderer, ruler, crowned queen. The life of Queen Elfrida was filled with drama as she rose to become the most powerful woman in Anglo-Saxon England.
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Marilyn Monroe, born Norma Jeane Mortenson on June 1, 1926, is one of the best-loved movie stars and sex goddesses of all time, although she died much too young at the age of thirty-six. Marilyn overcame multiple foster homes and an early, wartime marriage to become the wife of two of America’s most famous men: first, the baseball all-star Joe DiMaggio, and then the playwright Arthur Miller. Not surprisingly, she even caught the eye of President John F. Kennedy to whom she famously sang “Happy Birthday” in 1962 in front of an overflow crowd at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. A lifetime struggle with self-confidence, tumultuous marriages, ill health, and drug and alcohol addictions, Marilyn’s movie career suffered in the last years before her death. The filming of her last movie, Something’s Got to Give, was never completed. She died during production. In death as in life, Marilyn Monroe fascinates. This book is filled with photos of Marilyn throughout her life. Marilyn worked with some of the best directors of her day and pushed herself to excel in comedic, dramatic, and musical roles. She was only the second female movie star to create her own production company. Marilyn may have played the dumb blonde, but that was just one more role.
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