Happy Friday! This weekend, brush up on female history with us! These #FridayReads selections are all true stories of women who influenced the world around them and earned a spot in history.
Philip Astley first pegged out his circular ‘ride’ on the banks of the Thames in 1768 and so laid down the foundations of the modern circus. Performing feats of trick riding with his wife Patty Jones, little did he realize that before long women would become a dominant force in the circus. Sawdust Sisterhood explores how the circus empowered women and gave them the opportunity to compete and succeed as performers in their own right in an otherwise masculine world. Drawing upon historical news reports and contemporary interviews, the book explores the lives of female circus performers and focuses upon several of the more well-known artistes from across two centuries of circus, including; Madame Saqui, the renowned French wire-walker of the early nineteenth century; Nellie Chapman, the Victorian ‘Lion Queen’ of Wombwells’s Menagerie and Circus; and Katie Brumbach, otherwise known as Sandwina, perhaps the most famous Strongwoman of the twentieth century. Sawdust Sisterhood acknowledges the role of the female circus performer across the centuries.
This biography of Hypatia, the female philosopher and mathematician in Christian Egypt, provides background on her work and her life as an elite woman at this time. There are many myths about Hypatia, including her research, inventions and the impact of her murder, all based on a handful of contemporary resources. Through presenting the different theories and myths alongside the available evidence, this book will enable the reader to make their own interpretations about her life.
Whilst the evidence does leave many questions unanswered, this book provides the evidence as it stands, separating the myth from reality. There is very little published on Hypatia and she forms quite a niche market in the history of ancient Egypt. However, she is an interesting example of how multicultural Alexandria functioned at such an unstable political time, and provides anecdotal evidence of the atrocities that occurred. This book will appeal to scholars, lay people and political and religious researchers, and will show that the history of Egypt does not end at Cleopatra.
Using historical sources ( Livy, Suetonius, et al) as well as numismatic and sculptural evidence, Roman 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; Roman 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.
Scourge of Henry VIII
Although Mary, Queen of Scots continues to fascinate both historians and the general public alike, the story of her mother, Marie de Guise, is much less well known. A political power in her own right, she was born into the powerful and ambitious Lorraine family, spending her formative years at the dazzling and licentious court of François I. Although briefly courted by Henry VIII, she instead married his nephew, James V of Scotland, in 1538.
James’ premature death four years later left their six day old daughter, Mary, as Queen and presented Marie with the formidable challenge of winning the support of the Scottish people and protecting her daughter’s threatened birthright. Content until now to remain in the background and play the part of the obedient wife, Marie spent the next eighteen years effectively governing Scotland, devoting her considerable intellect, courage and energy to safeguarding her daughter’s inheritance by using a deft mixture of cunning, charm, determination and tolerance.
The last serious biography of Marie de Guise was published in 1977 and whereas plenty of attention has been paid to the mistakes of her daughter’s eventful but brief reign, the time has come for a fresh assessment of this most fascinating and under appreciated of sixteenth century female rulers.