CRANKY LADIES OF HISTORY: Countess Bathory

Cranky Ladies logoWelcome to Women’s History Month 2015, which has the theme “Weaving the stories of women’s lives”, which fits perfectly with our Cranky Ladies of History anthology project! After 18 months of work, including our successful crowd-funding campaign in March last year, we are proudly releasing the anthology on March 8. To celebrate, our wonderful authors have supplied blog posts related to their Cranky Lady, and we are delighted to share them here during the month of March. 

To get your own copy of Cranky Ladies of History, you can buy from our website, order your favourite real world bookshop, or purchase at all the major online booksellers (in print and ebook). 

Countess Bathory by Deborah Biancotti (“Look How Cold My Hands Are”)

She was called witch, Vampire, the Blood Countess and the Beast of Cjeste. She was accused of bathing in the blood of virgin girls. She’s been described as the worst female serial killer of all time, with her victims numbering anywhere from fifteen to three hundred to six hundred girls and women.

Since the eighteenth century she’s been held up as an example of the evils of feminine vanity, a woman who painted her face with blood in order to preserve her youth.

And yet, she died nearly two hundred years before the worst of these claims were ever made.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR “LOOK HOW COLD MY HANDS ARE” AFTER THE CUT – check out the story in Cranky Ladies of History before you read!

Continue reading “CRANKY LADIES OF HISTORY: Countess Bathory”

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CRANKY LADIES OF HISTORY: Due Care with the Truth (Dr Lilian Cooper)

Cranky Ladies logoWelcome to Women’s History Month 2015, which has the theme “Weaving the stories of women’s lives”, which fits perfectly with our Cranky Ladies of History anthology project! After 18 months of work, including our successful crowd-funding campaign in March last year, we are proudly releasing the anthology on March 8. To celebrate, our wonderful authors have supplied blog posts related to their Cranky Lady, and we are delighted to share them here during the month of March. 

To get your own copy of Cranky Ladies of History, you can buy from our website, order your favourite real world bookshop, or purchase at all the major online booksellers (in print and ebook). 

Due Care with the Truth by Sylvia Kelso (“Due Care and Attention”)

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR “DUE CARE AND ATTENTION” – check out the story in Cranky Ladies of History before you read!

When you read fiction about a person from actual history, it’s a very natural reaction to ask, How much of this was true?

In my case, quite a lot of the story about Dr Lilian Cooper and her best mate Josephine Bedford is based on fact. Quite a few of Lilian’s remarks were recorded, and a few are used here verbatim, though the curses are manufactured. However, the details of the night trip to Mount Mee are accurate, as is the fractured skull – in 1893 the horse in her dog-cart bolted and threw her into a lamp-post; Lilian was picked up vowing that nothing was wrong, but she was confined to bed for some time, even having the street outside covered with straw, a sign, then, of a dangerously ill patient. When she recovered, Josephine quietly replaced the groom, and drove Lilian on her medical rounds. All to be found in Lilian’s biography, No Easy Path, by Lesley M. Williams.

lilianjosepine-buggy
Image courtesy of the State Library of Queensland

 

Also true is the furore over (relative) speeding on which the story is based. There was a Brisbane cop who excelled in fining speedsters, among whom doctors were notable, both Lilian and Dr Hardie copping the fines cited here. There was also a bill mooted to give police the powers listed. The then stagnant RACQ did resurrect itself to fight the bill, and said bill was dropped: all related in Robert Longhurst’s A Road Well Travelled: RACQ’s first 100 years. The Lennons payroll robbery and the car-chase, however, are definitely fiction. And it’s also fiction that the cop who issued speeding fines was called Higgins.

CRANKY LADIES OF HISTORY: Elizabeth Tudor, last Queen standing

Cranky Ladies logoWelcome to Women’s History Month 2015, which has the theme “Weaving the stories of women’s lives”, which fits perfectly with our Cranky Ladies of History anthology project! After 18 months of work, including our successful crowd-funding campaign in March last year, we are proudly releasing the anthology on March 8. To celebrate, our wonderful authors have supplied blog posts related to their Cranky Lady, and we are delighted to share them here during the month of March. 

To get your own copy of Cranky Ladies of History, you can buy from our website, order your favourite real world bookshop, or purchase at all the major online booksellers (in print and ebook). 

Elizabeth Tudor: Last Queen Standing by Faith Mudge (“Glorious”)

To understand how Elizabeth Tudor became the woman she was, you need to know a few things about her father.

At a huge diplomatic event known as the Field of the Cloth of Gold, King Henry VIII of England challenged the French king to a public wrestling match. (He lost.) When the Pope refused permission for him to divorce his first wife, he changed the whole religious structure of his country so that he could do what he wanted. When his second wife, Anne Boleyn, bore a girl instead of the son he expected, he refused to attend the christening. He divorced Anne of Cleves after six months because he decided she wasn’t pretty enough, ordered for Catherine Parr to be arrested when she argued with him and is reputed to have been playing tennis while Anne Boleyn was executed.

In short, he was a violent egomaniac whose word was law, and who placed little worth on the lives of women. Not an ideal father for two daughters.

Image via BBC History

Elizabeth was born on the seventh of September in 1533, during the volatile years of the Reformation, when the only safe belief you could have about anything was ‘whatever the king says’. She was not quite three years old when her mother was beheaded, and her father remarried in the same month. This marriage, to Jane Seymour, soon produced the son he craved so much. That left Elizabeth, his middle child, in an immensely precarious position – disinherited, declared illegitimate, essentially superfluous and a living reminder of the woman Henry had loved then hated.

You could say that’s when I met her. The first incarnation of Elizabeth I remember encountering was an article in an old magazine, and the sense of isolation it conjured has stuck with me: an image of a little girl surrounded by whispers and watchful eyes. The only person Elizabeth could count on to protect her was herself.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR “GLORIOUS” AFTER THE CUT – check out the story in Cranky Ladies of History before you read!

Continue reading “CRANKY LADIES OF HISTORY: Elizabeth Tudor, last Queen standing”

CRANKY LADIES OF HISTORY: Juliet Marillier’s author notes for “Hallowed Ground”

Cranky Ladies logoWelcome to Women’s History Month 2015, which has the theme “Weaving the stories of women’s lives”, which fits perfectly with our Cranky Ladies of History anthology project! After 18 months of work, including our successful crowd-funding campaign in March last year, we are proudly releasing the anthology on March 8. To celebrate, our wonderful authors have supplied blog posts related to their Cranky Lady, and we are delighted to share them here during the month of March. 

To get your own copy of Cranky Ladies of History, you can buy from our website, order your favourite real world bookshop, or purchase at all the major online booksellers (in print and ebook). 

A few notes on Hildegard of Bingen by Juliet Marillier (“Hallowed Ground”)

We couldn’t place author notes within the anthology itself, but wanted to share them with our readers. Juliet had some things she wanted to add about Hildegard of Bingen, the subject of her story “Hallowed Ground”.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR “HALLOWED GROUND” – check out the story in Cranky Ladies of History before you read!

The most challenging aspect of writing about Hildegard of Bingen, 12th century Benedictine nun, composer, scholar and visionary, was deciding what aspect of her long and extraordinary life I might best fit within the confines of a short story. Hildegard was a woman before her time, intellectually brilliant, creative and original, a natural leader. And yet, from the age of seven, when she was enclosed with Jutta the anchoress at Disibodenberg, to the age of thirty-eight, when she assumed leadership of the nuns on Jutta’s death, very little is recorded of her life save that she was admired for her piety. We know that her mentor and secretary, Volmar, persuaded her to record in writing the powerful visions she had experienced since early childhood. In the second half of her life Hildegard composed remarkable poetry and music that broke the existing boundaries of religious chant; she wrote several scholarly treatises and many letters. She was unafraid to criticise the practices of Church authorities if she believed them unjust. Once Pope Eugenius had sanctioned her visions, her influence was greatly strengthened.

Reading about Hildegard’s life and works, I was struck by the tone of her letters, in which there is little of Hildegard the real woman, and much of Hildegard the weak, unworthy recipient of God’s wisdom. Yet what we know of her life indicates she was a formidable individual, voted unanimously to head the convent on Jutta’s death, ready to take on the Church elders with every argument she could muster for any cause she believed in, and in the case of the repentant sinner Matthias, prepared to defy the authorities at Mainz over a moral and doctrinal principle.

There were numerous occasions during Hildegard’s life when a vision conveniently backed up her argument and helped her achieve her desired end. There is no indication in her writing that she ever invented them or that she ever doubted their divine origin. I found this aspect of her story intriguing. It seemed to me a woman of such remarkable intelligence must sometimes have questioned her own motives; surely she sometimes felt self-doubt, especially toward the end of her life. I chose to examine this in my story.

For storytelling purposes I have considerably simplified the episode of Hildegard’s dispute with the clerics of Mainz over the burial of a repentant sinner within her convent walls. However, the story as told here is broadly true.

The interdict was lifted in March of 1179. Hildegard died in September of the same year. I hope she got to hear the angels sing again.

Bibliography:
Sabina Flanagan: Hildegard of Bingen, A Visionary Life (Routledge, 1989)
Sabina Flanagan (selected and translated): Secrets of God, Writings of Hildegard of Bingen (Shambhala, 1996)
Wighard Strehlow and Gottfried Hertska: Hildegard of Bingen’s Medicine (Bear & Company, 1987)
Matthew Fox: Illuminations of Hildegard of Bingen (Bear & Company, 1985)
Matthew Fox: Hildegard of Bingen, A Saint for Our Times (Namaste, 2012)

CRANKY LADIES OF HISTORY: A few notes on Nora (of Kelmendi)

Cranky Ladies logoWelcome to Women’s History Month 2015, which has the theme “Weaving the stories of women’s lives”, which fits perfectly with our Cranky Ladies of History anthology project! After 18 months of work, including our successful crowd-funding campaign in March last year, we are proudly releasing the anthology on March 8. To celebrate, our wonderful authors have supplied blog posts related to their Cranky Lady, and we are delighted to share them here during the month of March. 

To get your own copy of Cranky Ladies of History, you can buy from our website, order your favourite real world bookshop, or purchase at all the major online booksellers (in print and ebook). 

A few notes on Nora by Havva Murat (“The Pasha, the Girl and the Dagger”)

Nora of Kelmendi
Nora in traditional Albanian garb and with the Pasha’s head firmly in her grip

Nora of Kelmendi, literally from Kelmend: a remote, mountainous region of Northern Albanian that flows into both the neighbouring countries of Montenegro and Kosovo, was born around 1630 AD. The cultural melting pot that is the Balkans, had by this time been held for around 200 years (from circa 1431) by the Ottoman Sultans and their local (in this instance, Bosnian) Pashas, taken after a series of bloody medieval wars that saw the lowlands fall into the hands of the Turks and the highlands foster and give birth to many uprisings. Nora, born into a Roman Catholic Family, became renowned as the greatest female warrior in the history of the country for killing the aforementioned Pasha in a duel (although her feats are more the stuff of legend than historical fact, but we won’t let that get in the way of a good story). It is interesting to note here that there are still many Roman Catholic families living in this region of Albanian today despite the fact that the majority of Albanians converted to Islam while under Ottoman rule – but not the Kelmend! This group were determined to hold onto their own faith and customs in the face of the Ottoman threat and thus their reputation as the most stubborn tribe in the nation grew.

POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR “THE PASHA, THE GIRL AND THE DAGGER” AFTER THE CUT – check out the story in Cranky Ladies of History before you read!

Continue reading “CRANKY LADIES OF HISTORY: A few notes on Nora (of Kelmendi)”

Uppity Women of History

Cranky Ladies logoThis post is written as part of the Women’s History Month Cranky Ladies of History blog tour. If  you would like to read more about cranky ladies from the past, you might like to support our Pozible campaign, crowd-funding an anthology of short stories about Cranky Ladies of History from all over the world.

I came across the book Uppity Women of the Renaissance in my school library on Friday and immediately went and looked up what else the author, Vicki Leon, had done in the field. Turns out there’s a whole BUNCH of books under the Uppity Women banner, and I reckon they fit right in with our Cranky Ladies of History!

photo 14000 years of Uppity Women (a kind of best of the series)

Uppity Women of the Renaissance

Uppity Women of Medieval Times

Uppity Women of Ancient Times

Uppity Women of the New World

Uppity Women of Ancient Greece

You might like to add it to your Cranky Ladies of History reading list, along with Bad Girls & Wicked Women by Jan Stradling, which I’ve posted in other places about before!

 

Kicking off the Cranky Ladies blog tour: The Night Witches

Cranky Ladies logoThis post is written as part of the Women’s History Month Cranky Ladies of History blog tour. If  you would like to read more about cranky ladies from the past, you might like to support our Pozible campaign, crowd-funding an anthology of short stories about Cranky Ladies of History from all over the world.

I thought it only fitting I start the month off right with my own post! I generally would focus on Australian women of history, and I will definitely look to them later in the month, but I felt I had to write about some cranky ladies I only recently learned about, because they were just so amazing.

Katya Ryabova and Nadya Popova of the Night Witches

In World War II, the Russian 588th Air Regiment (also later known as the 46th Taman Guards Bomber Regiment) made more than 23,000 combat flights. This regiment was so successful against the Germans they were dubbed Nachthexen, Night Witches, because the pilots (and incidentally the navigators, officers and mechanics) were all women. Given obsolete equipment, the women devised techniques that made the most of the aircraft and methods of evading detection on their missions, and despite sexual harassment from male colleagues and the sleep deprivation and stress that went with the job, were collectively awarded highest military honours, and 23 members were awarded the Gold Star of Hero of the Soviet Union. 30 air crew members of the regiment died during combat, from a total of over 200 serving during the war.

While it’s perhaps a little blood-thirsty to start the month out with war heroes, I think it is important to remember that women like these played significant roles in conflict throughout history. They aren’t always recognised war heroes, they aren’t always remembered by name, but they are always there.

References: 

BitnikGr. (2010, November 2). “night witches”! female combat pilots on eastern front! part-1!. Available at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fSEro1gVbOY [Accessed: 27 Feb 2014].

Dowdy, L. (2008). Aviation – the night witches. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.seizethesky.com/nwitches/nitewtch.html [Accessed: 27 Feb 2014].

Naughton, R. (2002). Marina raskova and the soviet women pilots of world war ii. [online] Retrieved from: http://www.ctie.monash.edu.au/hargrave/soviet_women_pilots.html [Accessed: 27 Feb 2014].

Night Witches. (2014, January 15). [online] Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_Witches [Accessed: 27 Feb 2014].

Noggle, A. (1994). A dance with death. College Station: Texas A & M University Press.