From the Society Pages to the Museum in the 18th Century

How Gilda Darthy’s bed tells a story about writing women back into history. By Amanda BermanCuratorial Assistant, Department of Sculpture and Decorative ArtsGetty Museum With its grand size and luxurious upholstery, this bed makes a statement. However, it is also special because we know so much about it. It’s unusual for an 18th-century piece of[…]

When Women Dominated the Beer Industry until Witch Accusations Poured In

Much of the iconography we associate with witches, from the pointy hat to the cauldron, originated from women working as master brewers. Introduction What do witches have to do with your favorite beer? When I pose this question to students in my American literature and culture classes, I receive stunned silence or nervous laughs. The[…]

Women and the Beverage That Change the World

After the development of craft beer in the early 1980s, more women started to once again infiltrate the industry. Birth of the Fermented Beverage The earliest record of beer being produced comes from Mesopotamia around 5300 BCE, by accident, when a woman whom was later known as Ninkasi, the “goddess of beer” stumbled upon the[…]

What Was Life Like for Women in the Medieval World?

A glimpse of the everyday challenges and triumphs medieval women faced during the Middle Ages. By Erin Migdol, Elizabeth Morrison, and Larisa Grollemond Introduction While depictions of the Middle Ages often revolve around knights, dragons, and fairy tales, the stories of how real people lived during this tumultuous time are often even more fascinating—particularly the[…]

The Long History of Women Warriors

Women as warriors—or certainly hunters and not simply gatherers—have a long history reaching back thousands of years to pre-history. The American experience with true women warriors—not just our wonderful Hollywood Wonder Woman—has only recently begun. However, with the benefit of recent archaeological discoveries and re-examinations, we can say that women have been warriors—or certainly hunters—for[…]

“To the Rescue of the Crops”: The Women’s Land Army during World War II

Throughout the wartime years, the need for workers in agriculture, as well as in manufacturing and the military, was unprecedented. By Dr. Judy Barrett LitoffProfessor of HistoryBryant University By Dr. David C. SmithBird and Bird Professor Emeritus of American HistoryThe University of Maine We’re working for Victory, too; growing food for ourselves and our countrymen.[…]

The Black Women Activists behind the Montgomery Bus Boycott

Honoring the unsung heroes of the Civil Rights Movement. My project, Mug Shot Portraits: Women of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, illuminates the under-acknowledged legacy of Black women’s activism through a series of portraits based on mug shots of women who were arrested during the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 and ’56, the pivotal event that[…]

The Everyday Resistance of Enslaved Women

Studying history is like detective work—especially when the rebellion of Black women has been left out of the story. In her new book, A Kick in the Belly, Afrocentric British historian Stella Dadzie describes how her research into slavery-era documents reveals the lives of enslaved Black women in the Caribbean colonies and the American South.[…]

A Century of Black Women as Important Party and Electoral Organizers

Even without the right to vote, Black women engaged in political organizing and partisan debates. Today, Black women’s influence in political campaigns is visible and dramatic. In recent presidential and midterm elections, over 90% of Black women’s votes went to the Democratic candidates. Preliminary figures for the 2020 presidential election indicate that the Biden/Harris ticket[…]

The Renaissance Queen Who Defied the Holy Roman Emperor

Queen Bona helps us understand how elite Renaissance women acquired, maintained, and negotiated power. Among the women of the European Renaissance, Bona Sforza is often stereotyped similarly to her aunt – the fabulous Lucrecia Borgia – as a dangerous and meddling femme fatale. Bona Sforza was the daughter of Gian Galeazzo Sforza, the Duke of[…]

How Two Introverted French Women Quietly Fought the Nazis

Lucy and Suzanne’s story shows that quiet, persistent rewriting of the narrative of oppression can be a powerful means of fighting back. Whenever Lucy Schwob and Suzanne Malherbe went into town to do some shopping, they also snuck messages to the Nazi occupation forces. Suzanne pulled a small note typed on a piece of thin[…]

The Public Acceptance of Women as Leaders in the Middle Ages

It can be hard to estimate broad social trends in the Middle Ages, but some sources allow us to get pretty good samples. Inheritance vs. Appointment This is a question which people have struggled with for a very long time, as a case of disputed succession from fourteenth-century France shows. In 1341, the duke of[…]

Picturing Equality: How Imogen Cunningham Lived and Worked

A new book explores the photographer’s dedication to feminism and civil rights in the early 20th century. By Zoe Goldman and Estefana Valencia Introduction Photographer Imogen Cunningham was born in Portland, Oregon, in 1883, when the fight for equal rights for women—legally, politically, economically, and socially—was gaining ground in the U.S. Cunningham’s career and life[…]

“I Am My Own Heroine”: A Woman’s Ambition and Fame in the 19th Century

Exploring one of the earliest bids by a woman to secure celebrity through curation of “personal brand”. This article, “I Am My Own Heroine”: How Marie Bashkirtseff Rewrote the Route to Fame, was originally published in The Public Domain Review under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0. If you wish to reuse it please see: https://publicdomainreview.org/legal/ The diary[…]

American Women of the Colonial Period and the Nineteenth-Century City

All opportunities for education, prospect, liberation and development were closed to women. By Khelifa Arezki and Katia Mahmoudi Introduction The aim of the present paper is to shed light on women’s condition within the American society during the colonial period and the 19th century. The study will center on the gendered place that women were[…]

The Social and Legal Status of Women in the Middle Ages

The very concept of “woman” changed in a number of ways during the Middle Ages. Introduction Women in the Middle Ages occupied a number of different social roles. During the Middle Ages, a period of European history lasting from around the 5th century to the 15th century, society was patriarchal and this type of patriarchal[…]

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross: Pioneering Death as a Part of Medical Practice

Kübler-Ross was one of the central figures in the hospice care movement. Introduction Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (July 8, 1926 – August 24, 2004) was a Swiss-American psychiatrist, a pioneer in near-death studies, and author of the internationally best-selling book, On Death and Dying (1969), where she first discussed her theory of the five stages of grief,[…]

Helen Taussig: Changing the Face of Medicine for Children in the 20th Century

She was the first woman to be elected head of the American Heart Association. Introduction Helen Brooke Taussig (May 24, 1898 – May 20, 1986) was an American cardiologist, working in Baltimore and Boston, who founded the field of pediatric cardiology. She is credited with developing the concept for a procedure that would extend the[…]

The Nudge and Tie Breaker That Took Women’s Suffrage from Nay to Yea in 1920

The final step toward ratification hinged on the decision of one young man in Tennessee: State Rep. Harry T. Burn. Introduction The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified 100 years ago this week, and it comprises just 39 words: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied[…]

Suffragists and Hunger Strikes in the Early 20th Century

How suffragists first used hunger strikes as a form of resistance and protest. Introduction Asylum seekers held in detention by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in California have launched a series of hunger strikes to demand personal protective equipment, medical care and provisional release as COVID-19 cases surge among incarcerated populations. In Kentucky, four activists went[…]

Were Women the True Artisans Behind Ancient Greek Ceramics?

A new paper makes the case that scholars have ignored the role of female ceramicists in Greece going back some 3,000 years. By Dr. Max G. Levy Painted over the enormous midsection of the Dipylon amphora—a nearly 2,800-year-old clay vase from Greece—silhouetted figures surround a corpse in a funeral scene. Intricate geometric patterns zig and[…]

The Shoulders of Bella Abzug for Today’s Women in Politics and Government

A warrior for every social justice movement of her day, Abzug stood on the front lines protesting injustices that still roil this nation. Introduction Since winning the vote a century ago, only four American women have captured the major parties’ nominations for president and vice president. Blasting open the road leading them to the top[…]

Suffragist Village: Leaders in the Ballot for Women’s Right to Vote in the United States

After years of struggle, on Aug. 18, 1920, Tennessee became the final state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment. Introduction Through the mid-19th century and early 20th centuries, women from all backgrounds in the United States pushed for social reforms that affected their lives. They formed antislavery organizations, temperance unions and sparked movements for equality[…]

Cleopatra: ‘Queen of the Nile’

As the last Ptolemaic heir of Alexander the Great, she remained committed to his policy of cultural fusion. Introduction Cleopatra VII Philopator (January, 69 B.C.E. – August 12, 30 B.C.E.) was queen of Ancient Egypt, the last member of the Macedonian Ptolemaic dynasty and hence the last Greek ruler of Egypt. Although many other Egyptian[…]

Marie Tharp: The Woman Who Pioneered Mapping the Ocean Six Decades Ago

Geologist and cartographer Tharp changed scientific thinking about what lay at the bottom of the ocean. Introduction Despite all the deep-sea expeditions and samples taken from the seabed over the past 100 years, humans still know very little about the ocean’s deepest reaches. And there are good reasons to learn more. Most tsunamis start with[…]

The Victorian Prostitute Whose ‘Pox’ Inspired Feminists

In Victorian times, syphilis was believed to arise spontaneously in a prostitute’s body, a result of ‘immorality’. But as medical knowledge advanced, early feminists began to challenge the law that detained and punished women for their illness. By Anna Faherty / 07.20.2017 Associate Lecturer University of the Arts London Fitzrovia, 1875. A woman recorded only as “A[…]

The Life of Rosina Bulwer Lytton: Women and Mental Health in the 19th Century

Rosina Bulwer Lytton, from A Blighted Life, 1880 / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons The life of Rosina Bulwer Lytton provides a fascinating insight into the attitudes towards women and mental health in the 19th century. By Julia Nurse / 09.18.2015 Collections Researcher Wellcome Library Dismissed for years as the mad wife of the novelist and[…]

The Treatment of Women in Prison in the 19th Century

Woking Convict Invalid Prison: a woman prisoner in solitary confinement / Wellcome Collection, Creative Commons Prison officers tried to regulate women’s minds and bodies, and maintain a new disciplinary routine in the second half of the 1800s. Many female inmates resisted.      By (left-to-right) Dr. Rachel Bennett, Dr. Catherine Cox, and Dr. Hilary Marland /[…]

The Ladies of Llangollen: A ‘Romantic Friendship’ in the 18th Century

Two 18th-century women, Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler, are famous for their romantic friendship, which was then a concept helpful for lesbian couples hoping to avoid a scandal. By Sarah Bentley / 03.12.2018 Visitor Experience Assistant Wellcome Collection In her book, ‘The Ladies of Llangollen: A study in romantic friendship’, author Elizabeth Mavor sends the[…]