Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A woman with crotch

Dear Readers,
As I am still on holiday, and will be for a bit longer (believe me, I bloody needed it), I have pulled in yet another fabulous resource to help me post while I am away. The fabulous and talented Maggie Grover. Please post! This is but post 1 of 2. I promise to begin posting once again come August 15th.
Delilah Marvelle

First, I’d like to thank Delilah for inviting me to her blog. She and I go back many years. I won’t reveal how many, for a woman never posts her age, nor the age of her friends. Suffice it to say, I’ve known Delilah since shortly after she first learned to play the pianoforte and she is quite accomplished at it now. It’s truly an honor to post here, as I, too, share her great love of stories as well as her passion to discuss things that most would shy away from. Perhaps this passion stems from both of us being voracious readers and we’ve learned to never underestimate the power of reading, especially the power of reading banned books. It causes you to ask questions. Questions about the story of Adam and Eve. Questions about sex. And, as Delilah put it in her first post, questions about why, even in the earliest forms of writing about history and culture, men controlled women’s sexuality and the telling of their stories. We wanted to know more about HER-story, not HIS-story.
So, my postings will be about women who stood up, spoke up, and made a difference. Or, as a friend of mine calls it, women who have crotch. And, yes, there were plenty of women before our times who had crotch, we just haven’t heard about most of them. As I mainly write historical novels about the people of Great Britain, I’ll tell you the tale of one of their all-time favorite heroines who had uber-crotch. She was Boudica (or Boudicea) by name, warrior+queen+priestess by game. And what a game it was. Limited written sources do exist, and two Roman historians (Dio Cassius and Tacitus) speak of a tall, tawny-haired woman with a fierce aspect. Basically, a woman capable of scaring the pants off the men of the Roman empire – well, not literally, because the Romans wore a garment more like a tunic. Anyway, you get the idea, she made the Romans tremble -- and not in a good way. Tacitus researched his biography of Boudica by reading documents of the time. Dio Cassius interviewed his father-in-law, one of the Romans who had his pants scared off. I think Dio Cassius described the Roman mindset best when he wrote, “Moreover, all this ruin was brought upon the Romans by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame.” What was the ruin? Well, again with Dio Cassius -- a “great shock to the Roman government for rarely in their annals had there been a rebellion of such magnitude and ferocity.”
Rebellion? Led by a woman? But why? How? Well, around 60 CE, Boudica lived near what is now Norfolk, England and was married to an Iceni king, although she most likely was a queen in her own right – some say from the Iceni tribe itself, or possibly even as far away as Ireland. Either way, she was a woman of power, from the upper class, which if you were a Celt, meant you were trained in the art of a warrior, and more than likely, in the spiritual, or druidic arts as well, for the Celts were a people with a rich and complex culture, worthy of a series of their own blog-postings. Which reminds me, Boudica’s story is no less rich, so to do her justice, this will be a two-part posting.
Now, the backstory to her rebellion. Five Romans and one Iceni king (Boudica’s husband) figure in the mix. Three of the men you’ve probably heard of - the other three, probably not. The first was a Roman general who really, really liked being in charge of Rome and its provinces. Think of it – all that power, all that money, and throw in the possibility of being made a god by the people? What upwardly mobile male worth his testosterone wouldn’t like that? So, he asked himself, how can I expand on this? Why, simple -- get more resources for Rome or save Rome from Her enemies. What kind of resources? Iron and tin. And who were her enemies? Well, let’s see, Rome in 55 BCE pretty much included everything bordering the Mediterranean, give or take a few countries like Egypt with her soon-to-be Queen Cleopatra (this is a hint as to who the general was). Said general decides that the most exciting place left was a mysterious island across the channel from what we now call France. The place was inhabited by, as viewed by the Romans, sword-wielding, grove-worshipping barbarians. And, what a coincidence, the barbarian’s land just happened to have iron and tin. This general assured the Roman senate that the resources weren’t what the conflict was really about. He simply wanted to bring the benefits of a Roman way of life to them. The general’s name? Julius Caesar.
It wasn’t really much of an invasion, but it did lay the groundwork for the next one, and Caesar did get a really nice triumphal parade out of it. Jump ahead almost 100 years. Claudius, the fourth Roman emperor, realizes he, too, needs to have a military triumph. Where better? So, off Claudius went to the mysterious island. He invaded, made a slew of treaties with the local Celtic kings he had no intention of keeping, then returned to Rome just in time for his triumphal march. Only thing is, the men he left behind weren’t exactly, shall we say, politically correct? Jump ahead a few years, the cost of living is up, slavery is on the rise, local resources are being plundered and it’s time for a fiddle-playing emperor to come to power. It’s also the time for Boudica’s husband to die…and alas, I'm out of space. The rest of Boudica's story will have to wait until my next post. In the meantime, feel free to post your favorite uber-woman from history and be sure and tell us why.


Eliza Knight said...

Hi Maggie,

Great post, you left us in suspense, can't wait!

Boudica was an amazing woman. I watched a two hour special on her on the history channel.

Another one of my favorite heroines is Elizabeth I.

Annie Melton said...

A woman with crotch. I like that.

It reminds me of the line by another woman with crotch (but I can't remember if it was Chrissie Hynde or Joan Jett): "Girls got balls, they just wear 'em a little higher up. "

These kind of women have always fascinated me... can't wait to read more ;-)

Annie Melton

Jessa Slade said...

"Girls got balls, they just wear 'em a little higher up."

Where can I get the t-shirt!?!

Although women warriors definitely deserve the ink (Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, etc.) I also find myself drawn to stories of women who did little things that managed to change history, like Rosa Parks. A flaming sword and swollen ankles... yeah, we can change the world.

Anonymous said...

Maggie, I bet you have this bumper sticker: "Well Behaved Women Rarely Make History"

I'm fond of Maggie Thatcher since we lived in England while she was in office, but like Jessa I enjoy reading about women who did seemingly insignificant things that make an impact, like not giving up a bus seat. You never what results your actions will have.

Eliza Knight said...

I love your blog so much I nominated you for the Excellent Blog Award!


Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Boudica has been one of my favorites since I read the Mistletoe and the Sword by Anya Seton. My favorite Women with Crotch would have to be Eleanor of Aquitaine.

Anonymous said...

Great story! I love history told this way. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for all the great comments and telling me of your favorite women -- all are definitely warriors in their own way -- whether by ruling a kingdom, advocating for policy changes in Parliament or fighting for equal rights -- none of which was for the faint of heart. And, to play off what Jesse said about swollen ankles, I actually had the privilege of hearing in person Ginger Rogers say -- "I danced ever step Fred did, but backwards and in heels." Women do rock.

Thanks, Eliza, for nominating me for the Excellent Blog Award - I'm honored! Since Elizabeth I is a favorite of yours, I'm assuming you've seen the first Elizabeth movie with Kate Blanchett? And that moment at the end when she emerges in all her regalia as the queen -- Wow! Stand back lesser mortals! I recently learned an interesting thing about Elizabeth. She supposedly lost her hair due to the lead in her make-up, so she always wore wigs which revealed a wide, bare forehead. This became so popular a style among the women of the Court, they sought ways to go "forehead-bald". The only way to do it permanently (short of the lead poisoning) was to slather lye across the forehead until the hair fell out. Ouch.

Shirley -- have you seen Love Actually? There is a moment when Hugh Grant nods to the picture of Margaret Thatcher and calls her a saucy wench. Priceless. And sadly, I don't have the bumper sticker, but it is certainly a good one!

Jessa -- I agree, yes we can change the world! I do like the t-shirt idea. Should you find one, let me know.

Elizabeth -- I've not read the book by Anya Seton (although I love her work). I'll have to check the library for it. And Eleanor of Aquitaine -- another powerful woman. Marrying two kings and giving birth to two more while protecting her lands and wealth - definitely a woman who could hold her own in the corridors of power.

And, to close, I'm glad you like my entry on Boudica. As you can probably tell, she is a particular favorite of mine.

Fedora said...

Ooh, how interesting! Thanks for such a fascinating post!