Thursday, January 15, 2009
My Dearest Readers,
Yet another marvelous installment of Women of Fire by Maggie Grover!
Cheers and much love,
Ah, the holidays -- a great time to reconnect with family and friends. It's also a great time to get suggestions from them for my next blog. Over Christmas brunch, Susan B. Anthony came up in conversation. I thought, yes! Historic election just finished, new president coming in, let's talk about another woman with fire who is known for her work on the issue of women's suffrage -- first, a wee confession - when I was a girl, I thought it was "suffer-age", as in "long suffering". As apropos as that may seem to many woman, the word suffrage actually comes from the Latin suffragari meaning to support with one's vote. Anyway, I started my research on Susan B. Anthony. She was an articulate, driven woman and I found her to be quite marvelous and intriguing….but five pages into the research I found an even more intriguing, less well-known woman of the times -- Marietta Holley, born July 1836 and died March 1926. Marietta was an American humorist who used the medium of poetry, articles, and novels to explore cultural and social issues. Marietta was compared to Mark Twain in writing style and popularity -- although Twain appeared grudging in his praise of her works.
A key issue to Marietta was women's rights in a time when we had few. Women were not allowed testify in court, sue, make a contract, hold title to property, or establish a business. This was less than a hundred years ago, people! It's truly mind-boggling when you think on it. Marietta set out to change all that through her writing. So, for any author who has every dreamed of making a difference, she's your gal.
Born youngest of seven children on a small farm in New York -- side note, Susan Anthony moved to New York when she was six. Do you think the idea of woman's suffrage might have been in the New York drinking water ; - ) ? At 14, Marietta quit school to support her family by giving piano lessons. At 17, she left the family church and converted to the Baptist religion (oh, Marietta, you radical, you!). That affiliation ignited her voice, as the Baptists allowed women to speak as equals to men (what a concept).
Her first novel was released in 1872 and I can't resist, I really must give you the full title: My Opinions and Betsey Bobbet's: Designed as a Beacon Light, To Guide Women to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, But Which May be Read By Members of the Sterner Sect, Without Injury to Themselves of This Book. Yowza. This book earned her $600 (a substantial sum in those days). It launched a ten-book series which had a world-wide distribution. The heroine of the series was Samantha Allen, wife to Josiah. Marietta tackled the reform issues of the day by writing Samantha Allen as a plain-spoken woman who used wit, gentle satire, and humor to explore the issues Marietta was passionate about. I guess the humor is what softened the blow to the Sterner Sect so they could read her books without fear of injury.
One of Samantha Allen's observations (as written by Marietta) was too good not to share -- I'm paraphrasing here….although Samantha appreciated the Sterner Sect's sentiment of protecting women from the onerous burden of having to go all the way to a ballot box and cast a vote (I kid you not, that was one of the arguments used against giving the women the right to vote), Samantha noticed that this same sentiment of wanting to protect women from burdens didn’t seem to apply to protecting them from doing laundry by hand, churning butter, or bearing a dozen children.
Marietta also had an avid fear of travel which makes the Samantha Allen series even more amazing. Several of the Samantha Allen series included trips to New York City, Saratoga, and even Europe. Marietta did the vast majority of her research using only maps and travel guides (No Internet? YIKES!).
She was also much sought after by other women in the reform movement -- Susan B. Anthony for one (it's how I stumbled upon Marietta). Impressed by her eloquence, Susan asked Marietta repeatedly to speak at suffrage conventions. Marietta always refused, saying she was too shy to be on stage. The pen was the way she would contribute. And contribute she did. She had over 20 novels published and one of her novels, Samantha at Saratoga, spent a decade on the best-seller list because it spoke so deeply to so many people. One report I found put her book sales at 10,000,000. Yep, 10 Million. Although she doesn’t immediately come to mind when we talk of woman's rights, Marietta's works laid seed-thoughts in the minds and hearts of women all around the world. Those seeds sprouted, blossomed, and helped lay the groundwork for the historic election we just witnessed. So, THANK YOU, Marietta, for using the power of your pen on behalf of women.
If you'd like more info on Marietta, a good website (put up by New York school students who took this on as a project) is http://22.214.171.124/marietta/homepage.htm Be sure and listen to the music link, and, if you are so inclined, vote to have her inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.
Monday, January 5, 2009
Above, you see a Roman version of what would have been paraded on special occasions. The Romans, mind you, were overly obsessed with the cock. They displayed it on their door bells (certainly gives the whole term "pulling the cock" a new meaning), used it for rituals, paraded it throughout the streets, and so on and so forth. Although the dildos used by the Romans were made out of polished stone or wood. Ouch and ouch. And although it was used for pleasure, it was more associated with the deflowering of virgins. The reality was that women were more or less forced to worship the thing, whether they wanted to or not. Ceremonies were conducted around the dildo. In Rome, brides were not deflowered by their husbands, rather a statue with a huge cock (Priapus). And this was done in public for all to see. March 17th marked the feast of when a six foot high wooden dildo would be drawn through the streets to celebrate the fertility god Liber. They would chant to it (I would have loved to have been there...) and a virgin would "crown it" with a wreath.
In the book SEXY ORIGINS AND INTIMATE THINGS by Charles Panati (I highly recommend this book) he says, "In a Greek play from the third century B.C., one woman complains to another that she's tired of her friends' borrowing her beautiful new "scarlet leather-covered dildo" before she's had a chance to pleasure herself with it." To this I say, why the bloody hell were you borrowing it in the first place and how did they know about it? Ehm.
India, known for the Kama Sutra wasn't by any means immune. Were there were men, there were dildos. And were there were women, there were dildos being used for both pleasure and ritual purposes. As you can see by the sketch above, all sorts of contraptions were used and attached to make insertion of the dildo easier and I'm certain more fun. Arabic and Polynesian women used dildos, as well. But they didn't use stone or wood. They turned to a different and more natural form of nature found in one's garden. An unripened, firm banana. What they did with the banana once its use was seen to isn't something that has been recorded.
In Uganda, up until the 19th century, the deflowering of virgins through artificial means was critical. Hymen blood was viewed as being "evil" and so before a husband would bed his wife, he would pay a "priest-like figure" to do it. One who could endure the evils of the hymen. It was up to this priest to decide whether he should use the dildo or his own cock on the bride. I'm certain there wasn't anything pious about his "choices." The dildo was also used throughout Europe to cure what was known as "hysteria" among women. Meaning "hysterical" women not being properly orgasmed and as a result of it were understandably frustrated. The doctor would use a dildo to masturbate his patient and "relieve" the hysteria or send off the patient with a dildo with strict instruction to use it on a regular basis. Doctors.
Needless to say, I could go on. But fortunately for you, I won't. The whole point of this post was to say yes, dildos have been around for a very, very, VERY long time and that yes, they have been used for everything from pleasure to ceremony to God knows what else. Happy New Year and go find yourself a dildo!
Cheers and much love,