Mythological Girls: Ixchel

  Ixchel, or Ix Chel as she is also known, is the 16th century name for an ancient Mayan Jaguar deity. She was believed to be the goddess of the moon, midwifery, medicine and catastrophe. She is originally named as ‘Goddess O’ in The Dresden Codex, which is the oldest surviving text of the Americas and dates to approximately the 13th century. In this text, she is described as an aged deity with jaguar ears who was primarily responsible for midwifery and medicine. By the 16th century, the Poqomchi’ tribe of Yucatán who were the descendants of the Mayans, were referring to the deity as...

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Famous Female Outlaws: The Lioness of Brittany

Jeanne de Clisson, known from history as the Lioness of Brittany, began life as a Breton noblewoman in 1300. Her parents arranged for her marriage at the age of 12 to the 19 year old Geoffroy de Châteaubriant VIII. They had two children before he died prematurely in 1326. She married again in 1328 to Guy of Penthièvre, but this didn’t last long – the marriage was annulled in 1330 by Pope John XXII. Until her third marriage, Jeanne’s life was uneventful, but in 1330 she married Olivier de Clisson IV, a wealthy nobleman with lands in Blain, a castle in Clisson and a manor house in Nantes. They...

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Inspiring Women: The Edinburgh Seven

The Edinburgh Seven were a group of women who were the first to study at any British University. These women were Sophia Jex-Blake, Isabel Thorne, Edith Pechey, Matilda Chaplin, Helen Evans, Mary Anderson, and Emily Bovell. Sophia Jex-Blake had applied to study medicine in March 1869 but the University Court rejected her application on the grounds that the university could not make the necessary arrangements ‘in the interest of one lady’. Sophia took to The Scotsman and other newspapers to ask other women to join her petition. Isabel Thorne and Edith Pechey were the first two to...

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The Tale of Genji

  What was the first “real” novel? Who wrote it? Many people cite Cervantes’ Don Quixote as the first modern European novel, and Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe as the first English novel, but were either of these really the first? Though the modern concept of the novel has roots tracing back to Classical Greece and Rome, and has precursors in epic verse, the first novel, as we define it today, appeared in 11th century Japan. Written by Murasaki Shikibu, a lady-in-waiting at the Imperial Court, The Tale of Genji was definitively completed by 1021, but more likely finished around 1012....

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Agent 355

I’m sure each and every one of us has at one point or another wished that they were a suave, sophisticated and skilled secret agent. But is being a secret agent all about the glamorous lifestyles that are portrayed in the movies? Or is there something more? When you take a step back and think about it logically, it’s probably not all tuxedos and martinis but rather, a dangerous, difficult and lonely job to fulfil. Really, we should have more respect for the profession and those who are capable enough to do it. What we should also consider, is that even as far back as the 1700s, women...

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Review: The Foundling Museum – a hidden gem

The small but grand building for the Foundling Museum is tucked away in a corner of London rarely visited by your traditional tourist. Upon finding it, however, I found a fantastic little museum with great potential. We entered the museum not really knowing what to expect and were greeted by friendly staff who pointed us in the right direction. The first stop was the permanent exhibition, and for the next hour, we whiled away the minutes lost in the history of the Foundling Hospital and the personal stories of those children who had lived there. The Foundling Hospital was founded in 1739 by...

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Girl Guiding: A Brief History, Part Three

The organisation set up by Agnes and Robert in the UK started to change from 1916 onwards. Robert had married two years before and his wife, Olave Baden-Powell, slowly took over the running of the Girl Guide Association. She soon became the new public face of Girl Guiding and worked hard to drive the organisation forward. Rosebud groups, or Brownies as we know them today, were seeing continued success and were now joined by Senior Guide groups being set up for older girls. With the First World War still raging in Europe, these girls looked to support the war effort in any way they could. One...

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Mary Wollstonecraft’s messages for girls

This etching at the British Museum caught my eye. I liked the title. Be calm, my child, remember that you must do all the good you can the present day. Is this an important message for girls of the world? Could this be a good motto for your life? With everything that has been going on in the world recently, I’ve been feeling angry, upset and helpless. Perhaps this is all we can do, keep calm and ensure we do as much good as we can each day. Initially I felt the etching didn’t go with the title. All I see is a wealthy trio out taking a stroll in the park – a mother with her two girls,...

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Girl Guiding: A Brief History, Part Two – Agnes Baden-Powell

Agnes Baden-Powell and her incredible contribution to the Girlguiding Association is largely forgotten. Many young girls have grown up mistakenly believing that ‘the founders’ of the Scouting and Girlguiding Associations were Robert Baden-Powell and his wife, Olave Baden-Powell. I find myself being one of these girls and the discovery saddened me. It was, therefore, time to dig deeper and share the achievements of the rightful founder of the Girl Guides movement. Robert Baden-Powell made many attempts to include girls within his new Scouting Association. Sadly, the social ideals of the...

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The Ancient Egyptian Female Ideal

I’ve always been particularly fascinated by the portrayal of women in Ancient Egypt. Every single Egyptian woman illustrated in tombs or statues is always extremely slim and slender, youthful, and with a beautiful full black wig. This tomb-relief showing Djehutyhotep’s sister is no different. It’s very likely that not all women were truly like this, and that this portrayal is simply an Ancient Egyptian female ideal – but why? The Ancient Egyptians had many different gods and goddesses. The most prevalent Egyptian goddess was Isis. Isis herself was always shown as slim and youthful. She was...

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