Musical Gals: Hildegard von Bingen

Music Period: Early Music (500 – 1400) Location: Bermersheim, Germany Claim to Fame: using repeated motifs within her music and giving religious music a freer, almost improvisatory, feel. As Maria von Trapp sings in The Sound of Music, “let’s start at the very beginning”, and discover the story of a female composer from the 1100s. We are talking of Hildegard von Bingen and today we think of her as one of the first identifiable female composers of Western music. Yet, before 1979, there was no mention of her name. You would not find her in any reference book if searching the university library...

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Famous Female Outlaws: Bonnie Elizabeth Parker

Bonnie Elizabeth Parker (1910-1934) was famously known as one half of Bonnie and Clyde, the American duo whose criminal activity and relationship during the Great Depression has been highly romanticised. Bonnie met Clyde Barrow when she was just 19. She was already married when she met him, having married when she was 16. At the time she met Clyde, her husband was serving time for murder. Soon after their initial meeting Clyde was imprisoned for robbery. Bonnie visited him every day, and managed to smuggle in a gun to help his escape. He was soon caught and sent back to prison. When he was...

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Musical Gals: Where are all the female composers?

Imagine this. You have walked into your morning registration class and, as always, your form tutor has left everyone a challenge to do. The challenge today is to write down all the women composers you know of. It makes you think for a minute before writing. The word ‘composer’ has stopped you. There are of lots of female artists within the music industry today and many who write their own music. You start writing down names and after two minutes of writing your list contains the likes of Adele, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Rhianna, Katy Perry, Ellie Goulding, Meghan Trainor, Miley Cyrus, and of...

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Political Powerhouses: Golda Meir

Golda Meir was born in the Ukraine but when she was eight years old her family moved to the United States. It was during her time living in the U.S. that she became a committed Zionist (a person who supports the re-establishment of the Jewish nation in Israel today). Following her marriage she moved to Palestine where she had two children. Her political activism first drew widespread attention during World War II. She argued there should be increased Jewish immigration considering what was happening to the Jewish population all over Europe at the time. In 1948 she was one of the signatories...

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Famous Female Outlaws: Elise Eskilsdotter

Elise was a Norwegian noblewoman who turned to piracy during the 1400s. She had a normal Norwegian upbringing with her father, Eskild Ågesen, a Knight from Scania and her mother Elisabeth Jakobsdatter Hegle. Her precise date of birth is unknown, but she married in 1420.  At the time, the average age of marriage ranged from late teens to early 20s. She married Olav Nilsson, a member of the noble Skanke family. Olav was a wealthy landowner in Norway and Denmark, and during the Dano-Hanseatic War served Christian I of Denmark as a privateer. However, problems began when the war ended: Olav...

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Mythological Girls: Sekhmet

Sekhmet is one of the oldest Egyptian deities. She was originally the warrior goddess associated with Upper Egypt prior to its unification in 2930 BCE. Her Lower Egyptian equivalent prior to this was Bastet. She had a variety of names including the “Lady of Terror” and the “Lady of Pestilence”, both of which she received from The Book of the Dead. Sekhmet was also referred to as “She Who is Powerful”, which was a name the ancient Egyptians gave to any female deity whom they considered to be dangerous. She was depicted with the head of a lioness wearing a sun disk and a uraeus, as well as...

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Famous Female Outlaws: Anne Bonny

Anne Bonny (c. 1697-c. 1792) was a pirate in the Caribbean. Anne is believed to have been born in County Cork Ireland, the daughter of Irish lawyer William McCormac and his servant, Mary Brennan. The most consistent date historians have for her birth is 1697. Soon after, William moved his family to Charleston, South Carolina and began to rebuild his legal career in a new country, dropping the ‘Mc’ in his name to fit in. In her early teens, Anne lost her mother, and took over the running of her father’s household. There are many rumours about the fiery nature of Anne when she was a teenager,...

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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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