Women in history

Earlier this week we had International Women’s Day, and it seems like a splendid time to link to this fabulous article from English Heritage. It’s an interview with Bettany Hughes, one of my favorite historians, on the subject of women in history–namely, why there is so LITTLE written about women. (If you haven’t caught her book on Helen of Troy, it’s truly superb, as is the companion documentary.)

In the interview, Hughes makes the point that women are the subject of about half a percent of recorded history. HALF A PERCENT. Fifty percent of the population and yet we are erased 99.5% of the time.

That chilling fact is the reason I am so enthralled with my royal ancestors. It’s not because they were queens and empresses–it’s because that royal blood meant they were the only women whose stories were told. Whatever other women were doing has largely been lost to history; these women have a small, quiet voice. If we listen closely enough, we know they were issuing charters, founding monasteries and schools, building churches, endowing charities, administering justice. Every other woman to whom I can claim kinship is mute, but these echoes are at least whispers of the power wielded by feminine hands.