Today, I'm hosting a stop on the UKYA Blog Tour, which is running throughout November to promote British YA books and their incredible authors. This is all run by the lovely Lucy from Queen of Contemporary and Project UKYA blogs. She's a good friend of mine and has put a huge amount of effort to put this blog tour together so check out her stops on the tour and tell her how brilliant she is!
For my stop, I have one of my FAVOURITE authors, Marie-Louise Jensen, author of' 'The Lady in the Tower', 'Smuggler's Kiss' and 'The Girl in the Mask'. She's talking about women in history and why she chooses to make all her protagonists female. I'll shh now and pass this post over to Marie-Louise Jensen!
Women In History
To look at the history we are taught, especially in schools, you’d think women had made no contribution to the world other than cooking and having babies. Oh, and being queen occasionally. The only female name I recall from my school history lessons is Kitty O’Shea who got a mention in Irish history for bringing down politician Charles Purnell. She had a long running affair and three children out of wedlock with him. The classic scarlet woman – it was all her fault that fine man’s career was destroyed! Shame on her!
It’s a bit like in the Bible really. It was all Eve’s fault there. Bad woman, leading your poor unsuspecting husband astray and landing us all in sin and suffering!
I did two history units at university too. In one, no woman was mentioned. In the other – Viking history – we read the Icelandic sagas. I loved them, I really did. But in so many of them, the women were the cause of trouble: the temptress. Every feud that destroyed a family began with a woman and in every generation it was the women who shamed and stung their men into continuing the slaughter.
I don’t think it’s hugely different today. I revised history GCSE with my son last summer and scarcely a woman was mentioned. The only ones who are mentioned are doing traditionally womanly nurturing tasks like nursing (Florence Nightingale) or they are revered for their sexual modesty rather than their astute political skills (Queen Elizabeth I – the ‘virgin’ queen).
And is this really the truth? Were women really absent from all historical events of note? Have they done nothing but bear children and support men?
NO WAY, GIRLS! Don’t believe it for a second.
1) Women have been barred from occupations and kept out of power for many hundreds of years. The real low points of female oppression in the
were the witch burning of the Middle Ages and the Victorian era (Like Mrs
Thatcher, our first woman prime minister, our longest serving queen did nothing
for other women). UK
2) This is the most important point: MEN WROTE THE HISTORY BOOKS. Never forget that one. They and only they were allowed to be scholars, so they focused on the parts of history that appealed to them. Wars. Men. Kings. Wars. More Men. There might have been a virgin queen or two.
3) If women do defy convention and society’s rules and do something of note (and many did) IGNORE THEM! Pretend it didn’t happen, attribute the discovery or invention to someone else, question their morality or belittle them! Or best of all - blame them for everything men did wrong!
That keeps that pesky minority (AHEM - HALF THE HUMAN RACE!) out of history! The same strategy is applied to people of colour and others too, of course.
And this, my friends, is why I write historical fiction about girls in history. Strong girls who won’t be told who to be and do what they want to do. Girls who joust, rob, smuggle, study mathematics, travel, doctor and solve feuds rather than causing them. I’d like to write about one of the many women who made fabulous discoveries in science or maths but never get mentioned. I’d like to write about the women who pioneered acting on the stage instead of the boys playing the women’s roles. One day I will. I’m in the business of redressing the balance.
So when boys at schools ask me “Are you going to write a book for boys soon?” My answer is a big, fat, unapologetic NO!
Try reading about a few girls, lads. They are actually pretty awesome.