Philobiblon: Women's lives

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Women's lives

One of the things I try to do with this blog is celebrate the lives of forgotten or under-appreciated women. I'm still wrestling with the question as to why it is that women seem to disappear so easily from historical memory, when far less significant men survive.

I wanted to share information about a Yahoo group that is on much the same quest, sending out a daily email biography of a prominent woman on her birthday. New subscriptions are welcome.

Yesterday's subject was the English painter and illustrator Helen Allingham. You'll almost certainly have seen her work on a box of chocolates somewhere. What struck me about her life is how like its pattern was to that of so many modern women. Entirely by her own efforts, she established a career as an illustrator, but this ended when she married and had children. After a decade-long hiatus,, however, she started a second career as a watercolourist, and continued that until her death.

Today's character is Minnie Vautrin. I was writing yesterday of a would-be military hero, well in Nanking in 1937 she was a real hero.

"In Nanking, Vautrin is still remembered as Guanyin Pusa, "the living goddess of mercy," a heroine in the city's worst hour. When American Iris Chang discovered Vautrin's diary in Yale University Library in 1995, she was moved to write a book about the atrocities her own grandparents survived, saying "I felt that if anyone deserved her place in history, that person was Minnie Vautrin. ... Chang and Vautrin are the main characters portrayed in a recent Chinese national dance drama company production,_Nanking 1937_." (From today's email.)

Chang of course has her own tragic story.


Anonymous Purple Elephant said...

That group sounds great. I'm going over to sign up!

10/03/2005 06:04:00 pm  

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