La Pittura (Self-Portrait as the Allegory of Painting) - Artemisia Gentileschi (1593 - 1652/1653)
Apparently on Sunday it was International Women's Day. You might have noticed. It wasn't in all the papers writ large, it wasn't on the television or radio. In fact if you hadn't noticed it at all, you wouldn't have noticed that you didn't notice because absolutely barely anyone mentioned it.
Forty years ago now, women organised themselves, got to talking to each other and the Feminist Movement was born properly. There had been feminists before of course. The Medieval French writer, Christine de Pisan wrote a book, The City of Women an answer to the misogyny of the times. Artists like Artemisia Gentileschi who was one of the most amazing women of the 17th century along with many others, like Bathsua Makin and Anna Maria van Schurman were considered unusual for a woman. Works by women artists were bought for their novelty value the novelty being that a woman painted the work. In the case of Elisabetta Sirani, a painter of some speed as well as quality, she was accused of passing off her father's work as her own. She invited her accusers to a sitting where she proved her ability once and for all.
But in the 1960s, Feminism suddenly arose and would not be diminished. It was a bright flame calling for equality for women in every way. It had its excesses to be sure, most human cries against injustice have done, but it had at its core a hopeful message of equality, of justice and of right logic.
That a woman's place is anywhere she damn well pleases. That she has the right to be able to walk by herself without fear. That she is to be respected for her humanity and to be treated as the equal of men. That she should not be exploited and diminished or degraded by others. That she is neither a goddess nor a worm, but a Woman and that to be so is a fine and wonderful thing.
In this crucible of rage for justice that led to similar fights of race and class and sexuality is the underlying message that all of us have the right to be who we are, regardless of our difference - without harming each other. My mother was a feminist and it was in the Spring that she was born and that she died. I grew up quietly influenced by her but also with great female role models: Mrs Endean, Mrs Linford, Serena Graysmark, Lauren Atallah, Miss Moylan-Jones, Danielle Gaillemin, Barbara Low, Mrs Price and many others my poor memory cannot find names for, though their faces linger on. Now I still have women friends, more so than other men indeed and I am in awe of them, love them deeply and respect and admire them utterly. Penny Steel, Pamela Wood, Jane Pearce, Paula Christodolou, Halinka Lezanowski, Jackie Palmer, Debra Thorpe and many others who have honoured me with their friendship.
Looking at my blog list too, there are women like the awesome Jackie Morris, Rima Staines, Moonroot, Ella Hall, Jodie Carleton, Sharon Mendham, Clotilde Dusoulier and others.
Like many I have had problems of all kinds in my life, but one lucky constant has been that I have always had such wonderful, witty, fine, glorious women in my life and for that I am extremely grateful. Most Honoured Women, I salute you. Happy Women's Day.