Having read the amazing biographies of late, and other fictional-yet-historically-based takes on some of these women by Michelle Moran and Emma Campion, I can’t help but wonder if they are actually as they seem in history.
History is what was written down, right? And who writes down these views of people from the past?
Mostly men, I’d wager. At least, what was preserved and not destroyed.
History has not been kind to women in general (even now), and reading views on the past of women, through the eyes of men, should make anyone skeptical of how the past seemed to see women.
The blame game
A lot of blaming goes around of a woman seducing another’s husband, and a lot of fighting amongst women to vy for ‘top position’ of a man’s heart, but has anyone stopped and wondered: Have they even had a choice in it?
Surely, some women did NOT want to become a mistress to anyone, but when you’re trying to better yourself, your family and/or your situation with no real options of independence or freedom to do so, what other way is there to obtain access to a world of wealth that is completely shut off from you?
But you do what you have to do because it is a vicious game of survival in a time when your fate was hinged upon the whims of a few people, or if you were too beautiful it was a curse as you would then be basically sold in marriage (this is how I see what a dowry represents) to the highest bidder to bring the most money possible into the family.
Even as early as my mother’s time, my maternal grandmother was forced to bargain for the worth of my mother. Can you believe this? She had to bargain with my paternal grandmother to get the most money possible for her daughter, and on the other side, my paternal grandmother had to fight to lower the bride price.
This is ridiculous to us now, but my paternal grandmother said some very hurtful terrible things about her future daughter-in-law to make sure she paid as little as possible for her, even though my parents had a love marriage.
Or what choice did they have but to tie themselves to a man so that they could look respectable even though they may have just wanted to simply live as a bachelorette but couldn’t, in fear of being called a witch, or looked upon with suspicion of always trying to steal another’s man?
(Yes I am refusing to use the word ‘spinster’ now even though it has honourable origins, because the word today has become so twisted for us.)
How about having to make a hard choice to basically sell themselves to make sure their children wouldn’t suffer?
Smart let alone single women weren’t accepted as such
Worse of all, being business-minded or astute enough to obtain some sort of wealth that could turn into cash-flow assets (properties, or jewels later to be sold), and being pilloried for being money-minded?
A financially astute woman growing her own independent empire of assets and real estate without a man to ‘control her’ or would be greedy enough to want a piece of her hard earned pie, could easily be part of a conspiracy where he pretends they were ‘meant to be together but then she backed out’, and therefore he legally has a right to HER assets because he WOULD have been her husband had it not been for her refusal.
Who would take a woman’s word over a man’s back then? Not many, and especially not if he had any sort of position or power. A woman was constantly under suspicion versus a man.
And a smart woman? Don’t make me laugh.
She is usually painted as a shrew, or a vicious money-grubbing sort who could only think of money.
Jewels were the only way a woman had any wealth
History always looks down upon the women in the past for being ‘greedy’ by asking for jewels or money, but HOW THE BLOODY ELSE could they obtain such assets or any wealth of their own?
They could easily be given everything and then turned out of the house the next day on a whim.
They could one day be the lady of a huge title and property, but then as she is ‘under her husband’, be sent to live elsewhere while he settles in another family in front of her nose.
Jewels at least, and cash, can be easily sewn into your clothes so you can make a run for it, then sell the jewels for money later.
It is why I think, women are looked down upon for being distasteful magpies who love jewellery and shopping, when in fact, that is the only way they could amass any kind of wealth of their own and hide it without it being confiscated or seized.
A bag of diamonds is easily carried but a property or two? Easily snatched and deeded to a man who has decided you obtained it illegally somehow just by being a woman.
I always wonder when women are painted as vicious and greedy for amassing properties and/or lots of jewels as part of their only acceptable assets, whereas men are completely left alone in doing exactly the same thing; perhaps even applauded for being so business-minded and astute.
A man who is smart and great at turning money into a huge real estate portfolio? ELIGIBLE BACHELOR!
A woman who does the same? Clearly a thief.
I have never been happier to be a modern woman when I read these past stories, and they were made of strong stuff to have dealt with all of this.