Tag Archives: women in history


KU3.2.4_Curie-3Great Ladies of History is a Patreon-sponsored blog series for tansyrr.com! One of the rewards at the $10 tier (Great Ladies Patron!) and at the $20 tier (Deluxe Super Special Queen-Emperor of Glorious Patronage) gives you the magical ability to choose any woman of history, fiction or art (yes, superhero comics count) to write a short essay about. As always the word ‘great’ has many potential meanings…

You can check out this and many other exciting Patreon rewards at my sponsorship page.

This essay is sponsored by Patreon supporter Andrew Finch, AKA the Silent Producer.


Madame Marie Sklodowska Curie (1867-1934), also known as the first (and often only) female scientist of history that anyone can name, was a Polish scientist famous for her work in physics and chemistry, and being a pioneer of studies into radioactivity. She developed techniques for isolating radioactive isotopes, discovered two elements, polonium and radium, and even coined the term ‘radioactivity’. She also established mobile X-Ray machines for use during World War I. Marie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize (and then did it again for good measure).

Growing up in Russian-occupied Warsaw, Marie Sklodowska was not allowed to apply to university because she was a girl. She and her sister Bronya defied Russian authorities to continue their education in the Flying University, an underground pro-Polish educational programme which operated out of people’s private houses. Marie then worked as a tutor and a governess to help pay for Bronya to get an official degree in Paris, on the understanding that Bronya would do the same for her. Years later, Marie herself reached Paris, to study physics, chemistry and mathematics at the Sorbonne. She met her future husband Pierre Curie after graduation, when a friend made arrangements for her to use some of his spare laboratory space.

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Friday Links has its Rollerskates On

Remember roller skates? Remember disco? Too young or too old or just right to care about either of those things? It doesn’t matter because the Rollercade Glow Party wants you anyway! The anthology ‘Glitter and Madness,’ a co-production between the editors of Apex and Electric Velocipede has just gone live as a Kickstarter, and I’m one of the authors committed to producing crazy glittery roller derby gold. No pressure or anything.

The Glitter and Madness website can be found here, and you can like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter at @glitzymadness. More to the point, you can support the project for as little as $10. Help make the glitter madness happen!

But what else has been happening on the internet lately? As we discussed on the latest episode of Verity! it was Delia Derbyshire Day in the UK recently. Was there ever a name more suited to having a day in its honour? I kind of want someone to write the Delia Derbyshire Murder Mysteries now…

The Mary Sue showcases a military design for Wonder Woman based on Scythian armour.

Lisa Hannett writes about Australian horror and gothic fiction.

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Gender, Fantasy & Female Pirates

Some great posts doing the round this week, some in response to my Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy post, and some being independently awesome but theme-relevant.

Foz Meadows follows up on my post with an incredibly impressive horde of links about women in history, in support of the very important point that Your Default Narratives Are Not Apolitical. Writing sexist or male-centric narratives into your stories is a choice, regardless of how much thinking you put into that choice.

Hoyden About Town, meanwhile, called for some recommendations of fantasy novels that treat women like people, and they haven’t had nearly enough of them yet. Go, recommend, and read!

J. Michael Melican talks about his own personal revelations about gender, sexism and fantasy – some thoughtful stuff there, particularly in how to take uncomfortable feedback as a writer that you may not be doing it right yet, despite the best of intentions.

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A Year in TansyRR.com

The response to my Tor.com post on “Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy” has been pretty overwhelming. Not only have there been many, many readers over there (the comments thread is still going strong, though it has turned overnight into a discussion about gender in children’s fiction which… is not a bad thing to be talking about?) but over 2500 people have tuned in to this blog to check the post out here, since Thursday. That’s… a lot, by my standards.

So if you’re here for the first time, hi, I’m Tansy! I write books, and talk a lot.

Here are some other Gender & Pop Culture posts from this year that I’m quite proud of:

Sexing Up the Classics
Mothers & Daughters, Battle-Embroidery & Bears
Babies & Bicycles: Watching Call the Midwife
Hack, Slash, Squish: Gender and Sex In Season One of Game of Thrones
What Geek Girls Wear (is none of your business)

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Historically Authentic Sexism in Fantasy. Let’s Unpack That.

A great, thoughtful article at the Mary Sue on one of my pet topics: the common justification of sexist fantasy fiction being that it’s historically authentic.

I am BUSY today, far too busy for a rant, but then I felt one coming on, and was worried I might end up with a migraine if I tried to stifle it. You know how it is. So let’s talk about sexism in history vs. sexism in fantasy.


I agree with pretty much everything said in the Mary Sue article: when you’re writing fantasy inspired by history, you don’t have to take all the ingrained sexism of historical societies along for the party, and even when you do, you don’t have to write women in a sexist or demeaning way. Your fantasy will not break by treating women as if they are people too.

But my rant is actually not quite about that stuff at all. It’s about history, and this notion that History Is Authentically Sexist. Yes, it is. Sure it is. We all know that. But what do you mean when you say “history?”

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Swords Down, Flappers!

Happy birthday to me! My Flappers With Swords blog tour is now done. It was a boutique tour in the end, largely because I found myself writing substantial essays instead of short, easy posts, and I exhausted myself all too quickly. Still, I had great fun talking about history, women, and some of the crunchier (and occasionally, sillier issues I came across while writing the Creature Court series, and fantasy fiction in general.

If any new readers discovered me and my Kindlicious editions of the Creature Court books in recent weeks, do let me know! These things make authors very happy.

If you didn’t get a chance to check out all the posts, here they are below. Much gratitude to everyone who has written a review for the Creature Court books on Goodreads or Amazon, and an extra special multitude of thanks to the many awesome bloggers who let me borrow their space & their readership to help get word of my books out there. You all rock!
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Friday Links Prefers To Be Called ‘Sir’

I loved this article at the Mary Sue about women in history who have held the titles traditionally belonging to men. So many interesting women – some of whom I’d never heard of before! The uses of ‘king’ by women particularly interested me because that was something I was trying to do with Velody in the Creature Court books – when there has no one but men holding the title of ‘king’ for as long as people can remember, you keep using the damn word even if there’s a woman doing it now.

Also at the Mary Sue, I loved this depiction of women’s work in World War II, one of my favourite eras/topics of social history.

Amanda linked me to this great post about 20’s and 30’s fashion and how they actually worked (and why they so often don’t look right when worn by modern women) – including some gorgeous images of classic dresses as they might be worn.

Bookseller+Publisher have released the statistics of books reviewed in Australian publications, with gender breakdowns. Eye-opening, occasionally pleasing, and mostly depressing.

I also really appreciated receiving this link, about the choice of teaching texts in high schools, and how books by and about women are being left out. Remember this one when the “oh noes all these books for girls are excluding boy readers” discussion gets rolled out again.

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Matrons of Awesome Part IV – Good and Evil at the End of the Republic

You may have noticed by now that Roman women tend to be classified as either Good or Bad. I used to think this was significant until a good friend and fellow scholar pointed out that Romans categorise everything this way. Men, women, emperors, fictional characters, countries. Everything is either Good or Bad.

The work I did over the three thousand years or so it took to complete my PhD thesis (okay, seven) revolved a great deal around the Roman idea of what constituted Good and Bad women. Lucretia and Cornelia on one side, Clodia and Fulvia on the other. The women of this post, however, provide some of the best examples of this division.

Julius Caesar, Marble, c. 50 BCE, Vatican Museums

A brief history lesson first: Rome was a Kingdom, then a Republic, the latter being a political system best described as ‘every rich man gets a vote’. Then, in a time when the Republic was falling to rack and ruin, a popular man. He had some good ideas about how to run Rome and the growing empire of territories it had conquered. He became high priest (pontifex maximus), then Dictator (a short-term position brought in occasionally when shit needed to get done). Finally, he was made Dictator for life. He was the only one that Rome trusted to actually Get the Job Done. He also looked good in tight jeans. (shut up, this is my version of the story) His name was Gaius Julius Caesar.

You may have guessed, I’m a bit of a fan.

Caesar’s Achilles heel was that he tended to assume everyone was (almost) as smart as he was, and that the world would see that he was trying to save Rome, get shit done, etc. But success breed jealousy, and many of his peers resented his a) smarts b) popularity c) saucy Egyptian mistress.

Because, yes, Caesar had visited Egypt to borrow their navy and ended up in bed with their Queen. His dalliance with Cleopatra, and other less than subtle reminders of his new power sent off warning bells in the heads of many of his fellow senators. (the ones whose power he had effectively usurped…)

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Matrons of Awesome Part III – Republican Vixens

I’m sure you’re good and sick of Roman matronal and maternal virtues by now, so let’s have a bit of scandal and vice for balance.

wall painting from the House of the Mysteries, Pompeii

5. Pompeia

Pompeia was the second of Caesar’s three wives, the first being Cornelia (a child bride, mother of his only legitimate child, Julia) and the last being Calpurnia (the one he cheated on with Cleopatra). Pompeia is memorable because she was married to Caesar during the first years of his career as pontifex maximus, high priest of Rome. It was a political marriage, she being the daughter of Pompey the Great, an ally and rival of Caesar’s

(Pompey also married Caesar’s daughter, which adds a whole layer of ick to the proceedings).

This is a story about the Bona Dea. Bona Dea means ‘good goddess,’ and she was a goddess without name or image. Men and women alike worshipped her, but there was one festival of the year which was restricted to women – or, to be specific, respectable married women (matronae). Every year, the wife of a public official would host the festival. All the men of the house would be turned out for the night (even male slaves were not allowed to remain) and the matronae of the city would come around.

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