The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 25th February


theodoraNo birthday alloted today, so a random choice:

Theodora Bosanquet OBE 1881-1961 (no idea what day she was born, history and the internet refuses to relate)

Now. Theodora is best known for being Henry James’ secretary. Not a good start, but remarkable that anyone could get known for being anyone’s secretary really. James described her as boyish.

Apart from typing up James’ manuscripts Theodora also published a memoir Henry James at Work and studies on Harriet Martineau and Paul Valéry.

Theodora later became Executive Secretary of the International Federation of University Women and was a committed feminist. From 1935 she was literary editor and then director of feminist journal Time and Tide, mouthpiece of the women’s movement in the UK from the 1920’s, which published just about anyone worth thinking about in that milieu; which is a lot more interesting in my opinion!

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 24th February


No birthday for today, so guess where we are headed. Yep!

Eliza Fowler Haywood, born around 1693 died 25 February 1756, so it seems appropriate to give her a February party.
Eliza was an actress, and a prolific novelist, playwright, poet, translator and editor – and made quite a success of all of them. She wrote rather racy material, and often showed sympathy for ‘fallen’ women. This led to her writing being overlooked until relatively recently, as indelicate.

A few of her books have been made available for free via the excellent Project Gutenberg.

Criticks! be dumb tonight – no skill display;
A dangerous Woman-Poet wrote the Play:
One who not fears your fury, tho’ prevailing
More than your Match, in everything, but railing.
Give her fair quarter, and whenever she tries ye
Safe in superior spirit, she defies ye…

(Prologue, A Wife to be Let 1723)

It is enough – in knowing one, I knew the whole deceiving sex – Nor will I be a second time betray’d – I’ll hide me for ever from their Arts, their soothing Flattery, their subtle Insinuations – no more I’ll hear, or see or think of Man – the best is base…

(The Rash Resolve, 1724)

… the Avarice and Self interestedness, which is generally observed in those women who make Sale of their Beauty, is chiefly owing to men.

(The story of The Enchanted Well – Memoirs of a Certain Island Adjascent to the Kingdom of Utopia 1775)

The Historical Birthday-Tea Party 8th January


Sound the Trumpets for Bathsua Reginald Makin, another woman of unknown birthdate, some time around 1608. A child prodigy who spoke mulitple languages and published at the age of sixteen. (You’d think that would make it easier to guess her birthday wouldn’t you). A very clever woman and an excellent self publicist, she became tutor to Charles I’s daughter Elizabeth.

Bathsua argued entertainingly for women’s education, with a fine line in sarcasm, making it quite clear she thought it demeaning that women were not educated and that it suited some men to keep women ignorant.

An Essay to Revive the Ancient Education of Gentle Women 1673

A learned woman is thought to be a comet, that bodes mischief whenever it appears.

To offer the world the liberal education of women is to deface the image of God in  man; it will make women so high and men so low; like the fire in the house-top, it will set the whole world in a flame. – These things and worse than these are commonly talked of and verily believed by many who think themselves wise men.

Merely to teach gentlewomen to frisk and dance, to paint their faces, to curl their hair, to put on a whisk, to wear gay clothes, is not truly to adorn, but to adulterate their bodies, yea,(what is worse) to defile their souls.

Had God intended women only as a finer sort of cattle, he would not have made them reasonable. Brutes, a few degrees higher than…monkeys… might have better fitted some men’s lust, pride and pleasure; especially those that desire to keep them ignorant to be tyrannized over.

So Bathsua is welcome at any party she cares to attend, if she doesn’t think it beneath her dignity. I choose to include her for her enjoyable scorn, an excellent thing in a woman. She would probably think I’m being far too frivolous, but I think we’d get on.

Hot chocolate and cinnamon cakes for Ms Makin.