blog description

Old women talk about old things: history, myth, magic and their
checkered pasts, about what changes and what does not.

Friday, November 29, 2013

To Grandmother's House We Go

 “Over the river and through the woods to Grandfather’s house we go. The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh through the white and drifted snow.”
When was the last time I sang that song? I can’t remember. I had to Google the rest of the words. The song ends with “Hurrah for the pumpkin pie,” in case you forgot as well.
Thanksgiving used to be so special. It was second only to Christmas on my list of favorite days of the year. The four of us would pile into our white station wagon and ride through the fields to my Grandparents’ house. With aunts, uncles and cousins there were never less than 12 people at the two large tables pushed together in the dining room of the 19th century house where my father was born. The home-cooked meal was delicious, and after dinner the men snored to the sound of a football game while the women cleaned up and we kids played games on the living room floor. Dessert was always pumpkin or minced meat pie. It was another world.
Thanksgiving was the teaser for Christmas, but there were no decorations out, no Christmas ads, no Black Friday appellations. There was Buck Monday. The hunting season would open, and the men would depart for the woods. At some point that became a shopping tradition for women on the day after Thanksgiving. The men were leaving so women were released from the obligations of taking care of their husbands and they could go shopping instead! Makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Well, it did in 1965. For many years the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend was a day off as well. Most of the boys would be hunting with their dads.
A bit more emphasis was placed on the original Thanksgiving as well. Or perhaps that is just my grade school memory. There were Indians and Pilgrims and that sense of Blessed Destiny. Today there is a slightly better sense of equality between the two cultures, but we are far from getting the story straight. And I don’t mean small pox and broken treaties. Research is still necessary for some of the facts.
When the first settlers stepped off the Mayflower and into their New World, they encountered a larger cultural difference than they realized in the native Wampanoag people – or the People of the Dawn. The women who might have served the pilgrims the “three sisters” – corn, squash and beans – were landholders. They were the heads of their families. They gave shelter to the men who married their daughters. And they were able to become sachems – the political leaders of their communities.
What might have happened if  Eleanor Billington, Elizabeth Hopkins, Mary Brewster, and Susanna Winslow had been permitted to sit down and eat with the Wampanoag women who might have decided to attend the Harvest Feast of 1621? If Weetamoo, Awashonks, Wunnatuckquannumou, and Askamaboo had regaled the four white women with their history and customs, how might our history have changed? Suppose Mary had told Weetamoo she should be helping to serve, and Weetamoo had said, “I’m the big Kahuna and you shouldn’t be waiting on those men.” And what if, upon hearing this, Elizabeth had proposed a toast: “Thanks be to God, we have arrived in a truly New World. Stephen, bring me a turkey leg.”
In 1965, my last name might have been my Grandmother’s maiden name. Dad might have taken me hunting that year, and my uncle might have joined my aunt to wash the dishes after our turkey dinner. Half the signers of the Declaration of Independence might have been women, so when I was learning about the Indians in 3rd grade, I might have also learned about our Foremothers. I might be a nuclear physicist instead of an English teacher!
On an educational website I found this interesting tidbit.
What were men and women's roles in the Wampanoag tribe?
Wampanoag men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Wampanoag women were farmers and also did most of the child care and cooking. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. In the past, Wampanoag chiefs were always men, but today a Wampanoag woman can participate in government too.
Revisionist history is alive and well. Evidently 3rd grade children are still learning that Indian women were drudges, just like the Pilgrim women.
We have come a long way in 50 years. Many women work outside the home. A very few even make lots of money. Men are becoming nurses, and women can be Nurse Practitioners. Women are serving in the military, and my husband does the dishes. We just have to resist the temptation to be satisfied with where we are. The Daughters of the Dawn remind us that we have a long, long way to go – to Grandma’s house.

"Indians of Southern New England and Long Island, early period" Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 15. Ed.Bruce G. Trigger. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978. 171f. Wikipedia. 27 November 2013.
“Wampanoag Indian Fact Sheet.” Native Languages of the Americas. 1998-2013. Web. 27 November 2013.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Guest Post from author Joyce Moore

Hi Roberta, and thanks for inviting me as a guest blogger. My usual blog topics are about my writing life, but because I just returned from a trip (yes, with a new idea for an historical mystery), I’m going to share some of my incredible experiences with your readers. If anyone has visited these places, I hope they comment with their opinions. It’s always interesting to see how different people react to the same environment.
I flew into Vienna, Austria, a day before meeting the group of like-minded people with whom I would be traveling. I always need the extra day to recover from jetlag. When the others arrived, our journey began.
Ah, Vienna. Just the name of the city conjures up images of eighteenth century ballrooms and chamber music. The Viennese are justly proud of their cultural heritage, and although much of the city, along with its opera house, was bombed, the city has restored most of its damaged buildings using the original plans. There is much to see there, and if I went again, I would plan to spend at least a week instead of the three days we had.
From Vienna, we took a train to other cities. I splurged and got a deluxe sleeping car, complete with private bath and a huge picture window. I’d do the same again. Sleeping on a train is my idea of heaven on earth, to say nothing of dining in a car with new friends while the world zips by.
Our first stop was Innsbruck. From there we visited other cities, like Munich, Salzburg, and Venice, ending our train ride in Budapest. The route took us through Brenner’s Pass, an area that figured in WW II history.
I had been to Munich and Venice before, but I had never seen Venice in flood stage! It had rained for days and the canal flooded the streets and the square. The authorities put up something like a catwalk (short folding tables) so pedestrians could cross the square without wading. Of course, vendors were selling colorful plastic boots and some pedestrians just chose to wade across the square. I wish now I’d bought a pair of those boots—a perfect memento—but I had to think about my full luggage.
Innsbruck and Salzburg are beautiful cities, surrounded by alpine country. I definitely would like to go back and spend a week in each of those cities.
My surprise came in Budapest. We stayed on the Pest side of the Danube, but many sites we wanted to see were on the Buda side. I took one afternoon to enjoy one of their thermal baths and a massage, then took one of their frequent buses back to the hotel in time for dinner. Speaking of dinner, one night we ate dinner on a boat on the Danube. Budapest, from the river, is an awesome sight at night. The bridges are lit and from the city streets, hundreds of tiny lights flicker, reminding us that in spite of its ancient beauty, Budapest is a thriving city of thousands. Budapest, to me, is a hidden jewel. I believe they consider their town a poor stepsister of cities like Vienna. I emphatically disagree. Budapest should be on everyone’s bucket list. And the opera house is beauty to astound you. Be warned, though, to read what the opera is about if you don’t already know. The subtitles are in Hungarian, whereas both Prague and Vienna state opera houses have English subtitles.
Our last day was spent at the Danube Bend, where we ate lunch in a wonderful restaurant high in the mountains with a view of the city below. From there we visited a market where I bought scarves for my daughter. They are always a welcome gift and take little space in your luggage.

Now I’m home and back to revising a mystery set in Stockholm. That might require a trip to Sweden too!  

~ Joyce E. Moore

Monday, November 4, 2013

Witch Trials and Rape

"It is true that rape is a most detestable crime, and therefore ought severely and impartially to be punished with death; but it must be remembered, that it is an accusation easily to be made, hard to be proved, but harder to be defended by the party accused, tho innocent."

Sir Matthew Hale, The History of the Pleas of the Crown (1736)

No words have severely affected modern women more than Sir Matthew Hale's seventeenth-century declaration, which was first published fifty years after his death. Even though the crime of rape has been shown to have no more false accusations than any other crime, Hale's statement, warning jurors that women are liars, has been repeated throughout courtrooms for centuries. In the U.S., the words weren't stricken from the courts until the 1970s.

In the seventeenth century, a woman who brought the charge of rape against a man was automatically regarded with suspicion. A girl's sexuality was controlled by her father, and once she was married that power shifted to her husband. If a woman had been raped, her "protector" would bring the charges to the authorities. Women with no male protector were often looked upon as being unchaste and thought to readily consent their virtues to any man.

By now, I'm sure you're wondering what the crime of rape has to do with witch trials. While researching for my nonfiction title I Had Rather Die: Rape in the Civil War, I discovered an ominous connection. In 1664, Hale presided as a judge in a witch trial of two elderly women, Amy Duny and Rose Cullender. Dorothy Durent accused that Duny had caused her children to have "fits." In one instance, Duny had prophesied that Durent would see some of her children dead and end up on crutches herself. When Durent's daughter became sick, Duny foretold that she hadn't long to live. The girl died two days later. Shortly after her daughter's death, Durent went lame only to be cured upon Duny's conviction.

Duny was also accused of bewitching the Pacey children. In 1663, Deborah Pacey went lame. Soon after, she had "fits" and great stomach pain. She told the doctor that Amy Duny had appeared to her and frightened her. Duny was put in stocks for the crime. Two days later, the other Pacey child began to have fits that included lameness, deafness, loss of speech, fainting, and coughing up pins. Both children claimed that Amy Duny and Rose Cullender had come to them. The children were also thought to be possessed by the devil.

Two more children from different families had similar fits. In body searches of the accused women, Rose Cullender was found to have "something like a teat about an inch long" in the abdominal region.

During court, three of the children fell into violent screaming fits. In a test, the girls were blindfolded and touched by strangers. Tricked into thinking the touches had come from the accused women, the girls had a "bewitched" reaction. The father of one of the girls stated that sorcery was the cause for their mistake.

Sir Matthew Hale refused to allow the evidence to come before the jury and failed to give a similar speech that he normally delivered to rape jurors about how difficult the crime was to prove. In fact, he offered the exact opposite explanation and lectured the jury about the evils of witchcraft. After half an hour, the jury delivered a guilty verdict for thirteen counts of witchcraft and sorcery. With the conviction, the children were restored to good health and walked out of the courtroom completely healed.

Duny and Cullender denied any wrongdoing and were hanged on March 17, 1664.

Like rape trials, the female victims in witch trials were mocked and believed to be corrupt. Hale and those who thought like him had ways of keeping women in their places through intimidation and fear. His infamous words may have been stricken from the courtrooms, but his legacy lives on when the modern justice system fails to take rape complaints seriously.
Kim Murphy