First Ladies

Little-Known Great Women
Who Challenged the World

A Brit who wrote the first book in English and an Italian grandmaster; a sailor disguised as a man and a round-the-world biker; a war photographer and the first female in space. Ground-breaking pioneers, these women beat the odds and inspired mankind.
Julian and Artemísia, Hannah and Annie, Dickie and Valentina, forged a new identity for women everywhere, one that’s often been at odds with male-dominated institutions, and that only modern age could fully embrace. These were no tamed spirits.
Along the way, the mastery of intellect and mysticism, of great art and entrepreneurship, became one with what all that came after. Each generation that followed had more of their independence of thought, the courage to report, and dare to reach for the stars.
These were no followers either. What each carved on the fabric of their own age still stands now, be it as a spiritual path or pictorial record, a skill for subversion or example of non-conformity, the capture of the battlefield or a flight into the future.
But only six, you may ask, and why them, instead of, say, the other few billion? Well, shortlists keep things moving: room only for names, times, and the life that defined their accomplishments. Ultimately, though, it’s our choice and we’re running with it.
That won’t settle the argument, but hope for a first female U.S. president got a boost Tuesday, and next week is International Women’s Day. Both fitting brackets for a possible breakthrough year in equality, a battle these women fought and won, so now we know their names.
Great humans create entire epochs around their existence, not always acknowledged in time. Many would enlist their own mothers on this roll. Shortlists help to leave them out, or yours would be certainly here. It also beats having to rewrite so many well-known bios.

THE MYSTIC WRITER & THE PROTO-FEMINIST PAINTER
On its way to world domination, 14th century England struggled to survive the wreckage of the Dark Ages. The pestilence and ravaging left in its wake were the cause of much soul searching and exacerbated religiosity. Times were ripe for Julian of Norwich.
After surviving illness, she walked out of public life to become a religious recluse, an anchorite, living her remaining years in closed quarters to ‘speak with god’ full time. While others like her burned at a stake, Her Revelations of Divine Love is considered the first female-penned, English-language book.
Two hundred years after, Rome was at the center of the art and religious world, and artists were busy carving their reputations through the glorious Baroque style. Most were male, but Artemisia Gentileschi would defy gender conventions, even as she was long gone when she was recognized as a grandmaster.
Raped by her tutor, who her family successfully sued – not without enormous public shaming of Artemisia, during the trial – she became a rare female working artist whose talent, and tumultuous relationships, equaled that of established painters, such a Caravaggio, with whom she’s often linked.

THE CROSS-DRESSED SAILOR & THE WORLD CYCLIST
There were few options for a woman to sail the world in the 18th century, and to become a soldier of the Royal Marines was hardly one of them. Hanna Snell managed to do both, even as she concealed her gender under the alias James Gray; heaven knows how she survived those long stretches at sea.
Remarkably, her bravery granted her full military pension, and her story, The Female Soldier, made her into a minor celebrity, no small feats for a woman at the time. Till the end, despite three (more)
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Read Also:
* Beautiful Bandit
* Women’s Day
* Sunken Ships
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Time Off

When Calls Drop
& Streets Go Quiet

People who never turn anything off, including themselves, may not understand, but there is such thing as doing nothing. In fact, if so-called power naps reset the brain, then dropping everything and just staring at a wall could do wonders to anyone. Not us, though; no time. Check back tomorrow, say after 5:30pm?
It’d help if we could freeze the city over and walk the empty streets as if survivors of a cataclysmic event. Such moments of eerie stillness, with not a soul on sight and the hum of urban machines quieted down, are still possible. Just don’t be long or you may turn into a slaughtered lamb on the nightly news. You know, evil loves shadows.
We suspect that even authors of best sellers about the virtues of dropping out have a hard time turning off their own phones. For when computer cameras and mikes are covered up, we may still carry on, afraid we’re missing out on something on Facebook. Thus our every second is filled with white noise.
Yet, there’s so much poetry in catching the automated world existing by itself, while its switch can still be turned off. Like when lights turn green and there’s no car in a hurry to go anywhere. Being sleepy and bored used to be equated to being lazy and spoiled, but new research changed all that. They are now deemed essential to genius.

TURN ON, DROP OUT, TUNE IN
Dreams are often a source for original ideas, popping up right after we open up our eyes from a minutes-long slumber. And the restlessness of having nothing to do has launched many a revolutionary take on the very concept of creating something out of thin air. Or we may always choose to just roll over and, well, nap.
Sides have argued over this since forever, and the likely reason we’re now convinced that we need to be on 24/7 may be because one of them hasn’t slept a wink in centuries. Then again, the very idea of having a non-stop society, to optimize productivity and increase efficiencies, was likely dreamed of by someone who’d just woken up.

STRANGER IN A STRANGER LAND
I once went back to a city I’d lived before, without telling anyone I was there. I’ve checked into a cheap motel and wandered about like a tourist. It was exhilarating. I walked and walked, (more)
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Read Also:
* Field of Dreams
* Counting Electric Sockets
* Spinning Wheels

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