This project is the brainchild of two writer-academics who love stories and history. We are joined by a team of regular and guest bloggers who contribute their knowledge (and sometimes imaginations) to our collection.
In high school English class, we one day had a lesson on “archetypes.” It was then I learned that a woman’s hair can be used as a symbol of her freedom–a woman whose hair is tightly piled upon her head shows restraint; a woman who’s hair is down shows a lack of it.
While this isn’t true of every work of literature, the idea enthralled me. As a writer, I became acutely aware of the hairstyles I created for my female characters.
Now, I teach my own high school English courses and am amazed and the reactions of my students to the women we encounter in literature. When we read of Guenevere in Le Mort D’Arthur as she held the Tower of London against Mordred, my students all nodded in unison. “Ah,” one inevitably says, “the old distressed damsel-in-the-tower archetype.”
“But she isn’t distressed,” I must explain. “It’s a military tactic.”
Alas, it’s the same with all the women we encounter. My students believe every female character is a victim. They assume they’re all bound–trapped by their circumstances, living life with no voice.
I have a hard time buying that line. Women have had voices throughout history. While at times, society may have frowned on their unbound hair, there are many examples in history, art, music, and literature of women with the courage to speak loud; or with the wit to rise above their circumstance. Thus, K.P. Kulski and I have created this website to showcase these examples of women who live unbound–either literally or metaphorically.
We want to examine women who fought, who prayed; who laughed, who wept; who lived, who went before us. Women who stood their ground against overwhelming odds, whether those odds stacked against them on a battlefield or by the hearth.
We want to re-discover our ancient ancestors in history, in art, in culture. We will focus specifically on women in the Ancient and Medieval periods, and hope to cover women from cultures all over the world during these times.
Despite what anyone says, despite the fetters with which the world tries to tie us down, we will choose to honor the paths our ancestors tread and live our lives unbound.
E.J. Lawrence writes fantasy and teaches British Literature to high school and undergraduate students. She holds an MA in English Literature and an MFA in writing popular fiction. She’s an Arthurian aficionado, and a lover of the medieval romance.
You can learn more about E.J. Lawrence at her website: ejlawrence.com
So, E.J. and I met at Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program. Near graduation, she sent me her idea for a blog about women with this:
“I get very frustrated when people talk about what women were and weren’t allowed to do in history because so often, the mental image they have in their head of every woman pre-1960 is that of just a wife and mother who made none of her own choices and just sat around all day baking cupcakes.”
Ok, backtrack. E.J. and I both write, we both love collecting knowledge about the past, we both love to teach. With all that said, we are quite different philosophically. I write dark and upsetting stuff. E.J. writes clean classical fantasy. I’m a Riot GRRRL. E.J. is conservative.
So immediately, I really loved the hint of rebellion in her message. I was totally onboard for a couple of reasons.
1. What a great place to bring together all the things I love about writing and history
2. Maybe I can turn E.J. to the dark side (wish me luck)
3. Learning cultural history is one of the best avenues for us to understand the human condition
But what really sold me is that I think our differing philosophies can lead to some interesting and enlightening perspectives.
There is more than one way to understand the world… and women, and I can’t think of a better foundation to build this project on.