Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Women at War


 

Yesterday I gave my talk on "Women at War" for a Women's Institute Group. I always enjoy this talk as it breaks through so many stereotypes - about women, warfare, Greeks, South America, the Royal Navy and more. 
 
The official blurb from my website says:In this talk, Rupert Matthews looks at the ways women have been involved in warfare from ancient times to the present day. Starting with the mythical Amazons, and the truth that lies behind the legend, Rupert looks at some of the great women warriors of history such as Boadicea, Zenobia of Palmyra, Artemisia of Caria, Mavia the Arab, Lagertha the Viking, Tomoe Gozen the Samurai, Joan of Arc, Mary Ralphson, Joanna Salter and Mary Dixon before looking at the mass participation of women in 20th century warfare through the WRNS, WAAFs and ATS of World War II. 
 
The talk kicks off with the Amazons, the famous tribe of women warriors that feature so strongly in Greek Legend. The audience loved how I explained the way that the apparently nonsensical Greek myths and fables about these women warriors were actually based on real fact. And how the archaeologists had been digging up burials of these ancient women warriors for most of the 20th century without realising whatthey had found. The archaeologists found bodies with weaponry and so just assumed that the bodies were those of men. It wasn't until one scientist spotted that the body he was studying was female that the truth was uncovered.
 
And I later explain why the Amazon River is called the "Amazon" by unveiling yet another unexpected myth-buster. 
 
But I think the bit the audience liked best was the section on Aethelflaed of Mercia who fought against the Vikings in the early 10th century. Again, some lovely stereotypes demolisehd as the brutal warfare of the period was revealed to have been as much about tactical innovation as about bashing each other as axes. 
 
If you fancy having this talk - or one of my others - for your group either via Zoom in the near future or in person once restrictions are lifted, get in touch on rupert@rupertmatthews.com or visit my website.    


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