gender, pregnancy

Women and humour in history

Do men always get the best punch-lines? I was once at a conference where one of the speakers illustrated his points about gender in ancient Rome by referring to a story about Winston Churchill and Nancy Astor. Quick-witted, the first woman Member of Parliament, Nancy Astor’s reputation has been tarnished by her support of Chamberlain’s policy… Continue reading Women and humour in history

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gender, menstruation, pregnancy, sex, virginity

Diana, Callisto and Philip II

Between 1553 and 1562, Titian painted a number of mythological scenes for Philip II. Among these was a painting of Diana and Callisto. In the story, told most famously by the Roman poet Ovid, Callisto is one of the unmarried girls forming the virgin goddess’s entourage. Jupiter catches sight of her, and disguises himself as… Continue reading Diana, Callisto and Philip II

museums and collections, pregnancy, womb

Stone Babies: The Lithopedion of Sens

When Colombe Chatry, a tailor’s wife, died in May 1582 at the age of 68, at her husband’s request her body was opened up to discover what had happened to a pregnancy she had started 28 years earlier, which had never come to anything but had left her with years of abdominal pain and loss… Continue reading Stone Babies: The Lithopedion of Sens

pregnancy, womb

What women know about sex (and eggs)

  One of the best-known stories from the ancient Greek medical texts tells of a slave entertainer who became pregnant but didn’t know what to do about it. In one of the versions that survived, from the Hippocratic treatise On Generation/Nature of the Child, she realized she was pregnant and told her owner, who in… Continue reading What women know about sex (and eggs)

Bad History, pregnancy, womb

Women have ways? Seeds, wombs and ‘legitimate rape’

In an infamous and much-repeated comment made in 2012, US Republican Todd Akin claimed that ‘if it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down’. Not surprisingly, he was ridiculed for the lack of knowledge of biology that this comment betrays. It didn’t take long, though, before history started to… Continue reading Women have ways? Seeds, wombs and ‘legitimate rape’