March was Women’s History Month, and I made my website available to guest bloggers who write novels about history’s lesser-known women. I had a great response and ended up featuring four posts on topics spanning more than 400 years of history and both sides of the Atlantic.
From Martin Luther’s wife in the 16th century Germany and Anne Bronte in early Victorian England, to Houdini’s wife in turn-of the-century America and the Soviet female pilots during the 1940s, the posts highlight women who charted their own path and shaped their own destiny, sometimes in extremely difficult times.
Some (like Katharina von Bora or Bess Houdini) did it by being married to powerful or famous men. Such was the order of things that for much of history, that was the best way for a woman to make her mark. Still, to their credit, these women made the most of their matches, refusing to fade into the tedium of domestic life that would, at best, have earned them a footnote in history books.
Others rose to prominence in their own right, even if their achievements were not fully appreciated until long after they had died (like Anne Bronte). In the case of some of the female pilots (like Anna Timofeyeva-Yegorova), the Soviet state failed to honor their contributions on spurious grounds, relegating them to decades of unjustified oblivion.
Not surprisingly, most of the authors who contributed these guest blogs are women. However, I was pleased to have received a contribution from a male author as well. Writing from the perspective of the opposite sex can be challenging, but it can also endow a story with unique insights.
Finally, when I was thinking about what image to use to accompany this post, it occurred to me that the portrait of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa would fit rather well. She was a real woman whose story – unlike that of the Tudor wives or Marie Antoinette – has not be written about to death. To my knowledge, nobody has yet published a fictionalized account of her life – perhaps it is time?