Fun fact: The Māori for July is Hōngoingoi, meaning to crouch in front of a fire because for them it’s midwinter. I don’t know why I think this is so cool, I just do!
Sayyida al Hurra dies on 14 July 1561 and she sounds like a legend.
Her name translates as ‘Lady who is free and independent; the woman sovereign who bows to no superior authority.’ Born Lalla Aicha bint Ali ibn Rashid al-Alami, in 1485. Pirate queen. Very important woman of Islamic West, and fluent in several languages. Became al Hurra (queen) of Tétouan in Northern Morocco in 1515 after the death of her husband and because he was ‘the undisputed leader of pirates of the western Mediterranean’. Ruled for thirty years till overthrown by her son-in-law. Lived twenty years in retirement.Toksvig’s Almanac
I just love everything about this, especially given that a particular favourite trope of mine is voyages. Any and all seafaring books for this prompt and if pirate queens are involved I salute you and will be adding to my tbr if I haven’t read them already!
Women of Note
3 July 1932 Swarnakumari Devi dies. Born 1855, Devi was a poet, novelist, musician, science writer and social care activist. She became the first Bengali woman novelist when Deepnirban was published in 1876. In 1879 she composed Basanta Utsav, possibly the first Bengali opera. She was among the first women to serve in the Indian National Congress, and founded Sakhi Samiti (Society of Friends) to assist orphans and widows.Toksvig’s Almanac
4 July 1844 Edmonia Lewis born. Good month for sculpture. Lewis was an American sculptor. Her mother was of Mississauga Ojibwe and African American descent. Her father was Afro-Haitian. Lewis became the first woman of African American and Native American heritage to achieve international fame as a sculptor. As a child she went by her Native American name, Wildfire, and endured racism, prejudice and discrimination during her education. She left the United States and made a new life in Rome, Italy. Her two-ton marble statue The Death of Cleopatra is now in the Smithsonian American Art Museum, having been found in a salvage yard in the 1980s. She lived in Hammersmith, London, before her death and is buried in Kensal Green.Toksvig’s Almanac
7 July 1861 Nettie Stevens born. American geneticist credited with the discovery of sex chromosomes. Edmund Wilson published his ‘discovery’ of sex determinism at the same time as Stevens, but he claimed environmental factors affected sex. Stevens thought the determination of sex was only genetic. She was right.Toksvig’s Almanac
11 July 1997 ‘Eve’ DNA analysis reported in the New York Times. Scientists in London report DNA analysis of a female Neanderthal skeleton. It supports the ‘out of Africa theory’ of human evolution and places an ‘African Eve’, from whom all humans are descended, at 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.Toksvig’s Almanac
12 July 1780 Juana Azurduy de Padilla born. Bolivian female guerrilla military leader who earned the rank of lieutenant colonel. De Padilla is remembered for her leadership of the indigenous people of Upper Peru. She organised the Batallón Leales (Loyal Battalion) which successfully fought in the Battle of Ayohuma in 1813. During a later battle she left the fight to give birth. Several of her children died. She lived out her life in poverty and was buried in a communal grave. A hundred years later her body was exhumed and moved to a mausoleum. In July 2015 a 52ft-high statue of her was erected in Buenos Aires, replacing one of Columbus.Toksvig’s Almanac
13 July 1934 Kate Sheppard dies. Sheppard was an English-born women’s rights activist who was instrumental in making New Zealand the first country in the world to grant women the right to vote (1893). She promoted sensible clothing for women, bicycling and other physical activity. Also active in US and English suffrage.Toksvig’s Almanac
17 July 1793 Charlotte Corday executed by guillotine. Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d’Armont assassinated Jacobin leader Jean-Paul Marat, who she thought had made the French Revolution too radical. She stabbed him with a kitchen knife while he was in the bath. At her trial she said: ‘I knew that he [Marat] was perverting France. I have killed one man to save a hundred thousand.’ She was executed aged twenty-four. After her death an autopsy was carried out to see if she was a virgin or whether she had shared her bed and her plan. She was virgo intacta.Toksvig’s Almanac
18 July 1861 Kadambini Ganguly born. Ganguly was the first Indian and South Asian female physician and surgeon to be trained in Western medicine. Along with Chandramukhi Basu, Ganguly was one of the first female graduates in India and the entire British empire. A women’s and workers’ rights activist, she organised the Women’s Conference in Calcutta 1906. Mother of eight.Toksvig’s Almanac
21 July 710 Shangguan Wan’er dies. Imperial consort to two emperors of the Tang dynasty of China, born around 664. Poet, writer and politician. She was China’s de facto female prime minister to Empress Wu Zetian, the only woman in more than 3,000 years of Chinese history to rule in her own right (from 690 to 705). Shangguan was beheaded when power changed hands. A tale of intrigue, sex and murder.Toksvig’s Almanac
22 July 1849 Emma Lazarus born. American poet and essayist best known for her sonnet ‘The New Colossus’ (‘Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free’) which is inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. Emma had Sephardic (Hispanic Jewish) heritage and campaigned for the defence of persecuted Jews. Her poems were widely praised. ‘New Colossus’ was written to help fundraise for the statue’s pedestal. It played no role in the statue’s unveiling and was not inscribed until long after her death.Toksvig’s Almanac
27 July 1880 Malalai of Maiwand dies. Also known as Malala or ‘The Afghan Jeanne d’Arc’. National folk hero of Afghanistan, born 1861. She rallied local fighters against British troops at the Battle of Maiwand on this day. She was there to help tend the wounded but when the Afghan army faltered and the flag-bearer was killed, Malalai took the flag and spurred the men on before being killed herself. The Pakistani-Pashtun women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai and Afghan activist-politician Malalai Joya are named after her.Toksvig’s Almanac
29 July 1896 Maria L. de Hernández born. Mexican American women’s rights activist. Also a broadcaster, she was the first female Mexican American radio announcer. Hernández fought against educational segregation and economic discrimination faced by women and children of Mexican descent. With her husband she co-founded the Orden Caballeros de América (Order of the Knights of America), which was dedicated to educating Mexican Americans about their rights.Toksvig’s Almanac
31 July 1923 Stephanie Kwolek born. ‘I don’t think there’s anything like saving someone’s life to bring you satisfaction and happiness.’ Kwolek is the American chemist who keeps us all safe every day thanks to her invention of Kevlar, ‘a lightweight yet strong fiber to replace the steel used in tires’. Kevlar is stronger than nylon and five times stronger than steel by weight. It is used in more than 200 applications, including car tyres, aeroplanes, cables, bullet-proof vests and armoured cars.Toksvig’s Almanac