#MindforBooksPrompt – November


Petronilla de Meath is burned at the stake on 3rd November 1324.

De Meath, born around 1300, was the maidservant of Dame Alice Kyteler, a wealthy 14th-century noblewoman and the first person recorded of being condemned for witchcraft in Ireland. Kyteler was accused of practicing witchcraft to make her money and get rid of her husbands. Her weirdest charges were of ‘cutting up animals to sacrifice to demons at crossroads’ and having sex with a demon named ‘Robin Artisson’. Petronilla was charged as an accomplice, flogged and burnt at the stake. Dame Alice escaped and fled the country.

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November was known as Blōtmōnaþ by the Anglo Saxons (“Blod-monath is month of immolations, for it was in this month that the cattle which were to be slaughtered were dedicated to the gods.”) and the story of Petronilla de Meath makes this a fitting month for all things related to witches or sacrifice. Especially given the fact that it seems like she was literally sacrificed by a wealthy noblewoman, that being said, it’s obviously the men involved in this case who were the problem!

So the prompt is witches from across the globe, sacrifices of all kinds, be it fantasy or non-fiction. This could get dark but I’m actually super excited about it! 🖤

Women of Note

4 November 1883 Minnie D. Craig born. American legislator. Craig was the first female speaker of a state House of Representatives in the United States. She was elected to the North Dakota House of Representatives in 1923, just three years after women won the right to vote, and encouraged women to become politically active. ‘Women are naturally given to detail … If they weren’t, they couldn’t make pies or sew dresses. Men don’t like details. Because of woman’s training… she’s more thorough than man and right there she has a splendid opportunity for politics.’

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5 November 1935 Monopoly goes on sale for the first time. The story of Monopoly is a sadly typical one for female inventors. The game was invented in 1903 by an American woman, Lizzie Magie, who was trying to explain a theory about tax. She called it The Landlord’s Game and took out a patent. In 1932, an out-of-work man called Charles Darrow played the game at a friend’s house. He decided to make his own version and sold it to Parker Brothers, telling them he had invented it out of boredom. He and the games company made millions. When Parker Brothers learned the truth about the invention they bought Magie’s copyright for a pittance. She sold it because she though the game would help educate people. For years she was never mentioned in relation to the game.

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8 November 1875 Qiu Jin born. Chinese revolutionary, feminist and writer. Qiu was executed after a failed uprising against the Qing dynasty which had ruled for three centuries. She is considered a national heroine in China. She was a feminist, speaking out about freedom to marry, to be educated, and campaigning for the abolishment of the practice of foot-binding. She was beheaded in her home village, aged thirty-one.

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9 November 1914 Hedy Lamarr born. Austrian-American actress, inventor and film producer. Lamarr acted in thirty films, including the 1933 Czech movie Ecstasy in which she became the first movie actress to appear completely naked. In the same film she became the first woman in film history to simulate an orgasm on screen. She and composer George Antheil invented an early version of ‘frequency-hopping spread spectrum’, which was an early stage in the development of Bluetooth technology. She also helped improve aviation designs for Howard Hughes.

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9 November 2008 Miriam Makeba dies. Also known as ‘Mama Africa’. South African singer, born 1932. One of the world’s most prominent black African performers of the 20th century. She grew up in a segregated black township outside of Johannesburg. She introduced Xhosa and Zulu songs to Western audiences and sang songs that were critical of apartheid.

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12 November 1648 Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz born. ‘Who has forbidden women to engage in private and individual studies? Have they not a rational soul as men do? … I have this inclination to study and if it is evil I am not the one who formed me thus – I was born with it and with it I shall die.’ Also known as Sister Joan Agnes of the Cross, she was a Mexican child prodigy, writer, philosopher, composer, poet, nun and protofeminist. She inherited her grandfather’s library and taught herself. Sister Joan joined a nunnery aged twenty so she could study, and began writing about love, feminism and religion. She encouraged intellectuals to meet with her. She wrote what is considered the first feminist manifesto, which led to her condemnation by the Bishop of Puebla. Having fallen out of favour, she was forced to sell her collection of books and devote herself to the poor. She died the following year, in 1695, of the plague.

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14 November 1817 Policarpa Salavarrieta executed for high treason. Also known as ‘La Pola’, born 1795. Policarpa Salavarrieta was an alias. We do not know her real name. She was a heroine of the Colombian independence movement, seamstress and spy for the revolutionary forces during the Spanish Reconquista of the Viceroyalty of New Granada. She spied by offering to do sewing in the homes of royalists. She was captured and executed for high treason. She refused to kneel for the firing squad, yelling, ‘I have more than enough courage to suffer this death and a thousand more. Do not forget my example.’ When they began shooting she turned to face them. The Day of the Colombian Woman is commemorated on the anniversary of her death.

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15 November 1887 Georgia O’Keeffe born. ‘Mother of American modernism’. If you don’t know her paintings of enlarged flowers or New Mexico landscapes, treat yourself. In 2014, O’Keeffe’s 1932 painting Jimson Weed sold for $44,405,000, which was more than three times the previous world auction record for any female artist.

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18 November 1939 Margaret Atwood born. Award-winning Canadian writer. Her books include The Edible Woman and The Handmaid’s Tale. 

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19 November 1835 Lakshmi Bai born. Rani (queen) of the Maratha state of Jhansi in North India, a leader of the Indian Mutiny of 1857–58 and a symbol for Indian nationalists of resistance to the British Raj. She was brought up with the boys in the royal court and became an excellent sword fighter and horsewoman. When she was twenty-two the British tried to take over the kingdom. She proclaimed regent and organised the troops against the British. It’s a great tale of daring. She died in combat dressed as a man.

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22 November 619 Khadijah bint Khuwaylid dies. Commonly known as Khadija and often referred to by Muslims as ‘Mother of the Believers’, born 555. She was the first wife and first female follower of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, and a successful businesswoman in her own right. Khadijah proposed to Muhammad when he was twenty-five years old and she was forty. She was a highly intelligent philanthropist and is revered by billions to this day.

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25 November 1960 The Mirabal sisters assassinated. María Teresa Mirabel, born 1935: ‘Perhaps what we have most near is death, but that idea does not frighten me. We shall continue to fight for that which is just.’ On this day the Mirabal sisters, Patria, Minerva and María Teresa of the Dominican Republic, were assassinated. They all opposed the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo and were involved in clandestine activities against his regime. In their honour, the United Nations General Assembly designated 25 November the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

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26 November 1879 Belle de Costa Green born. An American librarian best known for managing and developing the personal library of J. P. Morgan. After Morgan’s death in 1913, Greene continued as librarian for his son, Jack Morgan, and in 1924 was named the first director of the Pierpont Morgan Library. Her mother was Genevieve Ida Fleet, a music teacher and member of a well-known African-American family in Washington, D.C. Her father, Richard Theodore Greener, was the first black student and first black graduate of Harvard (class of 1870). He went on to work as an attorney, professor and racial justice activist who served as dean of the Howard University School of Law. Greene began working at the Princeton University Library in 1902. It was during this time that she was trained in cataloguing and reference work, and developed a growing knowledge of rare books. She met Junius Spencer Morgan II while working at the Princeton library, who later introduced her to his financier uncle J.P. Morgan. Greene began working as J.P. Morgan’s personal librarian in 1905. She was particularly focused on making rare books accessible to the public, rather than locked away in the vaults of private collectors. She was quite successful in this regard- for instance, when the Morgan Library became a public institution and she was named its first director in 1924, she celebrated by mounting a series of exhibitions, one of which drew a record 170,000 people. J.P. Morgan’s biographer Jean Strouse described an example of the relationship between Morgan and Greene: “Morgan hated paying customs duties, especially on art objects, and, like countless of other travelers before and since, evaded them whenever possible. He quickly enlisted Greene as an ally in tax evasion. One year she managed, by artfully letting the customs agents find several dutiable items of hers in her luggage, to draw their attention away from a painting, three bronzes, and a very expensive watch he had asked her to buy in London. “`When I landed at the library with all of JP’s treasures …,’ she reported to a friend, ‘well he & I did a war dance & laughed in great glee.'” J. P. Morgan left Greene $50,000 (equivalent to $1,400,000 in 2021) in his will. Asked if she was Morgan’s mistress, Greene is said to have replied, “We tried!”

30 November 1952 Sister Elizabeth Kenny dies. Founder of physiotherapy, born 1880. Kenny was a self-trained Australian bush nurse who developed a new approach for treating polio victims. Her controversial methods of muscle rehabilitation became the foundation of physiotherapy. She set up and supervised a temporary hospital in Queensland to care for the victims of the 1918 flu pandemic.

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One thought on “#MindforBooksPrompt – November

  1. Pingback: Catching up…

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