The entire month of March is Women’s History Month – at least in the UK, US, and Australia. So, in honor of all the amazing women who have played their part in making history, I’ve compiled a list of ten curious women that I’ve written about over the years. Some are famous and others less so, but they are all extraordinary in their own way.
Let’s begin with a lowly laundress…
Catherine Ségurane: A Niçoise Laundress Saves the Day
Catherine Ségurane was a laundry lady in Nice (now part of France but at the time it belonged to Savoy). It was 1543 and the French and Turkish armies had surrounded her city. Cathy is credited with using a very unconventional method of “shock and awe” which caused the Turkish army to turn tail and run. Read about her here.
Boudica: British Queen, Mother, and Folk Hero
Boudica was a first-century British Queen who also took on an army – the Roman army. In 60 AD Boudica’s husband, King Prasutagus of the Iceni tribe died. He left half his kingdom to his daughters, but Roman law didn’t allow females to inherit so they came rolling in to take it all. That was NOT okay with Boudica and she gave Rome a fight they wouldn’t soon forget. Read about her here.
Queen Victoria in Her Donkey Cart
Queen Victoria was a much later British queen who didn’t have to worry about Rome – she ruled her own vast empire. But her homeland was cold, so she made a habit of spending her winters in the warmth of the French Riviera – Nice to be exact. While she was there, she was carefree and often tootled around in a little cart pulled by her favorite donkey, Jacquot. Read about her here.
Madame Bob: A Woman of Many Talents
There was no donkey cart for Madame Bob Walter, she had her speedy Cupid Car. In early 1900s Paris, Madame Bob was a thoroughly modern woman: She was a singer, dancer, lion tamer, and garage owner. But she’s best remembered as using her fast Cupid Car to help young lovers elope. Her company would “kidnap” the bride-to-be and speed her off to meet her groom before the parents could catch them to stop it. Read about her here.
Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli: Best of Enemies
As we can see from Madame Bob’s escapades, in twentieth-century Paris, women were enjoying a newfound freedom. And two very strong women with completely different ideas of style were battling it out for the top spot in fashion. Today one’s name is known worldwide, and the other is nearly forgotten. Read about them here.
Medieval Italian Women: Legally Fashionable
Being stylish was important long before Coco Chanel came on the scene. But in fourteenth-century Florence, opulent dress was outlawed. What were fashionistas to do? Not to worry – the women of Florence were a clever bunch, and they weren’t about to let those pesky little laws stop them. They continually changed their fashions to keep them just barely legal. Read about them here.
Revolutionary Women of Paris
Another group of women got together, this time in France, and had a big political impact. At the beginning of the French Revolution, when the Parisians had nothing to eat, several thousand women took things into their own hands. They marched thirteen miles in the rain to reach Versailles where the king was. They demanded that the king and his family come to Paris to make sure the people had bread. The ladies marched back to Paris with the King in tow. Read about them here.
Marie Antoinette and Her Adopted Children
The woman most associated with the French Revolution is probably Queen Marie Antoinette. She’s usually remembered for her costly clothing and flamboyant hairstyles. And even though she never said, “Let them eat cake,” she’s characterized as aloof and uncaring. However, the Queen must have had a softer side because she adopted several children. Read about her here.
Madame Tussaud: Ahead of Her Time
Marie Tussaud lived through some terrible times during the French Revolution, but, unlike Marie Antoinette, she managed to keep her head… along with several others. During the Revolution, she was forced to make wax casts of heads that had been severed by the guillotine. As soon as the Revolution was over and she could leave, she packed up her wax heads and went to England where she set up the now famous Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Read about her here.
Saint Martha and the Tarasque
Saint Martha was another woman who looked terror in the face and survived. In the first century, Martha wandered into a village in southern France that had a dragon problem. There was a terrible monster called the Tarasque who was terrorizing the town. But Martha wasn’t afraid. She went out to find the beast and easily tamed him. Every year, the town holds a festival in honor of the Tarasque and Saint Martha. Read about her here.
These ten women are just a sampling of the countless women who have performed amazing acts and daring deeds throughout history. I hope you found a few of them that you enjoyed reading about. Who is your favorite historical woman?
You might also like:
- Florence Nightingale: The Lady with the Lamp and Pie Chart
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LOVED these stories of such courageous women. Thank you for sharing them!!!
Hi Margaret, Glad you enjoyed reading them – I guess you are doing a lot of reading these days. But the lockdown will be over soon and hopefully things can go back to normal. Sending loving thoughts your way and to all of Italy… and the world.
So nice to revisit these stories!
Thanks, Julia. I thought it would be fitting for the Women in History month. But there are so many more amazing women to write about… 🙂
I loved reading these stories again, Margo. You tell them so well and help to keep the, remembered. Thank you, Paula
Sorry, Margo, I should always read before pressing ‘send’. I should have typed:’…and help keep them remembered.’ Paula
Thanks, Paula. No worries about typos – I do it all the time.
I hope you are well and safe in Australia. I’m staying in a bit more, but otherwise life is fairly normal here. I think the UK is coping pretty well so far.
All the best -Margo
My favourite remains Madame Bob. Lovely post again Margo. Don’t know if you’ve seen this clipping from today’s Riviera News :
Nice canon – If you heard the familiar midday canon on Tuesday in Nice, then it was the last time for a while. As the city took measures to confine it’s population in the fight against the spread of the coronavirus the tradition has been interrupted. The firing of the canon is a tradition which dates back to 1885 but that it marked something rather different to what it meant then, marking on Tuesday at midday, the introduction of new confinement measures.
Fired in the 1860s by a Scottish Lord Sir Thomas Coventry the canon was used to remind a too talkative wife that it was lunchtime. The canon, has since become a true symbol of Nice. To the point that at the time of Coventry’s departure the population demanded that the tradition remain. In recent years, only the commemorations of July 14 have silenced it.
Now we really know it’s serious !
That is serious. I also read that Estrosi and the Prince of Monaco both tested positive for Covid-19. It seems to be everywhere.
Stay safe. -Margo