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Virginia Postrel’s 7 Most Glamorous Women in History

I Prefer Blondes

For my entire life, I’ve always been attracted to strong women (preferably blonde). Okay, now my secret is out. So as not to get into trouble, it’s the stories of strong blonde women that I’m attracted to. For some reason I turned to Virginia Postrel’s article in USA Today (August 8, 2014) entitled, History’s 7 Most Glamorous Women. What caught my eye was the woman she named number one: Marie Curie.

Marie Curie, an influential woman
Marie Curie (circa 1898). Photo (photographer unknown). Wikimedia Commons.

The Strong Ones 

I’m very familiar with the story of Marie Curie (#1). She was responsible for the discovery of radiation (she coined the term radioactivity) and x-rays. Madame Curie shared the 1903 Nobel Prize in physics with her husband and she won outright the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. She died in Paris (1934), likely of radiation poisoning from the x-rays she performed during World War I. Madame Curie is the only woman buried in the Pantheon based on the merits of her own achievements. Based on the pictures I’ve seen of Madame Curie, I would not put her in the bucket called “glamorous.” By the time I got through the remaining 6 names, I figured out that by “glamorous,” what Ms. Postrel really meant is “strong.” While I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with Ms. Postrel’s identifying these individuals as strong women, I would perhaps come up with some other women to put in their place or at the very least, to join them on the list. I guess it could be a toss up between Joan Crawford (#7) and Bette Davis. Or how about Barbara Stanwyck and Mary Pickford? Clearly, this is the entertainment category. Read More Virginia Postrel’s 7 Most Glamorous Women in History

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The Women of the French Revolution

Women
A Versailles, à Versailles du 5 Octobre 1789. Illustration (unknown). Bibliothèque nationale de France. PD+100; PD-US-No Notice. Wikimedia Commons.

The Many Layers of Women

One of the more fascinating aspects of my research on the French Revolution has been the role that women played in the Revolution. While I’m no historian and have limited knowledge of historical world events, I have never run across such a significant event in which women were the catalysts for such important components. While it’s the men that receive most of the attention (as well as several keynote women such as Marie Antoinette), if you scratch the surface, you’ll find many layers of women whose actions contributed to those turbulent times.

For simplicity sake (at least for my simple mind), I’ve categorized the women into groups: royalty, nobility, citizens (known as sans-culottes), the salons, and the feminists. We can talk about each of these groups but the real forces behind many of the pivotal events of the Revolution were the female citizens of Paris – the working class of Paris or sans-culottes.

Food was scarce. Bread was hard to come by. The weather had taken its toll on the harvests for several consecutive years. It was the woman’s responsibility to feed the family. It was the woman who held her baby who screamed as he slowly died from starvation. These women got mad. They demanded change.

Women Stormed the Bastille Too!

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