Other Gals Who Climbed to the Top Pt. 1

By Preus museum – Flickr: Alexandra David-Neels, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14876154

Fifty years earlier, Arlene Blum would not have been allowed in certain areas in the Great Himalayan range. It was an entirely different kind of explorer who helped open those gates. In 1924, spiritual seeker Alexandra David-Neel was the first Western woman to visit Tibet’s “Forbidden City,” Lhasa, in its mountain perch. Dressed as a beggar and traveling so light that they didn’t even have blankets, the fifty-five-year-old Alexandra and a young monk, made the perilous climb up 18,000 feet to the holy city. Her travelogue is one of the most treasured resources in Asian studies, published as My Journey to Lhasa.

Opera singer turned scholar, the intrepid Frenchwoman also has the honor of being the first Western woman to have an audience with the Dalai Lama in his Indian exile. Alexandra never did anything halfway and found the study of Buddhism so appealing that she moved into an ascetic’s snowy cave, and undertook the studies and spiritual practice of a Buddhist nun. She became such an adept that she reportedly was able to control her body temperature through meditation, and there are legends of levitation and other psychic phenomenon. Poo-poohing “the supernatural,” her explanation for these matters is simple and practical: she learned from the Tibetans that it is all a matter of management of natural energies. One of the world’s earliest scholar’s in Eastern Studies and Oriental mysticism, Alexandra David-Neel’s unique combination of daring and curiosity made her one of the most fascinating women in any part of the world.

This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.


Other Fighting Femmes of the Ancient World

lightning in sky at night
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Abra was Artemesia’s (Queen of Caria and military advisor to Xerxes) sister and a warrior-queen (circa 334 B.C.) in her own right. The brilliant military strategist Alexander helped her regain her throne from her invasive brother. She led and triumphed in the siege of the capital’s acropolis, after which she was able to take the city. Her ferocity was aided by the intense emotions of a cross-gender civil war within her family, “the siege having become a matter of anger and personal enmity,” according to Strabo.

This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Other Fighting Femmes of the Ancient World

By Published by Guillaume Rouille(1518?-1589) – “Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum “, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8804542

Marpesia, “The Snatcher,” was the ruler of the Scythian Amazons along with Lampedo. In frenzies, Maenads were fierce creatures, not to be toyed with, especially after a few nips of ritual new grape wine. Agave wrestled ad tore off the head of her own son, Pentheus, in one of her ecstasies, mistaking him for a lion. She then paraded around proudly holding his decapitated head up for all to see. Her husband met a similar end in another rite. Agave was a Moon-Goddess and was in charge of some of the revelries that were the precedent for Dionysus’ cult. Euripes celebrated the ferocity of Agave and her fellow Maenads, Ino and Aunonoë in his Bacchae as soldiers report how “we by flight hardly escaped tearing to pieces at their hands” and further describing the shock of witnessing the semi-divine females tearing young bulls limb from limb with their terrible “knifeless fingers.” In his version, Pentheus dies while trying to spy on the private ritual of the Maenads in transvestite disguise.

This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Penthesilea: The Real Thing

By Penthesilea Painter (name vase) – The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202. see permission.Image renamed from Image:Penthesilea-Maler 001.jpg., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2759814

The daughter of Orithia, Penthesilea was the ruler, along with her sister Hippolyte, of Amazonia, the Bronze Age Amazon nation in an area of the Black Sea. A fierce warrior, Penthesilea’s name means “compelling men to mourn.” During Orithia’s reign, repeated attacks from Greek war parties eroded the borders of their once widespread empire. The nation of Amazonia itself, however, lived in peace; its women warriors were regarded as the most highly skilled soldiers among all the armies of the world. Even the piratical adventurers of myth, the Argonauts, dropped their plans to invade Amazonia when they saw how peaceful and self-sufficient the country was.

Penthesilea was the greatest Amazon of all times. At first, her excellence with weaponry was primarily for the purpose of hunting. When her sister died falling on Penthesilea’s spear during a hunt, Penthesilea chose to channel her grief and rage into battle. At the request of Queen Hecuba, she liberated the city of Troy, under siege by the Greeks for years. The link between Troy and Amazonia predates Homer and Euripides by centuries and many scholars believe that Homer adapted his famous story from the Egyptian poetess Phantasia and reoriented it toward the patriarchal tastes of his Greek audience.

Essentially, Penthesilea’s Achilles heel was her desire to lead the attack on Troy, the last Goddess worshiping city-state in the Mediterranean Asia Minor. The legends vary, but consensus among historians is that Achilles took one look at the powerful and pulchritudinous Penthesilea and fell deeply in love. They battled ruthlessly one-on-one, and the Amazon queen proved to be the only soldier Achilles had ever encountered who was his equal. One version depicts the great Penthesilea taking Achilles and dozens of Greeks’ lives in the battlefield surrounding Troy, only to be confounded when the God Zeus brought Achilles back to life. In this version, she died but Achilles’ grief was so severe that he killed several of his allies who had mutilated her corpse (in one version he rapes her corpse in a wanton necrophilic lust). Other tellings of the tales have Penthesilea brutally killing the Greek and falling in love with him as his dying eyes lock with hers, then setting upon his corpse and devouring him, in a final act of savage love.

Only sections of the ancient poem Aethiopis that describe Penthesilea and the liberation of Troy managed to survive from antiquity. They include a suffragistic speech made by the amazing amazon herself: “Not in strength are we inferior to men; the same our eyes, our limbs the same; one common light we see, one air we breathe; no different is the food we eat. What then denied to us hath heaven on man bestowed? O let us hasten to the glorious war!”

This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Breaking the Concrete Ceiling

Lucretia Coffin Mott (1793 - 1880) *oil on canvas  *76.8 x 64.1 cm  *1842
By Joseph Kyle (1815 – 1863). – Smithonian National Portrait Gallery, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4824799

Lucretia Mott worked with Elizabeth Cady Stanton in planning the Seneca Falls Convention. Mott was an electrifying speaker, coming from Europe where she was a well known Quaker preacher. She didn’t mince words and spoke powerfully and directly to women’s rights, adding the radical note needed to light the fires of equal rights and abolition, “the world has never seen a truly great nation because in the degradation of women the very foundations of life are poisoned at the source.”

Women legislators worked for years to get a statue of Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the Capitol rotunda. In spring of 1977, they finally succeeded. At the dedication ceremony, Representative Louise Slaughter (D., N.Y.) quipped to the statue, “Well sisters, it’s going to be very hard to put you back in the basement now.”

This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Lilith: Women Rocking the World

By Anthony Quintano – https://www.flickr.com/photos/quintanomedia/4841873355, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12805548

Nova Scotian Sarah McLachlan had the best idea of her generation in 1997 with the Lilith Fair, a gynocentric road show that sold-out all across the country and showcased the best minds and biggest talents of the nineties. Classical guitarist turned rocker-mystic-youth-entrepreneurial-producer, Sarah McLachlan was known for her sensitive, sensual, and poetic autobiographical songs before she put together her response to the male-dominated Lollapalooza and Horde festivals. Now she’s headed for the stratosphere of pop fame. Here’s a sampling of the eclectic collection of female talent she assembled:

Fiona Apple: Medusa-haired angry girl whose debut record at nineteen years old stunned audiences with its sophistication, musicality, and originality.

Jewel: Being on the same stage with one of her personal sheroes, Tracy Chapman, was thrilling, inspiring, and nervous-making, stated the modest star!

Tracy Chapman: The quietly charismatic Chapman brought every crowd to their feet. She’s the epitome of women’s music in spirit, heart, and soul.

Paula Cole: The answer to her hit song, “Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?” is doubtless, to the record store to buy her CD!

This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Women Warriors of the Americas

Belle Starr
By Unknown – http://carthagemo.gov/index.asp?Type=B_LOC&SEC={F00C96A1-3EBC-4D9D-8B6F-EAB8825DFF4E}&DE={76856A80-3D4F-4318-B102-30278C59AFD0}, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17501826

Belle Starr fought for the Yankees as an underground guerilla on the other side of the Mason Dixon Line. Unfortunately for her and a few hundred others, these guerilla groups were outlawed and Belle was on the lam unable to go home. Forced to a life of crime as an accidental fugitive, Belle showed a flair for stickups and cattle rustlings, and generally supported her bad self as a gun-for-hire. Belle has gotten a bum rap as a colorful criminal; she and the others from the underground were patriots who served their country well in extreme danger only to have the rug (or flag, as it were) pulled out from under them.

This excerpt is from The Book of Awesome Women by Becca Anderson, which is available now through Amazon and Mango Media.

Ntozake Shange

By Barnard College; digitally restored by Chris Woodrich – File:Ntozake Shange, Reid Lecture, Women Issues Luncheon, Women’s Center, November 1978.jpg; restored by self, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=38840417
We would like to take the time to reflect on the life of playwriter Ntozake Shange, who passed away Saturday at age 70. Shange made a name for herself as the playwriter of, “For Colored Girls”, which was nominated for many awards, including the illustrious Tony Award, and was adapted for film in 2010 by director Tyler Perry. Through usage of the pen, Shange was also able to write many different pieces of poetry, novels, and works, works which won her an Obie Citation Award in 1980. As we reminisce about the life and work of Ntozake Shange, we would like to remember her for her contributions to women’s rights and civil rights through her historical works.