Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
who is solely responsible for its content.
This version of Women of Achievement has been taken
from the draft of an unpublished book based on
Irene Stuber's files on women of achievement and herstory.
The full text of this episode of Women of Achievement and Herstory
will be published here in the future.
05-13 TABLE of CONTENTS:
QUOTE by Lorraine Hansberry.
Our good email friend Varda Ullman Novick, a member of the WiiN board of directors, wrote:
"While on the Greek island of Spetses in late September 1995, I saw information about a museum in the former home of a great Greek admiral - a woman! Though the museum was closed that day, I found an illustrated booklet about Bouboulina in a shop that sells newspapers"
The text of the pamphlet was written by one of Admiral Bouboulis descendants Philip Demertzis-Bouboulis. Mr. DM gave WOAH permission to use his work. The only editing WOAH has done to his English version is to change the tenses of verbs - and little touches here and there to clarify meaning without changing the timbre of the writing.
What a movie this would make! (But they'd probably change the sex of the protagonist ;-):
Laskarina Bouboulina was one of the most celebrated figures in Greek history.
Coming from the island of Hydra, she was born inside the prisons of Constantinople (Istanbul) on May 12th, 1771, when her mother, Skevo, visited her dying husband, Stavrianos Pinotsis, who had been imprisoned by the Turks. After Pinotsis' death, mother and child returned to Hydra, where they lived for four years, thereafter moving to Spetses when Skevo married a Spetsiot captain, Dimitrios Lazarou-Orlof.
From childhood, Bouboulina had a passion for the sea and loved to listen to the stories of the sailors and their talk of freedom for the nation. Greece had been under Turkish occupation for four hundred years.
Dark in colouring, and with a regal stature and untamed character, Laskarina Bouboulina married twice, first at the age of seventeen to Dimitrios Yiannouzas and again at the age of thirty to Dimitrios Bouboulis.
Life though was very cruel to Bouboulina and both her husbands, captains of their own ships, died in sea battles with pirates who were then raiding the coasts of Greece.
The widow becomes a revolutionary
By the year 1811, Bouboulina was twice widowed and the mother of seven children, but at the same time, extremely rich from the fortunes of ships, land and cash inherited from her husbands. She managed not only to keep this fortune intact but also to increase it, due to her successful trading.
She became partner in several Spetsiot vessels and in time managed to build three of her own - one of which was the later famous Agamemnon," the first and the largest Greek fighting ship during the 1821 War of Independence against Turkey.
In 1816, Turkey attempted to confiscate Bouboulina's fortune, using the excuse that her second husband had taken part in the Turko-Russian wars by using his own vessels alongside the Russian fleet.
In her efforts to save her fortune, Bouboulina traveled to Constantinople, where she met the Russian Ambassador, Strogonoff, a known filhellene [lover of Greece]. She sought protection from Strogonoff because of her husband's services to Russia but also because her ships were under the Russian flag at the time.
Strogonoff, in his efforts to protect her and save her from imminent arrest by the Turks, sent her to the Crimea, to an estate given for her use by Tsar Alexander. Before leaving for Russia she managed to gain an audience with the Sultan's mother, Valide-Sultana, who was extremely impressed by Bouboulina's character and her pleas for help.
Bouboulina stayed in Russia for approximately three months while she waited for the crisis to defuse, when finally the Sultana convinced her son, Mahmud II, to issue a special declaration by which Bouboulina's fortune was saved. No longer under threat of arrest, Bouboulina left immediately for Spetses.
Whilst in Constantinople, Bouboulina had become a member of the underground organisation, Filiki Etairia (Friendly Society) which for a number of years had organised and prepared the Greeks for the revolution against the Turks. Thus, on her return to Spetses, she began her preparations for the coming revolution. These preparations included the illegal buying of arms and ammunition from foreign ports, which she brought to Spetses in secrecy with her own vessels, and hid them in her own home.
She also built her flagship Agamemnon, a corvette armed with eighteen heavy cannons.
Bouboulina Arms and Pays Revolutionary Navy
By the beginning of the revolution she had assembled a small private [navy] made up of Spetsiots - her "brave lads" as she used to call them - which she herself armed, fed and paid, as well as her own vessels' crews. This continued for a number of years and she spent thoughtless amounts of money on food and ammunition, which she sent to help the Greek armies surrounding the Turkish strongholds of Nafplion and Tripolis. This explains why Bouboulina spent all her large fortune during the first few years of the revolution.
On March 13, 1821, the first revolutionary flag was raised on Spetses by Bouboulina on the main mast of the Agamemnon and she saluted it with cannon fire. On May 3rd, the island of Spetses, which along with the islands of Hydra and Psara were the leading naval forces of the Greek revolution revolted.
Bouboulina herself commanded her own fleet plus others, and a total of eight vessels sailed towards Nafplion to begin the naval blockade of this massive fort which was armed with 300 cannons at the time. Landing her forces at nearby Mili, her fireful words and great enthusiasm gave courage to the Greek land forces to keep on with the siege of Nafplion.
Her naval attacks on the seaside fortifications were actions of unrivaled heroism - as told by historian Anargyros Hatzi-Anargyrou in an eye witness account:
"...Indeed the very rare fact in the history of nations, of a woman to take arms, a very rich woman who decided to offer a sacrifice to the altar of her country, her ships, her money and her sons. This woman was Laskarina Bouboulina, whom the nations of the world saluted as a heroine. She was indeed lionhearted. On December 4th 1821, as I remember, on board her own vessel, she alone gave orders for the boats to attack the fort.
"They immediately sailed forward but a rain of bullets and cannon fire from the seaside fortifications made her brave lads fall back for a moment, and an angered Amazon, watching the battle over the side of her boat, she then shouted: 'Are you women then and not men? Forward!'
"Her officers obeyed, regrouped and attacked -- they fought, but died in vain since the fort was impregnable by sea. For this reason she herself landed with her forces and stayed until the fall of the fort on 22nd November 1822, leading her men in battle, spending her fortune...."
Bouboulina Saved Lives of Turkish Harem Women and Children
Another historian by the name of Filimon, in a phrase describing her bravery, stated: "...against her, the unmanly were ashamed and the brave stepped back..."
Apart from the naval blockade of Nafplion, Bouboulina took part in the blockade of Momemvassia and the surrender of its castle, also the battle of Haradros, near Nafplion, where her eldest son, Yiannis Yiannouzas died heroically, and at the siege and fall of Tripolis.
Here, during the terrible massacre that followed the fall of the city, Bouboulina managed to save the harem of Hoursit Pasha, the city's ruler. This she did at the risk of her own life after she received a plea from the Pasha's wife to save the lives of the harem women and their children. It is said that Bouboulina kept a promise given back in 1816 to the Sultan's mother in Constantinople (when the latter intervened to save Bouboulina's fortune) that if ever a Turkish woman would officially ask for help, she would not refuse and would do her best to help.
After the fall of Nafplion to the Greek forces, Bouboulina stayed on there, in a house given to her by the state as a reward for her services to the nation. Later though, due to fighting between opposing factions for the leadership of the newborn country, and the imprisonment of General Kolokotronis, one of the leading figures of the Greek revolution, and a man whom she always deeply respected and followed, Bouboulina, as a protest, gave back the house in Nafplion to the state and returned to Spetses.
A Man Saves His Manhood
The year 1825 found Bouboulina living in her house in Spetses, bitter with the politicians and without her fortune. Suddenly the nation was again in grave danger - the Egyptian admiral, Ibrahim, commanding a massive Turko-Egyptian fleet, landed on the Peloponnese in a final effort to kill the revolution. Bouboulina's love for her country suppresses all other emotions and while she was again making preparations to take part in the new fighting, death came - sly and unexpected.
From a dark bullet she fell, in a dispute with members of the Koutsis family of Spetses. The reason for this was the elopement of a Koutsis daughter with Bouboulina's son, Yeorgos Yiannouzas.
Her implacable and angry words were enough to offend the manhood, and arm the hand, of her killer.
Thus an unjust and inglorious end for this woman who did so much for her country, the love for which was above all in her life and filled her heart. Her name remains forever linked with the siege of Nafplion --her name, whose fame traveled the whole world, can still be heard above the sound of the cannons.
On her ship, standing fearless and undaunted, with her piercing look, she points to the fortifications of Nafplion and urges her sailors to charge, and with her warm and deep voice gives the command to fire against the forts!!!
(Text by Philip Demertzis-Bouboulis; published in 1992 by Company of Cultural Services, Bouboulina A Private Non-Profit Making Company, Bouboulis' Mansion, 180 50 Spetses Island-Greece; Tel: (0298) 72416).
05-13 DATES, ANNIVERSARIES, and EVENTS
Born 05-13-1717, Maria Teresa, one of the great rulers of Europe, she governed the Austrian Hapsburg empire from 1740 to 1780.
As daughter and only child of Roman Emperor Charles VI, she inherited the crown in 1740. Several European leaders challenged her right to it because she was a female even though her father had all the major European powers to agree to her rule.
Within a year Bavaria, France, Prussia, Saxony, and Spain were fighting her in the War of the Austrian Succession. The king of Bavaria had himself crowned emperor, naming himself Charles VII of the Holy Roman Empire.
It was only through the amazing political skills of Maria Teresa that she was able to get her husband crowned as the Holy Roman Emperor after Charles' death, thus retaking the empire for the Hapsburgs without a war.
Her administrative skills were used to consolidate powers into a central government rather than have it spread out to the nobility.
Her greatest move, perhaps, was instituting taxation of the church and the nobility rather than just the people. Although a devote Catholic, she made the church subject to the rules of the state rather than the church ruling the state as had been its historic role.
She initiated compulsory primary education. In later years she co-ruled with her son with whom she didn't always agree.
Maria Theresa had 16 children, ten of whom grew to adulthood, including Marie Antoinette, ill-fated Queen of France whose administrative abilities have also been "overlooked" by historians.
B. 05-13-1864, Vesta Tilley, British singing comedienne who made an outstanding career of male impersonation on stages in London and the U.S.
B. 05-13-1900, Salote Tupou, Queen of Tonga (Tonga Islands).
B. 05-13-1907, Daphne Du Maurier, British author. Her best known novels are Jamaica Inn (1936) and the riveting Rebecca (1938). Her great grandmother was Mary Anne Clark, a noted actor.
Event 05-13-1908: the U.S. Navy Nurse Corps is established with Esther Voorhees as its head.
B. 05-13-1926, Beatrice Arthur, U.S. actor and singer. BA won Tony for best supporting actress in Mame (1966). Her TV series Maude was a hit during the 1970s and she was one of the Golden Girls, another long running TV hit series.
Event 05-13-1971, the U.S. Senate's sergeant-at-arms refused to swear in three young women pages nominated by U.S. Senators until the Rules Committee specifically approved them. The next day Paulette Desell of New York, Julie Price of Okalahoma, and Ellen McConnell of Illinois, are sworn in as the first female pages in the history of the U.S. Senate. Young boy pages, of course, were routinely sworn without question - with no standing rules.
QUOTES DU JOUR
"The grim possibility is that she who 'hides her brains' will, more than likely, end up with a mate who is only equal to a woman with 'hidden brains' or none at all."
-- Lorraine Hansberry, "In the Defense of the Equality of Men."
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