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September 17

Compiled and Written by Irene Stuber
who is solely responsible for its content.
This version of Women of Achievement has been taken
from the 1998 email distribution of Women of Achievement and Herstory.
The full text of this episode of Women of Achievement and Herstory
will be published here in the future.

Hildegard von Bingen


QUOTE by Betty Power and ...

"Saint" Hildegard

DIED 09-17-1179, Hildegard, who [b. 1098, date unknown] is often called a saint although she was never formally canonized.
      Hildegard was beset by visions throughout her life that the Roman Catholic church/pope confirmed were from "heaven."
      Her first 26 visions were recorded as the book Scivias (1141-52). She founded her own nunnery and continued to write of her visions that addressed man's relationship to God and redemption.
      As the tenth child, she was tithed to the church. Her visions, probably the result of migraine headaches, became famous; it was on them that her historical fame rested.
      And thus her biography stood for many years until the women's movement of the last part of this century began to explore the life of this complex, very modern woman.
      And so recently there has also been a revival of her music. Yes, amazingly and virtually unknown, there exists sacred music primarily written for women's voices in an age when women were supposed to be silent in devotions, without a will of their own, and eternally submitting to their husbands/any males. The compositions themselves are in simple plainchant, a single vocal melodic line that much of the original church music was written until traditional performances through the years embellished them with parts and counterpoints.
      What an amazing discovery! Music sung by the nuns! For almost a thousand years all we ever heard mentioned about the times was men's music such as Gregorian chants!
      Now it is obvious that music for and performed by women was an important part of the devotions at Hildegard's nunneries - and perhaps all other nunneries. Like the historian's myopic writing about what they see in their own mirrors, the church historians appear to have ignored a vital part of church tradition because it didn't concern men like themselves.
      New translations of her tracts on religion, healing, natural history, etc., have been made - and a whole new vision of what women experienced in those days is unfolding. She even described a woman's pleasure in an orgasm! Some of the viewpoints are, of course, considered absurd by today's standards of knowledge, but they were far more sophisticated than we often give the people of the past credit for.
      It is obvious that Hildegarde could not have done it all that is credited to her by herself. She, in fact, supervised what can only be called a nun factory, i.e., all the nuns contributing to the mound of knowledge.
      Hildegarde was taught as a child and woman from age 10 to 38 by anchoress Jutta. Jutta spent her life sealed into a little room (at her own request) with only a small window as her contact with the world. There that window opening all food, conversation, and personal waste was passed.

Some sources maintain Hildegard began having visions as a young child but withheld the information until she was older, not wanting to be considered different. (?Typical teenager?) The visions became known as Hildegard aged - especially after Jutta died - and even the Pope heard of them and encouraged her to write the experiences down as a true record from God. He even assigned a monk named Volmar who would act as her secretary most of her life.
      She wrote of a major vision,
"And it came to pass... when I was 42 years and 7 months old, that the heavens were opened and a blinding light of exceptional brilliance flowed through my entire brain. And so it kindled my whole heart and breast like a flame, not burning but warming... and suddenly I understood of the meaning of expositions of the books..."
      Her visions, by the way, were probably a side effect of migraine headaches - an effect not known until recently.
      Her first major book Scavias consisted of her first 25 visions. Her fame spread. Wise men from all over Europe visited her. Around 1150 she moved to Bingen and founded a single sex monastery. (The previous one had nuns and monks living side- by-side.) It was there she (and/or her sister nuns) wrote the music and texts she is famed for as well as the Physica and Causae et Curae (1150) that are books on natural history as well as the cause and cure of disease. She advocated using various natural things such as herbs and precious stones. She wrote positively about sex and woman's pleasures with sex. Yes, the ancients wrote of sex.
      Her method of study can only be described as scientific - studying and observing - a method much advanced for the times.
      Her music is being recorded widely today and 1998 was celebrated as her 900th anniversary with numerous new recordings.

Selected sources on Hildegard:

Ohanneson, Joan. Scarlet Music: A Life of Hildegard Von Bingen. (This is a novel rather than a history)

Craine, Renate. Hildegard: Prophet of the Cosmic Church.

Flanagan, Sabina. Hildegard of Bingen, a Visionary Life. Routledge, London, 1989

Flanagan, Sabina. Secrets of God: Writings of Hildegard of Bingen, selected and translated from Latin. Boston/London: Shambala Publications, 1996.

Lachman, Barbara. The Journal of Hildegard of Bingen. New York: Bell Tower, 1993, pbk. 1995.

Lachman, Barbara. Hildegard, The Last Year. Shambhala, 1997

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B. 09-17-1657OS, Sophia, (Sofya Alekseyevna), Regent of Russia 1682-1689. As the eldest daughter of Tsar Alexis, she claimed the throne at the death of her brother Fyodor III. Her half brother Peter was proclaimed Czar instead. She stopped a palace revolt and became regent when she had her younger brother proclaimed co-Czar with Peter. It is said that to prevent another palace revolt that might have unseated her, she (sensibly) transferred most of the palace troops out of Moscow and appointed a new commander. (Several of her successors would murder rather than transfer.)
      Her domestic policies were far reaching as she encouraged reform, brought in foreign ideas and developed industry. The religious orders didn't like her changes and stirred up the peasantry. She concluded a peace treaty with Poland that gained Russia the land east of the Dnieper River including Kiev in exchange for military action against the Turks in which the Russians suffered great losses. She also set the eastern borders of the great land at the Amur River in a treaty with China. Peter's followers, including by then many in the Palace guards, overthrew Sophia and forced her into a convent.

B. 09-17-1802, Mercy Ruggles Jackson, twice widowed with 11 children is NOT the poster girl for historians who would have you believe that women did no work. She worked unbelievably hard to support her children by operating a girl's school and then a dry goods store. MRJ eventually become a self-taught practitioner of homeopathic medicine. She graduated from the New England Medical College in 1860, but she was refused membership in Homeopathy societies until 1871 because of her sex. She became professor of diseases of children at the Boston University School of Medicine. She also conducted a large private practice and was an active suffragist.

B. 9-17-1854, Effie Ellsler, U.S. actor.

B. 09-17-1920, Marjorie Sewell Holt, U.S. Representative from Maryland 1973-1987. As a member of the Committee on Armed Services, she was a hawk seeking increased budgets for the military. She also backed higher pay and benefits for service members. MSH opposed the nuclear freeze. She did not seek reelection and retired to practice law in Maryland.

B. 09-17-1931, Anne Bancroft, much honored U.S. stage and film actor. She won the 1960 Tony (ANTA) award for originating the Annie Sullivan role in The Miracle Worker and won the Academy Award when she reprised the role on film. In 1987 she won the top British film award for her beautifully understated role in 84 Charing Cross Road. Other awards: 1958 Tony for best supporting actress for Two for the Seasons; AA nominations for The Pumpkin Eater (1964) which won the Cannes International Film festival prize, The Graduate (1967), and The Turning Point (1977).
      Her mother was a telephone operator at Macy's Department Store in New York City. She is an outstanding comedian and receive the Lifetime Achievement in Comedy award in 1966.

B. 09-17-1933, Dorothy Loudon, winner of the 1977 Tony award for her work in Annie.

B. 09-17-1934, Maureen Catherine Connolly, arguably the greatest woman tennis player who ever lived. She was the first woman to win the grand slam of tennis, winning the British (Wimbledon), U.S., Australian, and French singles championships in 1953.
      She won the first of her three U.S. championship at 17 after which she lost only four matches the rest of her career. She won the Wimbledon three times 1952-54), the French Championship in 1953 and 1954, and the Australian (1953) and Italian (1954). The Associated Press named her woman athlete of the year in 1952, 1953, and 1954. All this by the time she was 20!
      But that was all there was to be. She suffered a career-ending horseback riding accident when she was only 20, just weeks after winning there third straight Wimbledon.
      She had started playing tennis when she was ten, begging her parents for equipment and a pro teacher. She became a star in amateur competition almost immediately and at 13 caught the eye of legendary coach Eleanor Tennant who had also guided the games of such tennis luminaries as Helen Wills Moody and Alice Marble.
      MC was a natural left-hander who played right with a devastating ground game. At one point she won 56 straight matches.
      Following her career-ending accident, MC devoted her efforts to helping young players through the Maureen Connolly Brinker foundation. She married and had two children before the unthinkable occured. She died of cancer at only 35.

B. 09-17-1951, Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson, U.S. entertainer.

Event 09-17-1958: Preliminary results of 3,000 women being tested show the new birth control pill was as effective as any other birth control method.

B. 09-17-1961, Pamela Ann Melroy, USAF/NASA astronaut, scheduled to be the second woman to pilot a U.S. shuttle spacecraft. Col. Melroy is an experienced pilot who served as a test pilot with the Air Force for several years. She was selected as an astronaut candidate by NASA in December 1994. After training and working on support duties for launch and landing, she was assigned pilot on STS-92, the third Space Shuttle mission to assemble the International Space Station, scheduled for launch in June 1999.

Event 09-17-1967: The National Board of the National Organization for Women voted to create the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund, a separate organization that would remain affiliated with the main NOW organization but a separate entity. Some of today's NOW officers have sought to either dismantle it or take over its operation to acquire its funding.

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      "When you know something about the reality of the world that those who stand in ignorance do not know, then you can't not educate."
            -- Betty Power, 1987.

      "A man can be an honest man, but a woman to be an honest woman must be married after an illicit affair."
            -- anon whom Virginia Woolfe identified or suspected of "often being a woman."

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