Monday, September 01, 2008

SUFFER THE WOMEN

God bless the Kirk; I’ve just been reading that the establishment of a theocracy in Scotland followed a peculiarly masculine and mysogynistic theology – John Knox in his ‘First Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment of Women’ called them, ‘the porte and gate of the devil.’ Imagine that!

I was trawling the bookshelves in a Govan charity shop, and complaining about the price, as usual, when I fell upon this fabulous little local history pamphlet that was compiled and published for an exhibition at The People’s Palace in Glasgow Green. It’s titled, The Scottish Women’s Suffrage Movement, which I think might put people off at first glance unless they were in the mood for a history lesson – but it immediately grabs your attention by the selection of the comments above. Oh, I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to live then, and there.

Women found guilty of gossiping or quarrelling were forced to stand in public with a metal brace (branks or jougs) around their head and a mouthpiece to depress the tongue, which when combined with the ducking stool was very unpleasant – to say the least. Also, a pulley was constructed to duck female adulterers in the river Clyde. There is no mention of male adulterers, yet.

Even on the Sabbath, there was no peace or rest for women, not in church - they had to bring their own stools in some places! They were prodded awake if they fell asleep during sermons; Beadles were appointed to poke them and punish any children causing a disturbance. Searchers prowled the streets to ensure the compulsory attendance at church. In the 16th and 17th centuries the Kirk had a lot of influence on the civil law and because of this town midwives were not allowed to give assistance to unmarried and pregnant women unless the father of the child had been named; women had no power to refuse a man anything - if their employer or any man took a fancy to them they were doomed and the only thing to save them would be infertility. What a thing to pray for.

Working-class unmarried women were not allowed to rent rooms or houses and the only work permitted was that of a servant. Doesn’t this just break your heart? I feel myself wanting to go back in time to save these women…and I haven’t got to the witch-burnings yet!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

And nowadays, Iran, Saudi Arabia etc . . .

Poppyx

ireneintheworld said...

god poppy, this is so depressing, that the world hasn't really chaged in all these hundreds of years. :(

BetteJo said...

Sounds like a very unpleasant time and place to be a woman. I'm truly glad to be born here and now. Not everyone these days is so lucky.

ireneintheworld said...

you are so right bettejo. i know we all moan about stuff but how would we, the pampered and reasonably free, survive in that kind of world? i know i'd want to be an artesan and blow up bridges! x

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

ireneintheworld said...

Thank you for your kind comment :-) yes, practice makes it all better and better.