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Women Throughout the Ages
by Bonnie Moss (c) 2010 -06

 

A Woman's  Timeless Place in History 
 How Far Have They Come?


Historically, women had to struggle for recognition as equal to men. In every culture, race, creed 
and social status, the rightful  place of a woman in society is a contentious issue. Does it go back to 
creation- when God took a rib from Adam to create Eve?  His son, Jesus, was conceived and born 
from Mary's womb, a woman. And so is all of humanity. Into the 21st century, Mary occupies a 
venerable place in the hearts and minds of many Christians. Is Eve to be blamed for the degradation 
of womanhood because she tempted Adam? He could have firmly said “NO.”

In the beginning of time, women were not a part of the male world of action, politics and thoughts. 
Somehow, women were able to enter the male- dominated world,  shared their knowledge on the 
issues of that era.  Many of these women will forever remain nameless, forgotten and lost in the mists 
of time. Throughout the ages, there were women who laid down the foundation for recognition of a 
women as equal to men.

Modern Woman

Modern era covers a wide variation of time. Some consider the Industrial Revolution as the start of 
the modern era. Others peg the Victorian years as the start of it, still some will say it started at the 
beginning of the 20th century. Post modern era starts after World War II and in to the start of the 
21st century, some refer to it as the Millenial Era.
 
 What is modern era.. excerpt, author unknown
The concept of the modern world as distinct from an ancient or medieval world rests on a sense that 
the modern world is not just another era in history, but rather the result of a new type of change. 
This is conceived of as progress driven by deliberate human efforts to better their situation.

Advances in all areas of human activity- politics, industry, society, economics, commerce, transport, 
communication, mechanization, automation, science, medicine,technology and culture-appear to 
have transformed an Old World  into the Modern or New World. In each case, the old Revolutionary 
change can be used to demarcate the old and old-fashioned from the modern.

Portions of the Modern world altered its relationship with the Biblical value system, revalued the 
monarchial government system, and abolished the feudal economic system, with new democratic 
and liberal ideas in the areas of politics, science, psychology, sociology, and economics.

In modern times, many women still suffer the discrimination of being inferior to men. It can be traced
 back to history of a male-dominated society, the predominant misogyny of christian scholars and 
theologians. The accomplishments of  many women were ignored or obliterated.  Today, there are 
chauvinist males who remain thorns on the side of the female sex. Proudly, this did not stop women 
from expressing who and what they are since the beginning of time. History proves that many women 
dared to prove they are not inferior to man.It is difficult to exclude the word “ feminism” when it involves 
women's battle to exclude gender in the social structure.

Christian tradition was a strong influence on the status of women  for over 2000 years to this day. 
Religion was very much a part of society. Politics,education and culture revolved around religion. 
Sexuality was not discussed. Sexual pleasure was considered evil, it was a problem. Today's  
attitude towards sex is more permissive and sexuality is no longer defined by Christian standards, 
thus there is no guilt attached to it. A woman today has control of her sexuality.She understands it, 
she chooses her way of expressing it. This  sexual freedom can  have serious  complications.
 A woman has to be prepared to protect herself  from sexually transmitted disease like AIDS, possible 
unwanted  pregnancy ,violence and abuse  are issues to consider.

Feminism:
Women's movement towards liberation started in the Middle Ages when women realized that 
knowledge was power and education liberated them from marriage where they have to live in the 
shadows of their husbands and possible degradation. 

The women's movement for liberation is passed on to the modern women. On the agenda  were 
equal rights, right to vote, equal pay for equal work with men, right to choose, economic independence 
and  freedom from sexual harassment.

It must be noted that there are women today who are not comfortable with the word feminist.
 There is a misunderstanding that feminism is mainly the domain of upscale females who 
are born into the affluent class. Economic and social standing is not intended to divide the female 
population in the matter of feminism. This movement helps to encourage women from all walks of 
life to learn to stand for themselves and uphold the basic tenets of society independently, without 
holding onto the arms of a man.

The modern female moves on towards unchartered territories where no woman has been. Into 
the late 20th century, more women are recognized for their important contributions in politics, the 
corporate world, science, medicine, education, culture and technology in the world stage, even into 
space exploration. 

Today, women are joining the skilled labor force. There are carpenters, truck drivers, operators of 
heavy duty equipment and more. Women have entered into the executive level of the corporate 
world which was  male dominated into the 1970's.

In current history, female advocates for recognition  and equal rights of women take pride in the 
high profiled women- political leaders like Indira Gandhi, Golda Meier, Margaret Thatcher and 
Hilary Clinton to name a few.  Civil rights activist  like Susan B. Anthony left a legacy; Rosa Parks 
successfully broke racial barrier, thanks to Hollywood. In the entertainment arena, Marian Anderson , 
an African American, was propelled into the world of entertainment  due to the support of FDR and 
particularly his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, another woman in the world stage. Marian did not disappoint 
a crowd of approximately 75,000 at the Lincoln Memorial.

In science, health and technology, who has not heard of Madame Curie; what about Florence Nightingale? 
Didn't Amelia Erhart win accolades for her conquest in the field of aviation? We must not forget 
Mother Teresa and her miraculous work in India!

In the World wars 1 & 2,there are many nameless women who fought too. Their roles were controversial
and even unacknowledged by the countries they fought for. 

In her book, Women in War, Shelley Saywell offers rightful and meaningful tribute to the 
many forgotten women veterans of  World War 11. Their sacrifice is not forgotten. Her book tells the 
story of women pilots from Britain, resistance fighters in France, Italy and Poland. Also about the 
Russian marines, Israeli commandos, French and American nurses in Vietnam and numerous guerillas.

Women in Biblical Times 
In the biblical times to the Ministry of Jesus, rolling on to the Dark and Middle Ages, there are notable 
women who were not hindered by their sex to take an active role in society. There were those who 
ruled  alongside their husbands, some went to war, some showed talent in art and literature. 

In biblical times
Society was patriarchal at the beginning of time.  There were women who played major roles.

Around 1120 BCE-Judge and Phrophetess Debrah of Judeah (Israel) 
The fourth Judge and only female Judge in pre-monarchic Israel. Held her position for 40 years 
and led the Israeli tribes to a war with Canaan. Her story is told in the Old Testament in Judges.

Queen Makeda of Sheba: 1005-965 
Legends about this queen are common in Arabia, Persia, Ethopia and Israel. Ethopian legend 
indicate that she was born in Ophir and educated in Ethopia. Her father died when she was 
fifteeen and she succeeded to become the Queen of Sheba. There are contradictory stories 
about her relationship with Solomon. The Bible portrays her as converting to the God of the 
Israelites. Legends claim that she was a virgin queen for the first six years of her forty year rule.
As a child, she was called Makeba.

873-852 Politically influential Queen Consort Jezebel of Israel
852-842 Politically influential in Judeah
The story of Jezebel is told in the Old Testament in Kings 1. She was an enemy of the prophet Elijah. 
King Ahab was her husband. She was chief advisor and  the official correspondent of the court. She 
established the worship of Phoenician gods and goddesses. After the death of her husband, she 
continued to be a strong influence to her two sons, Ochozias and Joram. Her daughter Athali was 
married to King Joram. She was killed in a coup against King Joram.

Deborah ( 1296 BCE) 
She was a biblical judge of and prophetess in Israel who successfully lead troops in a war against 
the Canaanite invader Sisera. 

Judith 
Her story is in the bible-Book of Judith. She was an Israelite widow. Babylonian General Holoferness 
took seige of her city. Judith used her beauty, feminine wiles and wealth to seduce the general in his 
tent. She got him drunk, then decapitated him, put the head in a  bag, strolled out of the camp and 
returned home. The general's head was placed atop the city wall, thus the enemy fled in terror. This 
is about a woman  in the biblical times who used her brains to defeat a powerful enemy.

The Ministry of Jesus

Jesus’ honor and respect was extended to all women—an attitude largely unexpected and unknown 
in his culture and time. Jesus, unlike the men of his generation and culture, taught that women were 
equal to men in the sight of God.  He had women followers who took part in his ministry ignoring the 
norm of that time about the status of women. However, there are those who paint a different picture 
of Jesus and his treatment of women.

Joanna 
In Luke 8:3, he writes about women who helped Jesus out of their personal financial resources. Joanna 
was the wife of Cuza, manager of Herod's household. Susanna was another follower. Oher women, 
believed to be widows who controlled their personal finances provided financial support to the 
ministry of Jesus.

The three Mary's, his Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, and Mary( Salome) were at his side 
throughout his suffering on the cross. The men fled, but the women stayed by His side 
after His death.

In Matthew 27:55-56, he states that women were free to follow him. Many of them followed him 
faithfully and stood by the cross whereas the male followers fled, afraid for their lives.

After the death of Jesus, women continued to play prominent roles in the early movement. Some 
scholars have even suggested that the majority of Christians in the first century may have been 
women.Paul, in his Letters mentions the Jewish and Gentile women who were active members in 
the movement to spread the message of Jesus. These women travelled either with their husbands 
or brothers. It was not an easy road, some of the women suffered imprisonment.

At that time, Christianity was declared illegal by the Romans. Gatherings were held in private 
homes and were looked after by the women. The women played a key role, providing financial 
support and active as apostles to spread the word. Among some of the women were:

Prisca, Junai, Julia and Nereu's sister. Eudia and Syntyche were also mentioned. Other women 
mentioned as leaders of the church houses were Apphia, in Philemon 2; 
Lydia of Thyathria ( Acts 16:15); Nympha of Laodicea ( Colossians 4:15). 
Paul also speaks of a deaconness Phoebe.

It is not the intention of this article to cover the whole subject of women's place in history.This would 
take pages to fill a book and more. It is, however, meant to provide information and to get readers 
interested in the topic of women and their efforts to prove that they are not the weaker nor the 
inferior sex. My next article deals with the Women of the Dark Ages to the Medieval Times 

References: Karen King- Women in Ancient Christianity
            The Gospel According to Woman- Karen Armstrong
            Pope Joan - Peter Stanford
            Warrior Queens
            Notable Women of Medieval Europe - John Johnson Lewis
   On-line resources: worldwide guide to WomenLeadership.com
                       ancient history.com
                       pbs.org
                        about.com
  

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