A play list of programs about women from the BBC’s In Our Time radio programme.
I’m a big fan of In Our Time, the BBC radio programme where Melvyn Bragg discusses the history of ideas with academics. Some time back the BBC released the entire In Our Time back catalogue as episodes to download, via podcasts and the web. A while back I created a selection from the podcast feed for Roman History, presenting the episodes in more-or-less chronological order. Here’s a similar chronological selection of women who have been topics of In Our Time programmes. I’ve also edited together an rss file for a podcast feed if you would like this selection delivered direct to your listening device.
Discussions about individual women (natural or supernatural) are left-aligned; discussions of themes, movements or works by or concerning women are right aligned.
Lakshmi (लक्ष्मी) or Laxmi, is the Hindu goddess of wealth, fortune and prosperity. She is the wife and shakti (energy) of Vishnu, one of the principal deities of Hinduism and the Supreme Being in the Vaishnavism Tradition.
Marriage, also called matrimony or wedlock, is a socially or ritually recognised union between spouses that establishes rights and obligations between those spouses.
Antiquities (pre-5th century)
Hatshepsut (1507–1458 BC) was the fifth pharaoh of the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt and the second historically-confirmed female pharaoh.
Sappho (c. 630 – c. 570 BC) was an archaic Greek poet from the island of Lesbos. Sappho is known for her lyric poetry, written to be sung while accompanied by a lyre.
In ancient Greek religion and mythology, the Muses are the inspirational goddesses of literature, science, and the arts. They are considered the source of the knowledge embodied in the poetry, lyric songs, and myths that were related orally for centuries in these ancient cultures.
In Greek mythology, the Amazons were a tribe of women warriors related to Scythians and Sarmatians. They were brutal and aggressive, and their main concern in life was war.
The Delphic Oracle
The Pythia was the name of the high priestess of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi who also served as the oracle, commonly known as the Oracle of Delphi.
Saint Mary Magdalene, sometimes called simply the Magdalene, was a Jewish woman who, according to the four canonical gospels, traveled with Jesus as one of his followers and was a witness to his crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.
Agrippina the Younger
Agrippina the Younger (6 November AD 15 – 23 March AD 59) was a Roman empress and one of the more prominent women in the Julio-Claudian dynasty.
Boudica or Boudicca (also Boadicea or Boudicea, and known in Welsh as Buddug) was a queen of the British Celtic Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces of the Roman Empire in AD 60 or 61, and died shortly after its failure, having supposedly poisoned herself.
Septimia Zenobia (c. 240 – c. 274 AD) was a third century queen of the Palmyrene Empire in Syria. In 270, Zenobia launched an invasion which brought most of the Roman East under her sway and culminated with the annexation of Egypt
Getting medieval (5th–14th centuries)
Hilda of Whitby or Hild of Whitby (c. 614–680) is a Christian saint and the founding abbess of the monastery at Whitby, which was chosen as the venue for the Synod of Whitby.
Hildegard of Bingen
Hildegard of Bingen OSB (1098 – 17 September 1179) was a German Benedictine abbess, writer, composer, philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, and polymath. She is considered to be the founder of scientific natural history in Germany.
Eleanor of Aquitaine
Eleanor of Aquitaine (1122 or 1124 – 1 April 1204) was queen consort of France (1137–1152) and England (1154–1189) and duchess of Aquitaine in her own right (1137–1204).
Renaissance Women (14th–17th centuries)
Christine de Pizan
Christine de Pizan (1364 – c. 1430) was an Italian and French author. She is best remembered for defending women in The Book of the City of Ladies and The Treasure of the City of Ladies.
Margery Kempe and English Mysticism
Margery Kempe (c. 1373 – after 1438) was an English Christian mystic, known for writing through dictation The Book of Margery Kempe, a work considered by some to be the first autobiography in the English language.
Judith beheading Holofernes
The account of the beheading of Holofernes by Judith is given in the deuterocanonical Book of Judith, and is the subject of many paintings and sculptures from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.
Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary, Queen of Scots (8 December 1542 – 8 February 1587), also known as Mary Stuart or Mary I of Scotland, reigned over Scotland from 14 December 1542 to 24 July 1567.
The Death of Elizabeth I
Elizabeth I (7 September 1533 – 24 March 1603) was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. On her death James the VI of Scotland became king of England.
Pocahontas (born Matoaka, known as Amonute, c. 1596 – March 1617) was a Native American woman notable for her association with the colonial settlement at Jamestown, Virginia.
Aphra Behn (14 December 1640? – 16 April 1689) was an English playwright, poet, translator and fiction writer from the Restoration era. As one of the first English women to earn her living by her writing, she broke cultural barriers and served as a literary role model for later generations of women authors.
The Salem Witch Trials
The Salem witch trials were a series of hearings and prosecutions of people accused of witchcraft in colonial Massachusetts between February 1692 and May 1693. More than 200 people were accused, 19 of whom were found guilty and executed by hanging (14 women and five men).
18th and 19th centuries
Women and Enlightenment Science
The history of science during the Age of Enlightenment traces developments in science and technology during the Age of Reason, when Enlightenment ideas and ideals were being disseminated across Europe and North America.
Catherine the Great
Catherine II (2 May 1729 – 17 November 1796), also known as Catherine the Great (Екатери́на Вели́кая, Yekaterina Velikaya), born Princess Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, was Empress of Russia from 1762 until 1796.
Marie Antoinette (French, 2 November 1755 – 16 October 1793) was the last Queen of France before the French Revolution. She was born an Archduchess of Austria and was the penultimate child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and Francis I, Holy Roman Emperor.
Mary Wollstonecraft (27 April 1759 – 10 September 1797) was an English writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights. Wollstonecraft is regarded as one of the founding feminist philosophers.
The Blue Stockings Society was an informal women’s social and educational movement in England in the mid-18th century. The society emphasized education and mutual co-operation.
Germaine de Stael
Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein (22 April 1766 – 14 July 1817), commonly known as Madame de Staël, was a French woman of letters and historian of Genevan origin whose lifetime overlapped with the events of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era.
Frances Burney (13 June 1752 – 6 January 1840), also known as Fanny Burney and after her marriage as Madame d’Arblay, was an English satirical novelist, diarist and playwright.
Emma, by Jane Austen, published December 1815, is a novel about youthful hubris and the perils of misconstrued romance.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë’s only novel, was written between October 1845 and June 1846 and published in 1847 under the pseudonym “Ellis Bell”. It was controversial because of its unusually stark depiction of mental and physical cruelty, and it challenged strict Victorian ideals regarding religious hypocrisy, morality, social classes and gender inequality.
Jane Eyre (originally published as Jane Eyre: An Autobiography on 16 October 1847) is a novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. Arguably a Bildungsroman, Jane Eyre follows the experiences of its eponymous heroine, including her growth to adulthood and her love for Mr. Rochester, the brooding master of Thornfield Hall.
Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace (née Byron; 10 December 1815 – 27 November 1852) was an English mathematician and writer, chiefly known for her work on Charles Babbage’s proposed mechanical general-purpose computer, the Analytical Engine.
Harriet Martineau (/ˈmɑːrtənˌoʊ/; 12 June 1802 – 27 June 1876) was a British social theorist and Whig writer, often cited as the first female sociologist.
North and South
North and South is a social novel published in 1855 by English writer Elizabeth Gaskell. It uses a protagonist from southern England to present and comment on the perspectives of mill owners and workers in an industrialising city.
Aurora Leigh (1856) is an epic novel/poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The poem is written in blank verse and is a first person narration, from the point of view of Aurora; its other heroine, Marian Erle, is an abused self-taught child of itinerant parents.
Madame Bovary (full French title: Madame Bovary. Mœurs de province) is a novel by Gustave Flaubert, published in 1856. The eponymous character lives beyond her means in order to escape the banalities and emptiness of provincial life.
Middlemarch, A Study of Provincial Life is a novel by the English author George Eliot (Mary Anne Evans), first published in eight instalments (volumes) in 1871–72. The novel is set in the fictitious Midlands town of Middlemarch during 1829–32. Issues include the status of women, the nature of marriage, idealism, self-interest, religion, hypocrisy, political reform, and education
Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet.
Christina Georgina Rossetti (5 December 1830 – 29 December 1894) was an English poet who wrote a variety of romantic, devotional, and children’s poems.
Octavia Hill (3 December 1838 – 13 August 1912) was an English social reformer, whose main concern was the welfare of the inhabitants of cities, especially London, in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Annie Besant, née Wood (1 October 1847 – 20 September 1933), was a British socialist, theosophist, women’s rights activist, writer, orator, and supporter of both Irish and Indian self-rule.
20th Century Women
The political movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries that was fighting for the women’s right to vote in Great Britain and the United States.
Marie Skłodowska Curie (7 November 1867 – 4 July 1934) was a Polish and naturalized-French double Nobel prize winning physicist and chemist. Her daughter Irène Joliot-Curie (12 September 1897 – 17 March 1956) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935 for the discovery of artificial radioactivity.
Rosa Luxemburg (5 March 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a Polish Marxist theorist, philosopher, economist, anti-war activist and revolutionary socialist who became a naturalized German citizen at the age of 28.
Edith Wharton (January 24, 1862 – August 11, 1937) was an American novelist, short story writer, playwright, and designer. Wharton drew upon her insider’s knowledge of the upper class New York “aristocracy” to realistically portray the lives and morals of the Gilded Age.
Mrs Dalloway (published on 14 May 1925) is a novel by Virginia Woolf that details a day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway, a fictional high-society woman in post–First World War England.
Amalie Emmy Noether (23 March 1882 – 14 April 1935) was a German mathematician who made important contributions to abstract algebra and theoretical physics.
Anna Andreyevna Gorenko (23 June 1889 – 5 March 1966), better known by the pen name Anna Akhmatova, was one of the most significant Russian poets of the 20th century. She was shortlisted for the Nobel Prize in 1965 and received second-most (three) nominations for the award the following year.
Simone Adolphine Weil (3 February 1909 – 24 August 1943) was a French philosopher, mystic, and political activist.
Rosalind Elsie Franklin (25 July 1920 – 16 April 1958) was an English chemist and X-ray crystallographer who made contributions to the understanding of the molecular structures of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), RNA (ribonucleic acid), viruses, coal, and graphite.
Johanna “Hannah” Cohn Arendt (Hannah Arendt Bluecher; 14 October 1906 – 4 December 1975) was a German philosopher and political theorist. Her many books and articles on topics ranging from totalitarianism to epistemology have had a lasting influence on political theory.
Simone de Beauvoir
Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir (9 January 1908 – 14 April 1986) was a French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist and social theorist.
Frida Kahlo de Rivera (6 July 1907 – 13 July 1954) was a Mexican artist whose works were inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico. She employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class and race in Mexican society.
Feminism is a range of political movements, ideologies, and social movements that share a common goal: to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, personal, and social equality of sexes.
In creating this list I notice that:
The coverage of women in the series seems to have improved over time.
The geographic / cultural breakdown of the 36 individuals covered is rather Eurocentric:
- African: 1 (Hatshepsut; who arguably predates Africa as a cultural identity)
- Native American: 1 (Pocohontas)
- Latin American: 1 (Frida Kahlo)
- Asian: 3 (Lakshmi, Zenobia and Mary Magdalen; again, arguable about whether all these would have identified as Asian)
- US: 2 (Emily Dickinson & Edith Warton) + 2 who moved there (Hannah Arendt & Emmy Noether).
- European: 29
(This is my lame excuse for the Eurocentric headings by which I have divided the time line above.)
The field of endeavour of the Women covered breaks down as
- Literature & Art 8
- Social reform 10
- Science 4
- Religion & Philosophy 6
- Rulers 8
(though if you want to object that someone being an author or a philosopher doesn’t preclude her from being a social reformer then I wouldn’t disagree)
The recordings I’m linking to are (c) BBC. The text used in the descriptions comes from the Wikipedia and licensed CC:BY-SA. My own contribution in making this list I license as CC:0
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