Disney has a lot to answer for. Apparently every girl’s wish and destiny is to get married. Its all about finding a handsome prince. Even Belle, the book-loving heroine in Beauty and the Beast, is doomed to marry the handsome prince as her just reward for being nice and studious.
We have recently read a book called "Princess Smartypants’, in which the mud-loving, dirtbike-riding princess with her monstrous pets manages through gile and a bit of magic to get rid of unwanted suitors and live her own life. Its a good book and I’m trying to follow that path.
So now I’m trying to find some good historical role models for my two little girls, preferably some leadership types and especially women who were first to do things.
But its tricky:
a. Theodora, Empress of Byzantium, despite her famous stirring speech to inspire resistance to rebellion, has a slightly dodgy past in starting off her career as a bawdy actress and courtesan.
b. Dido, Queen of Carthage, apparently did not even exist and, so the story goes, suicided over a man. Cleopatra, as a suicide victim, is in a similar boat (a single-seat ferry across the Acheron, no doubt).
c. Atalanta, the female warrior of myth who was rejected as a crew member of the Argos for being too beautiful, was busted by Zeus for fornicating in a temple and magically changed into a lioness.
d. Catherine the Great of Russia was a prolific and clever writer who corresponded with Voltaire and tried to reform the serf system, but there is that nasty business with her husband (she overthrew him for the throne and her followers murdered him) and those prsistentrumours about the horses.
e. Elizabeth I of England was apparently a shocking procrastinator and skinflint.
I know we all have our faults, but I’m seeking candidates with less obvious ones.
I have found the Soong sisters, Charlotte Cooper (first woman to win a modern Olympic event), Aida de Acosta (first female pilot) and Valentina Tereshkova (first woman in space), and other standard candidates like Florence Nightingale and Marie Curie.
But that has meant moving into more modern times. Disney princesses are, more or less, historical, and I’m seeking era-based competition to them.
Someone here recently mentioned Hildegard von Bingen, who I’d not heard of and for whom I’m grateful. Any other ideas?