One of the things I try to do in blogging is celebrate the lives of forgotten or under-appreciated women. I’m still wrestling with the question as to why it is that women seem to disappear so easily from historical memory, when far less significant men survive.
I wanted to share information about a Yahoo group that is on much the same quest, sending out a daily email biography of a prominent woman on her birthday. New subscriptions are welcome.
Yesterday’s subject was the English painter and illustrator Helen Allingham. You’ll almost certainly have seen her work on a box of chocolates somewhere.
What struck me about her life is how like its pattern was to that of so many modern women. Entirely by her own efforts, she established a career as an illustrator, but this ended when she married and had children. After a decade-long hiatus,, however, she started a second career as a watercolourist, and continued that until her death.
Today’s character is Minnie Vautrin. I was writing yesterday of a would-be military hero, well in Nanking in 1937 she was a real hero.
“In Nanking, Vautrin is still remembered as Guanyin Pusa, “the living goddess of mercy,” a heroine in the city’s worst hour. When American Iris Chang discovered Vautrin’s diary in Yale University Library in 1995, she was moved to write a book about the atrocities her own grandparents survived, saying “I felt that if anyone deserved her place in history, that person was Minnie Vautrin. … Chang and Vautrin are the main characters portrayed in a recent Chinese national dance drama company production,_Nanking 1937_.” (From today’s email.)
Chang of course has her own tragic story.