‘It is easy for a woman to forget that no-one owns her.’

It’s also easy to forget that women’s liberation is a relatively recent concept. It wasn’t so long ago that women in the UK couldn’t vote and that rape in marriage was legal until as late as 1991. To the modern woman this must seem incredible, but for her grandmothers and great-grandmothers, and even her mother, being seen as a second-class citizen, her husband’s property, was par for the course.

It’s no wonder then, with this background, that women today rebel against things like sexual harassment and inequality in the workplace. Even in my own working life, in a high street bank in the 1960s, women did most of the work in branch but were paid half of what the men got. To say that it rankled among the female employees was putting it mildly.

Life today holds challenges our mothers and grandmothers often didn’t face, given that most were stay-at-home wives and mothers, that of balancing working away from home with childcare and pitting necessity against guilt: probably one of the most difficult aspects of modern motherhood. Men’s responsibilities have evolved alongside women’s but their traditional role has been carved in stone since time immemorial: they are the providers and women are the carers. In many male-dominated societies, women do most of the work as well as the caring, but in western society the balance is more even and equality is a buzz word.

That aside, what men often don’t  fully understand is the emotional ties that bind women to the state of being owned. They say a woman is a daughter first, a mother second, and a wife third. As the ‘caring’ gender, she is expected to, or guilt forces her to accept that she should care for her parents, her children, and her partner. She, and I am guilty of this, allows herself to be owned by them, physically and emotionally, and the task of juggling these three sets of owners can be daunting, even impossible. The stresses when things go wrong, the guilt of failing to please everyone all of the time, and the feeling of responsibility for everyone’s well-being can drive women to anxiety attacks, exhaustion, and depression. Sadly, it is often women themselves who perpetuate this feeling of responsibilty and hand it down to the next generation.

My husband would say ‘they’re old enough to look after themselves’ or ‘you don’t need to see your mother today’, and I know he’s right, but will my ingrained upbringing in a caring society allow me to neglect my duty? No. Duty: love for our family aside, that’s what it boils down to. A man’s traditional duty is seen as having to provide financially. A woman’s is to provide emotional support to all around her, and it can’t be done. A woman is constantly struggling with the impossible and feeling guilty for failing.

All of which isn’t what I was intending to say. Researching for an historical series, For Their Country’s Good, inspired by my great-great-great uncle’s misdemeanors in 1841, I discovered much about the lack of women’s rights in Victorian England. Women owned nothing, and had no rights over their lives, their children, or even their own bodies. Horses had more value and were often treated better. A man could imprison, beat, and rape his wife, and she had no redress in law. He could have mistresses, and she was expected to accept them, but if she strayed she could be set aside with no means of support and thrown on the doorstep of the poor house and never allowed to see her children again. Was it any wonder women stayed in abusive marriages?

I was appalled by this, as I knew nothing of the degradations women were forced to suffer in the 1800s and early 1900s, the pregnancies they could be forced into, whether they wanted more children or not, even though childbirth killed a huge number. Even pain in childbirth was seen by 19th century men as God’s punishment for Eve tempting Adam in the Garden of Eden, and they thought pain was necessary for the bond between mother and child to form at birth.

It was once suggested, after a man in  my dystopian saga, Where Hope Dares, came to a particularly grisly end that maybe I didn’t much like men. Not so, I assure you. Many of my best friends and those I love are men. The grisly end was actually my husband’s suggestion as he thought my punishment far too soft. (Though I confess to a quiet satisfaction that this particularly nasty villain got his just deserts after all)

The gist of this ramble is that my research for the For Their Country’s Good historical trilogy made me realise why the suffragettes came into being, why their cause was so vitally important, and why women must still fight for equality and must remember that no-one owns them. It’s far too easy to forget.

http://mybook.to/OnDifferentShores (Book One) A woman who escapes ‘being owned’ by an abusive husband in 1841, sacrifices all, and follows her heart to the ends of the earth.

cornfield with Jem and Ella ghosted, faded outer

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What’s in a name?

Always a treat to read Max Power’s blogs.

Maxpower's Blog

Believe it or not, I’m very popular with hotel receptionists and it all comes from one simple thing – my name.  This doesn’t apply in Ireland, only when I go abroad. The sex is irrelevant, (how often do people say that, I wonder?) and to be honest the men are more impressed by me than the women.  Now given that I travel a lot and I’m partial to a cheeky upgrade, I do try to use what little charm God gave me, to get a better night’s sleep by asking for a better room.  I’ll use any excuse.  My name – yeah if it’s working- why not?

Now before you get misled, it is not that people go … “Oh my God it’s the famous writer!” Far from it.  However – and this came as a surprise to me at first – The minute I hit mainland Europe…

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THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED

People always seem to remember where they were when they heard John F Kennedy had been shot. I do. I was on the bus just outside Wicksteed Park in Kettering, on my way to see my best friend, Sarah Stuart. Living in England, Kennedy didn’t mean much to me though I felt sorry for his wife and children. For me, there was an earlier tragedy that happened when I was twelve, and I remember exactly where I was, not far from the bus stop where I’d heard about Kennedy. My rock and roll hero, Buddy Holly, had been killed in a plane crash along with Big Bopper and Ricky Valence.

Buddy Holly’s music was the soundtrack to my youth. My father hated him, and imitated his hiccoughing style sarcastically, but I loved Buddy, and the lyrics, the rhythm, and the beat of his brilliance did something to my soul that has remained with me for almost sixty years. What is remarkable is that Buddy produced such an amazing collection of original songs, and most of them in the eighteen months before he died at the mind-blowingly early age of twenty-two in 1959. I can’t imagine, what he might have produced, how he might have further influenced the minds of his aspiring fans and fellow artists, had he lived to be eighty, which he would have been this year. His songs have been covered by many artists since his death, but the originals, sung by him and The Crickets, are as fresh and relevant as they’ve always been.

I was feeling down yesterday – it was freezing cold and dull here in West Wales, and the will to live had faded somewhat, but then the program about Buddy Holly’s life came on the TV and transported me back to those golden days of my youth, when the sun always shone, and my pony’s hoof-beats on the metalled road kept time with my squawky voice yelling out ‘That’ll be the day…’ I knew every word, every hiccough, every nuance of timing. My pony, Paddy, a red roan from Connemara, loved to walk fast, and Buddy’s song was the perfect accompaniment as we roamed wild and free and made memories I shall never forget.

What prompted this post was a quote. Something Buddy had said. ‘I don’t know how to succeed, but I know how to fail: just try to please everyone.’
That’s so true, and I’ve spent my life trying and failing, so I should know. If he’d tried to please my father, he’d have been a Bing Crosby sound-alike, and the world would have been the poorer.

Buddy’s advice can be translated into anything we do. We will never please everyone, however hard we try, and we’ll only feel guilty for failing. To succeed, sometimes we need to please ourselves, believe in ourselves, stick to our guns, and be proud of our small successes. We need to ‘Rave On’ and ‘Not Fade Away’, and then we’ll surely please someone if only ourselves.
‘Thank you for the Music’, Buddy, to coin an Abba title. It could have been written for you.

‘The day the miusic died.’ Lyrics – American Pie – Don Maclean

The tick-tock in my clock…

You have to read this. It makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up.

Maxpower's Blog

Like a disgruntled old goat, I sometimes have to shake a metaphorical fist at myself when I sense the shine wear off my smile. Under the weight of shambolic modern day advice, it could be easy to fall for the notion that I should share my negative moments, or at least put them out there to release the angsty mess that gathers up at my corners, as the winds of trouble swirl about me on bad weather days. But I know better.

There is nothing like a little repression to save the rest of the world from your bullshit. Lord knows, I have to listen to myself enough without imposing any of my own troubles on the world. And so it is. Forevermore, I shall endeavour to maintain my inner demons, doubts, worries and concerns, to avoid boring the arse of the rest of you.  No doubt there will be…

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Recommended read for history lovers – ‘A Purgatory of Misery’

Capture PofM

An in-depth study of the events leading up to the Irish Potato Famine in the latter half of the 19th century. The author has provided an informative, eye-opening, unbiased, and moving account of the plight of the Irish poor during recurring failures of the potato harvest and the inadequacies of government and church to successfully address their needs. I wasn’t aware of the scale of the disaster – one million deaths from starvation and disease and thousands transported to the colonies.

Politics and religion played their part but also the history of Ireland going back eight centuries over which 19th century politicians and clergy had no control. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in social history or the history of Ireland.

Take a look here – via From Page to Print