LONDON (UPI) Who led the storming of the Bastille? Who made the computer possible? Not men, says a British historian, but women and she says it's time history was rewritten to give women their due in the story of the world.
Gillian Darcy, senior history lecturer at London's Middlesex Polytechnic, feels so strongly about an alleged glossing over of female achievement through the ages that she is organizing two conferences to try to set the record straight.The gatherings, at Leeds in northern England May 7 and in London May 14, will hear a panel of historians and others, mainly women, argue for a drastic revision of history.
"Women in history are still being marginalized, but we are determined to bring them into the mainstream," Darcy said. "The review should include a change in how we view events such as the Second World War."
Darcy and her supporters claim that women's role in the front line of history has been shunted to second place or ignored in favor of such male figures as Julius Caesar, Hannibal or even Che Guevara.
What about Theroigne de Mericourt, they ask, the opera singer who led the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which started the French Revolution and changed the course of history?
Then there was Mariya Bochkareva, a Bolshevik who organized 2,000 volunteer females into the "Women's Battalion of Death" during Russia's 1917 revolution.
Earlier, they say, there was Sal-yam Bint Malham, a fierce warrior in the ranks of the Islamic prophet Mohammed, who fought with swords and daggers strapped around her pregnant form.
Women's achievements in the sciences also are given scant attention, they claim, noting among others, Isabella Bird, who contributed much to 19th century knowledge through her explorations of Asia, the Middle East and the American Wild West.
Ada Byron Lovelace early in the last century invented a mechanical calculating system that some say was the forerunner of modern computer programming.
As for man the hunter and provider of groceries in prehistoric cave society, Rosalind Miles of Coventry Polytechnic says: Forget it.
"Anthropological evidence and fossils show that 80 percent of the food was gathered by females, not by men hunting," she said.
The feminists also demolish a cherished image of a gentle Florence Nightingale, the so-called Lady with the Lamp who pioneered modern nursing on the bloody battlefields of the Crimean War.
She was known among her patients as "The Lady with the Hammer" the implement she used to break open a storeroom to obtain supplies in direct defiance of orders, they say.
Far from being a mere soother of fevered brows, Florence Nightingale was "a fierce and highly efficient administrator who did little actual nursing," said Leonore Davidoff of Essex University.