Mar. 24th, 2010

gwyn_bywyd: Photo of a yellow orchid. (Orchid)
I have been inspired by [personal profile] puzzlement about posting on inspirational women in science and technology. But, while I am a geek, I'm not that kind of geek. So I have fudged the definition a little, and will tell you why I <3 St Frideswide.

She was probably born about 680 CE, in England in the West of what is now Oxfordshire, and dies about 727 CE. She rejected the advances of the local prince (Of course, legends of the lives of saints have their own special language, I'm pretty sure what is meant by this is that he intended to rape and marry her, and didn't particularly care what order that happened in) She fled through into the forest, pursued by the prince and his men, coming in time to Oxford. The prince was temporarily blinded, which at that time was seen as a sign of God's disapproval of his plan. (For the record, I agree God disapproved, but claim biblical authority in saying that disability is never to be read as a sign of God's disapproval. Correlation does not equal causation, folks!) She prayed for him, and he was no longer blind - and also no longer intent upon raping her. Thus she became free to have her own identity, not only as a man's daughter or a man's wife.

Frideswide became the first abbess of the double monastery at Oxford. A double monastery had both men and women religious living in it, and being abbess meant she was in charge of all of them, having a position roughly equivalent to that of a bishop. Note: authority over the men and women of the foundation as if she were their bishop. She possibly carried a pastoral staff as bishops do today, certainly this is one of the ways to recognise her in religious art. The town of Oxford rose up around this monastery and in time the monastery became the site of Christ Church. In the early 15th century, Frideswide was made the Patron Saint of Oxford.

It wasn't until 1920 that women were admitted to membership of the university, but for about 500 years before that, its Patron had been St Frideswide, a woman who refused to submit to male violence, or live the life expected of women, a natural leader who took charge of the women and men in her care and may well have carried a pastoral staff when today various factions still are arguing women can't be bishops. As a girl, growing up in Oxford, I took it completely for granted that a woman could be the emblem of one of the oldest academic institutions in the world, it was only as I grew up that I realised how subversive that was.

Female figure with halo, holding staff, with an ox at her feet.


Profile

gwyn_bywyd: Photo of a yellow orchid. (Default)
bywyd

May 2010

S M T W T F S
      1
2345678
91011 12131415
16171819202122
23242526 272829
3031     

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios