Tag Archives: women

QUAINT #28 A PARISIAN SULTANA by Adolphe Belot

A Parisian Sultana, written by Adolphe Belot, is set in 1872 and 1873, is about Laura de Guéran, a wealthy young widow living in Paris. She is 25 years old, of average height, “admirably proportioned…fair, decidedly fair” with a “well turned neck,” a “full, though not too full bust;” her “whole countenance is a strange mixture of good nature and firmness, of amiability and resolution, of gaiety and sadness.” De Guéran is the daughter of a member of the Royal Geographical Society and as a child and teenager she knew “most of the celebrated travelers of our age,” including Overweg, Speke, Richardson, Vogel, and Schweinfurth. When she turned 22 she fell in love with and married the wealthy French explorer the Baron de Guéran, and moved with him to Paris. Although English by birth she quickly fell in love with Paris and the French and became a French patriot. With her husband she enjoyed two years of married bliss.

Then he disappeared, somewhere in Egypt, and she was notified that he was dead. After a year’s mourning she summons three men to her apartment; the three are in love with her and have all proposed marriage to her. She tells them that she is going to Africa to find her husband’s remains and to see where he fell and why and to “publish his works,” and that the three should come with her. One of the men, a doctor, declines on the grounds that his mother is dying and he must stay with her. This is hard for him, because he clearly loves her, and she is genuinely sorry that he is not accompanying her. The other two agree, and together with an older doctor and a reliable female Cockney maid/companion they go to Africa.

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QUAINT #26: He Yufeng from “The Gallant Maid” by “Yanbei Xianren” (a.k.a. Wen K’ang)

From the Chinese film version of "The Gallant Maid" titled "The Heroine"

He Yufeng was created by “Yanbei Xianren” and appeared in Ernü ying xiong zhuan (The Gallant Maid, 1851-1879). “Yanbei Xianren” was the pseudonym of Wen K’ang (1798- 1872), a local official in Anhui who came from a prominent Manchu family and was appointed imperial agent to Lhasa. The Gallant Maid is little-known outside of China but is popular inside it, having inspired sixteen sequels.

The Gallant Maid is about He Yufeng (“Jade Phoenix”) and An Ji. An Ji is the son of the righteous official and Manchu bannerman An Xuehai. An Xuehai is in charge of the repair of a dam, but a flood destroys the dam and An Xuehai is made the scapegoat for its destruction. An Xuehai is imprisoned and ordered to pay a large fine. An Ji travels a long way to help his father, carrying a large load of silver to ransom him, but he repeatedly runs into misfortune, with his donkey drivers and later some evil monks both trying to rob him. Both times he is rescued by He Yufeng, who also frees an old farmer whose wife and daughter, Chinfeng (“Golden Phoenix”), had been captured by the monks. He Yufeng explains herself to the farmer. Years ago her father, General Ho, had been killed by sorcery. General Ho had been a high official of the Solid Yellow Banner, but his superior had ordered him to marry He Yufeng to the official’s son. The son was crude and barbaric and was unworthy of He Yufeng, who is beautiful and educated. General Ho refused to countenance the wedding, so his superior had him jailed on false charges and then killed him via sorcery. He Yufeng, loyal to her father in the proper Confucian way, retreats to a rustic village with her mother and then goes to the underworld and trains herself as a nüxia, or female knight-errant, to avenge her father. While her mother is alive, however, He Yufeng cannot carry our her revenge, and instead makes a good living robbing corrupt and evil government officials. He Yufeng is so strong and such a good fighter that all the other outlaws greatly respect and fear her. In the underworld she is known as Shisan Mei, “the Thirteenth Sister.”

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#80 Shadi Ghadirian & Muslim Women “Time Travelers”

If nineteenth-century Iranian women discovered time travel, where would they go? What would they bring back?

Photographer Shadi Ghadirian did not have these questions in mind, persay, but she is interested in how the Western world perceives Iranian woman like herself. In her photography series “Qajar,” she brings out the cognitive dissonance that someone unfamiliar with Iran may experience, as well as comments about the position of women in society today.

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When Feminist Fashion Goes Couture: Anne Avantie, Indonesian Designer

“If I walk, I hope my footsteps won’t be erased just like that… I want many other footsteps to follow mine!” – Anne Avantie

Anne Avantie’s signature kebaya designs are growing in popularity as Asian fashion enters the global scene. Born to Chinese parents in Solo, Indonesia, Anne never had any formal training in fashion design, but always had an interest in the fashion world. Her love for fashion design started young, when she created and sold hair ornaments to her friends in elementary school. As she grew older, Avantie began doing costume design for her school events and other local events in Solo, and in 1989, she started her own company with only a rented house and two sewing machines. Her business soon boomed, however, with her specialization in her elaborately beaded costume wear and wedding gowns.

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The Industrial Revolution of Today: A Review of FACTORY GIRLS by Leslie T. Chang

Click to read more on the publisher’s website.

When we take about the impact of the Industrial Revolution, we speak of it in terms as if there had been only One Industrial Revolution, and that had taken place throughout the Western world during the nineteenth century. As I had written about before, the Industrial Revolution didn’t just happen then, and in fact, the current industrial revolution is happening throughout the non-Western world just as the West begins to grow nostalgic about it.

In talking about alternative histories, and how the non-West would develop, it’s interesting to dream up scenes of Imperial splendor (like James Ng does). It is equally valid, however, to note that you don’t have to look toward the Qing dynasty to see a Chinese industrial revolution, for, as James himself has noted, China is changing into a fully developed industrial nation as we speak.

With that in mind, I picked up Leslie T. Chang’s book about her observations about today’s current revolution, specifically of those factory girls in China that the West likes to paint as faceless factory drones (occasionally laced by the feeling of guilt toward those “poor sweatshop workers.”) Chang, however, breaks down that stereotype (though sweatshops are very much alive and well in China) and presents a look into the lives of today’s migrant factory workers.

Compulsively readable and engaging throughout, FACTORY GIRLS: From Village to City in a Changing China highlights the stories of the young people (particularly women), who are changing the face of the global economy today. Instead of the masses teeming in nameless sweatshops that the West envisions, these lives are individually dynamic and driven, full of same sorts of fear and wonderment that the young mill girls in the West may have also felt a hundred and fifty years ago, as they sought to make new lives for themselves.

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