“She surveyed a wide variety of records from throughout Western Europe, including tax records, inventories of wages paid on construction sites, and municipal accounts, and discovered numerous instances of women working alongside men on construction sites as far back at the 13th century. Most of these women were employed as day laborers, carrying out tasks such as moving water and building supplies around the sites, digging ditches and serving as assistants to bricklayers and stonemasons. For example, in the Spanish city of Seville during the 14th century, women were hired to dig trenches for the foundation of a new city wall, while at the nearby city of Toledo, one or two women were hired each day for the construction of the city’s cathedral, where they gathered lime and worked on the roof. Meanwhile in the French city of Toulouse, almost half the laborers working on the Perigord college site were women. Ross also finds several examples from England and Germany.
Roff also finds records showing women taking part in specialized building trades. In London in 1383, Katherine Lightfoot is recorded as the supplier of 2,000 painted tiles for bath in the King’s palace. Meanwhile, tax records from Paris during the years 1296 and 1313 reveal the existence of two female masons, a tiler and a plasterer. These women were not poorer individuals, rather they were the wives of male craftsman, and in some cases their widows. The 15th-century French writer Christine de Pizan noted in her book The Treasury of the City of Ladies that craftswomen, “should learn all the shop details so that she can properly supervise the workers when her husband is away or not paying attention.”
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New edition dropping!
If you've been on my blog for a while, you may know my love of history and reading. This culminates perfectly together in one of my favorite childhood series: Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales. Basically, Nathan Hale (the spy) says his famous words, a giant book shows up, eats him (and spits him out), and now he can tell the future. And so he tells the future to the Hangman and the Provost, stalling his execution. It's a fun series! I love it to death! Anyways, the author's coming out with a Bigger and Badder edition this October! The new cover for One Dead Spy has me so excited!
Look at it! Look at the Provost and Hangman and Nate! The Provost is snooty as ever, the Hangman has a huge smile on his face, and look at how serious my man Nathan is! Look at him!!!!
Anyways, what does it mean? The Bigger and Badder edition has some extra notes from the author, and 15 pages more of shenanigans with Nathan, Provost and Hangman. I saw that he's doing it up to the Alamo, but I hope he makes the Bigger and Badder editions for all of his books! Especially Big Bad Ironclad, it's always been my favorite in the series.
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Caterina Sforza - The tigress of Forli
Caterina Sforza (1463-1509) was the granddaughter of Bianca Maria Visconti. Like her, she was a great warrior and a powerful ruling lady.
The illegitimate daughter of Galeazzo Sforza, duke of Milan, Caterina was raised in her father’s household alongside his legitimate children and benefited from an excellent education. The Sforza gave the same education to male and female children, including in physical domains. Caterina was thus taught to hunt, ride and use weapons.
At the age of 10, she was married to 29 years old Girolamo Riario, a nephew of Pope Sixtus IV. She afterward stayed in her father’s household until she turned 14 and then joined her husband. She was welcomed fondly by the inhabitants of her husband’s lands of Imola. Caterina also helped Girolamo in gathering men and arms and soon won her soldiers’ respect through her strict temperament.
On August 12, 1484, Pope Sixtus IV died, which meant that Girolamo lost an important protector and patron. Though she was seven months pregnant, Caterina rode to Rome. She managed to seize the Castel Sant'Angelo and announced that she would stay there until a new pope was elected. A contemporary observer gave the following description of her:
“Wise, brave, tall, fine-complected, well-made, speaking little, she wore a dress of satin a with train of two-arms' length, a black velvet hat in the French fashion, a man's belt and a purse full of gold ducats, a curved falchion at her side; and among the footsoldiers and the horsemen she was much feared because, when she had a weapon in her hand, she was fierce and cruel.”
Caterina didn’t surrender the place until she had been assured that her husband could retain his possessions of Imola and Forlì.
In 1487, the fortress of Ravaldino was captured by conspirators. The pregnant Caterina rode to the fortress and obtained its surrender. She then went back to Imola on horseback and gave birth to her seventh child.
In 1488, her husband was assassinated. Caterina was first taken prisoner, but managed to enter Ravaldino. Her children were brought in front of the fortress and the rebels threatened to kill them. According to the most well-known version of the story, Caterina stood on the ramparts and shouted: “Do it then, you fools! I am already pregnant with another child by Count Riario and I have the means to make more!”. She then walked back into the castle. Other versions simply state that Caterina didn’t come out, even as her children were threatened.
She held to her position and had occasional blasts of artillery shot at the houses of her enemy. She held out till forces from Milan arrived. Caterina was safe and her children were saved. She brutally punished the conspirators to show that she was in control. Caterina refused to remarry and was officially named regent until her son came of age.
In late 1499, Caterina found herself targeted by the Pope Alexander VI, who declared that she was a usurper and sent his son, Cesare Borgia, to seize her lands. The cities of Imola and Forlì surrendered, but Caterina held on to Ravaldino. Clad in armor, Caterina announced to Cesare Borgia that she wasn’t going to surrender and was prepared to die fighting.
(Armor attributed to Caterina)
Caterina made a skillful defense, expertly positioning her artillery. News of her determination spread in Italy, however, her defense was breached. Caterina then went out at the head of her most loyal men. She fought in the front ranks, sword in hand. The Venetian mercenary Sanuto was amazed by her skills and wrote that she “wounded many men”. Caterina fought for two hours as her soldiers fell one after another. She wasn’t going to admit defeat, but was betrayed from inside the castle and captured.
Caterina endured 18 months of imprisonment before being released in 1501. Since she couldn’t reclaim her lands, she focused on protecting her children. Caterina also dedicated herself to her interests in botany, alchemy and beauty aids. She wrote a manuscript titled Experimenti on this topic. She died in 1509.
Here’s the link to my Ko-Fi if you want to support me.
Jansen Sharon L., The Monstrous Regiment of Women: Female Rulers in Early Modern Europe
Jordan Emily Anne, Jordan Jonathan W., The War Queens: Extraordinary Women Who Ruled the Battlefield
Lev Elizabeth, Tigress of Forli: The Life of Caterina Sforza
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