Wednesday, 27 July 2016


On 27 July 1921 Frederick Banting and Charles Best isolated insulin at the University of Toronto

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Mary Rose

On 19 July 1545 Henry VIII's warship the Mary Rose sank near Portsmouth. But it was raised from the sea bed in 1982. It is now a popular museum. 

Monday, 18 July 2016

Women Scientists

This is my youtube about some early women scientists

Jane Austen

On 18 July 1817 the great English woman writer Jane Austen died. she was only 41

Sunday, 3 July 2016


Happy birthday Quebec. Samuel de Champlain founded the city on 3 July 1608.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


According to legend coffee was discovered by an Ethiopian goat herd called Kaldi. He noticed that goats who ate certain beans became very lively. Coffee was drunk in Yemen by the 15th century. By the 16th century coffee had spread to Persia (Iran) and Turkey. There were many coffee houses where people could drink and also socialize.

Coffee reached Europe in the late 16th century through trade. Coffee was introduced into Italy first. (Today coffee is still a very popular drink among the Italians). Coffee really became popular in Europe in the 17th century. In the 1600s coffee houses opened across Europe. The first coffee house in England opened in Oxford in 1651 and by the late 17th century there were many coffeehouses in English towns where merchants and professional men met to drink cups of coffee, read newspapers and chat.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Catherine Macaulay

Catherine Macaulay was a famous woman historian of the 18th century. Catherine was born into a wealthy family in Kent, England on 2 April 1731. She was privately educated. On 18 June 1760 she married Dr George Macaulay. Catherine wrote a great work called The History of England. It was in 8 volumes. The first volume was published in 1763 and the last in 1768. Catherine also wrote a book called Letters on Education in 1790. She argued for co-education of boys and girls. She also opposed slavery and capital punishment. Catherine died on 22 June 1791.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Magna Carta

On 15 June 1215 King John sealed Magna Carta. But we can never take our freedoms for granted. We must always be vigilant.

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Friday, 10 June 2016


On 10 June 1692 the first person convicted of witchcraft was hanged at Salem, Massachusetts. It all began when young girls began accusing people of 'bewitching' them. Both men and women were hanged for witchcraft and a man named Giles Corey was pressed to death.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Emily Davison

On 4 June 1913 British suffragette Emily Davison was killed when she ran onto a racetrack to grab the bridle of the king's horse. Its a myth that she deliberately threw herself under the horse. And her behavior was condemned by many as irresponsible. Queen Mary, wife of King George V wrote to the jockey saying she hoped he was not too badly injured by the 'abominable conduct of a brutal lunatic woman'.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Saturday, 28 May 2016


Happy birthday Joseph-Ignace Guillotin, born 28 May 1738. He proposed that there should be a swift and humane method of executing people in France. The French Assembly agreed to his idea in 1791 and the first decapitating device was built. The first person to be executed by the new machine was Nicolas Jacques Pelletier in 1792. The guillotine was last used in France in 1977.

Monday, 23 May 2016

18th Century Women

There were a number of great women, writers and scientists in the 18th century. Maria Kirch (1670-1720) was a great astronomer. Laura Bassi (1711-1778) became professor of anatomy at Bologna University in 1732. Maria Agnesi (1718-1799) was a famous mathematician and Emilie du Chatelet was a woman physicist and mathematician. Caroline Herschel (1750-1848) was a famous astronomer. Catharine Macaulay was a famous historian. In 1792 Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) published a book called A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. In 1784 Elisabeth Thible became the first woman to travel in an untethered balloon

Thursday, 19 May 2016


Saskatoon was founded in 1883 by a group of temperance Methodists from Toronto led by John Neilson Lake. It was probably named after a local berry. However at first Saskatoon was a tiny settlement. The railway reached Saskatoon in 1890 but it remained very small with a population only a little over 100. However in the early 20th century Saskatoon boomed. By 1911 its population had soared to 12,000 and by 1931 it was 43,000.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Saxon Food

Saxon women brewed beer. Another Saxon drink was mead, made from fermented honey. (Honey was very important to the Saxons as there was no sugar for sweetening food. Bees were kept in every village). Upper class Saxons sometimes drank wine. The women cooked in iron cauldrons over open fires or in pottery vessels. They also made butter and cheese. Saxons ate from wooden bowls. There were no forks only knives and wooden spoons. Cups were made from cow horn.

Saxons were fond of meat and fish. However meat was a luxury and only the rich could eat it frequently. The ordinary people usually ate plain food such as bread, cheese and eggs. They ate not just chickens eggs but eggs from ducks, geese and wild birds. 

Monday, 16 May 2016


Chocolate is made from the fruit of the cocoa tree, which is native to Central America. It grows large round fruits containing seeds or beans, which are used to make chocolate. However for centuries people drank chocolate rather than ate it. People in Central America drank chocolate as early as 1,500 BC. Much later the Mayans and the Aztecs drank chocolate. The Aztecs called it xocolatl from which are word chocolate is derived. After the Spanish conquered Central America they bought cocoa beans back to Europe. The beans were roasted and ground and used to make a drink with hot water. The Spanish added sugar to make it taste sweeter and they stirred it with a wooden stick to make it foamy. At first chocolate was drunk only in Spain but in the 17th century chocolate spread from Spain to the rest of Europe. 

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale was a great woman of the 19th century. She helped to reform nursing. Florence was born on 12 May 1820. She was named after the Italian city where she was born. 

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Joan of Arc

On 8 May 1429 the French, inspired by Joan of Arc broke the English siege of Orleans. It was a turning point in the Hundred Years War which ended with England losing all territory in France except Calais. 

Monday, 2 May 2016

Catherine the Great

On 2 May 1729 Catherine the Great was born. She was empress of Russia 1762-1796. She was not the first woman to rule Russia but she was a formidable leader. She put down a rebellion and she enlarged Russia's borders. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Mary Seacole

Mary Seacole was a Jamaican nurse who treated sick and injured soldiers during the Crimean War. Mary Seacole was born Mary Jane Grant in Kingston Jamaica in 1805. (At that time Jamaica was part of the British Empire). Her father was a white Scottish soldier in the British army. Her mother was of mixed race. Her mother ran a boarding house for army officers and their families. Mary's mother made her own medicines and Mary learned from her.

Twice when she was a teenager Mary visited London. Then in 1836 she married Edwin Horatio Seacole. Unfortunately he soon died. Afterwards Mary ran a boarding house. In 1850 she treated people in Kingston suffering from cholera. She then went to Panama to help her brother run a hotel. She helped sick people there too. However Mary eventually returned to Jamaica.

In 1854 war began between Britain and Russia and British force was sent to Crimea. Mary sailed to England and volunteered to go to Crimea as a nurse but she was told she was not needed. However Mary Seacole was not so easily put off. She traveled to Crimea herself in 1855. To support herself Mary ran a boarding house called the British Hotel. She also sold provisions and when she was not working there Mary worked tirelessly treating sick and injured soldiers. They called her Mother Seacole. When the war ended in 1856 Mary returned to England. In 1857 she wrote a book called Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole. Mary Seacole died on 14 May 1881 at Paddington, London. She was buried in Kensal Green Roman Catholic cemetery.

In 1991 Mary Seacole was awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Jack the Ripper

I wrote about Jack The Ripper. He is probably the world's most famous serial killer but his identity remains a mystery and it probably always will. 

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Monday, 18 April 2016

Christine de Pisan

Christine de Pisan was a great woman writer of the Middle Ages. Her father Tommaso was a famous academic and she was born in Italy about 1363. When she was an infant Christine and her family moved to France, where her father was employed by the French king. In 1379 Christine married Etienne de Castel. Christine had 3 children, 1 girl and 2 boys. However her husband died young in 1390.

Christine was devastated and she took to writing poetry to express her grief. Soon she gained a reputation as a gifted poet. Christine became a professional writer. She wrote on many subjects, often defending women Among her famous books are Letters to the God of Love (1399) and The Book of the City of Ladies (1405), which championed women and their place in society. Her last work was The Poem of Joan of Arc written in 1429. Christine de Pisan died around 1430.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Friday, 15 April 2016


In the early hours of the morning on 15 April 1912 the Titanic sank with great loss of life

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Margery Kempe

Margery Kempe was an English mystic of the Middle Ages. She is famous for her autobiography. Margery was born in Kings Lynn in 1373. Her father was a wealthy merchant. At that time Kings Lynn was a large and important town and port.

When she grew up Margery married a merchant named John Kempe. Soon she fell pregnant. In those days pregnancy was hazardous and many women died in childbirth. Margery had a difficult pregnancy and labor. Afraid that she was dying she sent for a priest to confess her sins to. However the priest spoke to her very harshly and this seems to have triggered a period of mental illness. Eventually Margery Kempe had a vision of Jesus. He said 'Daughter why have you forsaken me, for I have never forsaken you'. Afterwards she returned to normal.

Margery decided to start her own brewing business. (It was by no means unusual in the Middle Ages for women to run their own businesses). However the brewing was not a success. Margery then ran a horse mill to grind people's corn to grain. However the horse mill was also a failure. Margery Kempe believed that God was punishing her for her covetousness and pride and she determined to turn over a new leaf. She had a series of visions and she insisted on having a sexless marriage. (Previously in 20 years of marriage Margery had 14 children. Unfortunately in those days infant mortality was very high so its unlikely many of them survived).

Margery Kempe then traveled around England to visit various churchmen like bishops. Her husband accompanied her. She also visited the female mystic Julian of Norwich. In 1413 Margery Kempe went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. (In those days people went on long trips to religious shrines). In 1417 Margery went on a pilgrimage to Spain. When she returned Margery went to Leicester.

While in Leicester Margery Kempe was arrested and accused to being a Lollard. (Lollards were a religious movement founded the famous Christian John Wycliffe. Lollards were persecuted by the Catholic Church). However Margery was soon released.

In 1431 her husband John Kempe died. Then in 1433 Margery, now an old woman visited Danzig. Margery Kempe could not read and write but she dictated a book about her life. It was called The Book of Margery Kempe. It is not known when Margery Kempe died but it is believed it was in 1438 or sometime afterward.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Isambard Kingdom Brunel

Isambard Kingdom Brunel the great 19th century engineer was born on 9 April 1809 in Portsmouth

A memorial to the great man in Portsmouth

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Julian of Norwich

Julian of Norwich 1342-1416 was a great Christian mystic and writer of the Middle Ages but little is known about her. It is a myth that women were unimportant in the Middle Ages. Some women like Julian certainly did have influence. However we know very little about her life. Julian (also known as Juliana) was probably born in Norwich. She certainly spent most of her life there. At that time Norwich was one of England's largest and most important towns. It was a centre of the wool trade although during Julian's lifetime the population was devastated by plague. In the 14th century Norwich had a population of about 10,000, which made it a big town by Medieval standards.

Julian described herself modestly as 'a simple creature, unlettered'. However she probably did have some education and some knowledge of theology. Julian was in her 70s when she died, which was unusual for that time.

During an illness in 1373 Julian of Norwich had a series of profound visions, which she later wrote about. Julian also devoted the rest of her life to prayer. Julian was an anchoress. In the Middle Ages an anchorite or anchoress was a person who devoted himself or herself to solitary prayer. (The word has nothing to do with anchors on ships, it comes from the Greek word anachoreo, which means to withdraw). Julian lived in a room or cell attached to the Church of St Julian in Norwich. Her cell had 3 windows, one opened onto the church so she could receive communion. One enabled her to speak to her assistant. The third allowed ordinary people to seek her spiritual advice or ask for her prayers.

Julian is famous for her book Revelations of Divine Love. Julian had an optimistic faith. She is best known for her saying 'All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well' and she said 'Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance. It is laying hold of his willingness'. Julian also said 'God showed me something as small as a hazel nut in the palm of my hand' She wondered what it was and God told her 'It is all that is made'. Julian also wrote about the 'motherhood' of God. She said 'As truly as God is our father so truly God is our mother'. Julian also said 'Between God and the soul there is no between'. Today Julian of Norwich is remembered as a Christian mystic.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

A biography of Hildegard

Hildegard was a writer in the 12th century. She was born about 1098 in Germany. Hildegard came from an upper class family. She was one of ten children. When she was 15 Hildegard became a Benedictine nun. In 1136 when she was about 38 Hildegard became the abbess.

Hildegard claimed that she had visions from the time she was child. What caused them is uncertain.

Her first book was called Scito vias domini or Know the Ways of God. Hildegard completed it in 1151. It covered a huge number of theological subjects including the Church, angels, the Trinity, and the end of the world. Hildegard also wrote a morality play called Ordo Virtutum (order of the virtues).

Meanwhile in 1148 Hildegard announced that God had told her and the other nuns to move to a new location at Rupertsberg near Bingen. They moved about 1150.

As well as theology Hildegard was also interested in the natural world. She made no new discoveries herself but she wrote a compendium of knowledge about the natural world at the time called Physica. Hildegard also wrote a book about medicine called Causes and Cures.

As well as being a great writer Hildegard was also a composer. She composed a cycle of songs called the Symposia. Hildegard was also an abbess and she had to cope with the day to day running of a convent. However Hildegard only allowed girls from noble families to join her convent. In her view it was unnatural for the different classes of society to mix.

Hildegard died on 17 September 1179. She was aged about 81 (an extremely old age in those days). In the Middle Ages Hildegard was an influential woman. Even today Hildegard is remembered as a great scholar and mystic.

Monday, 4 April 2016

20th century women

In 1918 in Britain women over 30 were allowed to vote. More occupations were opened to women during the 20th century. In 1916 the first policewoman (with full powers) was appointed in Britain. The 1919 Sex Disqualification Removal Act allowed women to become lawyers, vets and civil servants. (The first female solicitor was Carrie Morrison in 1922). Also in 1922 Irene Barclay became the first female chartered surveyor.

Nevertheless in the early 20th century it was unusual for married women to work (except in wartime). However in the 1950s and 1960s it became common for them to do so - at least part-time. New technology in the home made it easier for women to do paid work. Before the 20th century housework was so time consuming married women did not have time to work. Manufacturing became less important and service industries grew creating more opportunities for women.

In 1970 in Britain the law was changed so women had to be paid the same wages as men for doing work of equal value. In 1973 women were admitted to the British stock exchange. From 1975 it was made illegal to sack women for becoming pregnant. Also in 1975 the Sex Discrimination Act made it illegal to discriminate against women in employment, education and training. In 1984 a new law stated that equal pay must be given for work of equal value.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Greek Women

In a rich family the wife was expected to run the home and, sometimes, to manage the finances. However rich women would normally stay indoors and send slaves to do the shopping. Poor women, of course, had no choice. They might also have to help their husbands with farm work. Women, even rich ones, were expected to spin and weave cloth and make clothes.

Girls in Ancient Greece married when they were about 15. Marriages were arranged for them.

Sappho (6th century BC) was a famous Greek woman poet. Theano of Crotona (born c.546 BC) was a famous mathematician. About 150 BC Aglaonike was a woman astronomer.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Education for women in the 16th century and 17th century

In the early 16th century some upper class women were highly educated. Two of Henry VIII's wives, Katherine of Aragon and Catherine Parr were well educated. Queen Elizabeth I was also well educated and she liked reading. Wealthy girls learned music and dancing and needlework. They also learned to read and write and they learned languages like Greek and Latin, Spanish, Italian and French.

However towards the end of the 16th century girls spent less time on academic subjects and more time on skills like music and embroidery. Moreover during the 17th century boarding schools for girls were founded in many towns. In them girls were taught subjects like writing, music and needlework.

Monday, 28 March 2016

Women's work in the Middle Ages

In Saxon Times life for women was hard, rough and usually short. Upper class Saxon women had considerable freedom. Saxon women were allowed to own and inherit property and to make contracts. However most Saxon women had to work hard spinning and weaving, preparing food and drink and performing other tasks.

In the Middle Ages women spun wool and they did cooking and cleaning. Women washed clothes, baked bread, milked cows, fed animals, brewed beer and collected firewood! In the Middle Ages it was not unusual for middle class women to run their own businesses. In England the mystic Margery Kempe ran a brewery and later a horse mill, using horses to grind corn.

Some women became nuns but they too had to work hard. At least they did if they were from poor families. Class distinctions still applied in nunneries. Nuns from rich families were given the easiest work such as spinning wool and embroidery. 

Friday, 25 March 2016

History of Easter

The name Easter comes from the Anglo-Saxon name for April, Eostermunath. It means the month of beginnings. In the early years of Christianity there was a dispute over the date of Easter. In 325 the Nicean Council decided it should be on the first Sunday after the full moon after the Spring Equinox. That is why the date of Easter changes each year.
Friday is the day of the week when Jesus was crucified. It is called Good Friday because good meant holy. On that day we eat hot cross buns. The origins of hot cross buns are obscure but in pagan times people baked buns and offered them to the gods. Cross buns with the cross representing the cross of Jesus were first mentioned in the 18th century. In the early 19th century people sold hot cross buns in the street from stalls and so they became known as 'hot' cross buns.

The Easter bunny was originally a hare because hares were fertility symbols in the pagan religion and they continued to be associated with Easter after people were converted to Christianity. Because people in the USA were unfamiliar with hares the Easter hare became a rabbit.

In the Middle Ages Christians were forbidden to eat eggs during Lent (the forty days before Easter). Not surprisingly people were keen to eat eggs when Easter arrived! Some people also said that the egg represented the tomb of Jesus (Although long before Christianity eggs were a pagan symbol of fertility).

In the Middle Ages people painted Easter eggs red but by the 18th century people bought artificial eggs made of various materials to give as gifts at Easter. (Sometimes the artificial eggs contained gifts). Chocolate Easter eggs were first made in the 19th century.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Ancient Egyptian Women

In Ancient Egypt women had a great deal of freedom. They could come and go as they pleased. They could own property and they could sign contracts. However most women worked in the home. There was a great deal of work to do as most homes were largely self-sufficient. The woman made the families clothes and prepared food such as grinding grain to flour to make bread. In a rich family the woman was kept busy organizing the slaves.

The Egyptians had a goddess of reading and writing called Seshat.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Roman women's jobs

Roman women were allowed to own and inherit property and some ran businesses. (In the New Testament there is a woman named Lydia who sold purple cloth). In certain trades some women helped their husbands, especially in luxury trades like perfumery. Furthermore some women were priestesses or worked as midwives or hairdressers.