Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

S is for Tibors de Sarenom


Tibors is one of eight trobairitz with vidas, short Occitan biographies, often more hypothetical than factual. Research into Tibors the poet’s identification is hampered by the popularity of her name in Occitania during the period of her life.

Tibors was the daughter of Guilhem d’Omelas and Tibors d’Aurenga, who brought as dowry to her husband the castle of Sarenom, probably Sérignan-du-Comtat in Provence or perhaps Sérignan in the Roussillon. Sadly for historians and Occitanists, Tibors and Guilhem had two daughters, both named Tibors, after their mother.

Raimbaut d’Orange, the famous troubadour, was a younger son of Guilhem and Tibors and thus a younger brother of the two Tibors sisters. In 1150, Tibors d’Aurenga died and by her will left Raimbaut, then a minor, under the guardianship of her elder daughter Tibors and her son-in-law, Bertran dels Baus, who was Tibors’ second husband, with whom she had three sons: Uc, father of Barral of Marseille; Bertran, father of Raimon; and Guilhem, also a troubadour.

Of Tibors’ work only a single stanza of a canso with its attached vida and razo has survived. Nonetheless she is mentioned in an anonymous ballad dated to between 1220 and 1245, where she acts as the judge of a game of poetry. Her only extant work, Bels dous amics is translated below.

Sweet handsome friend, I can tell you truly
that I’ve never been without desire
since it pleased you that I have you as my courtly lover;
nor did a time ever arrive, sweet handsome friend,
when I didn’t want to see you often;
nor did I ever feel regret,
nor did it ever come to pass, if you went off angry,
that I felt joy until you had come back;
nor [ever]. . .

Looking into printed translations of Tibors, all I could find is this score.

Escot, Pozzi. Bel dous amics: soprano, oboe, viola. Publication Contact International, 1993.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

R is for Margaret Roper

Margaret Roper (née More) (1505–1544) was an English writer and translator, as well as one of the most learned women of sixteenth-century England. She was the daughter of Sir Thomas More and Jane Colt. Margaret, or “Meg” as her father called her, was a frequent visitor during More’s imprisonment in the Tower of London.

Margaret married William Roper in 1521 and had five children: Elizabeth (1523–60), Margaret (1526–88), Thomas (1533–98), Mary (d. 1572), and Anthony (1544–1597).

Margaret’s father, Thomas More, was Chancellor of England for Henry VIII. A devout Roman Catholic, More refused to accept Henry VIII as head of the English Church, and would not sign the Act of Supremacy and the Act of Succession (1534). For his refusal, More was beheaded and his head was displayed on a pike at London Bridge for a month. Afterwards, Margaret bribed the man who was charged to take the head down and throw it in the Thames, to give it to her instead. She preserved it by pickling it in spices until her own death at the age of 39 in 1544. After her death, her husband, William Roper took charge of the head, and it is buried with him.

William Roper produced the first biography of his father-in-law, but his homage is not remembered as well as his wife’s efforts. Alfred, Lord Tennyson invoked Margaret Roper, “who clasped in her last trance/ Her murdered father’s head” in his Dream of Fair Women as a paragon of loyalty and familial love.

Roper was the first non-royal woman to publish a book she had translated into English, Precatio Dominica by Erasmus, as A Devout Treatise upon the Paternoster. In a letter Roper mentions her poems, but none are extant.

Erasmus, Desiderius, died 1536. A devout treatise upon the pater noster made fyrst in latyn by the moost famous doctour mayster Erasmus Roterdamus and tourned into englishhe by a yong vertuous and well lerned gentylwoman of xix yere of age. Copied by L. W. Longstaff from a copy made by Mr. T. Raworth in 1949 from the British Museum copy.


Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

Q is for Li Qingzhao


Li Qingzhao was born in 1084, in Zhangqiu (in modern Shandong province). She was born to a family of scholar-officials, and her father was a student of Su Shi. The family had a large collection of books so that Li received a wide-ranging education in her childhood.

Before she got married, Li’s poetry was well-known in elite circles. In 1101, she married Zhao Mingcheng, with whom she shared interests in art collection and epigraphy. They lived in present-day Shandong. After her husband started his official career, he was often absent. They were not particularly rich but enjoyed collecting inscriptions and calligraphy, as well as sharing a love of poetry. Their shared interests inspired some of her later love poems.

During the Jin–Song wars, fighting took place in Shandong and Li’s house was burned. Li and her husband took many of their possessions when they fled to Nanjing, where they lived for a year. Zhao died in 1129 en route to an official post; Li never recovered from the death of her husband, but tried to keep safe what was left of their collection of bronze artifacts. Li also kept working on completing the book Jin shi lu, which was begun by Zhao, and described the calligraphy on the bronze and stones.

Only about a hundred of Li’s poems are known to survive, mostly in the ci form and tracing her varying fortunes in life. She is credited with the first detailed critique of the metrics of Chinese poetry. She was regarded as a master of wanyue pai “the delicate restraint”.

Two impact craters, Li Ch’ing-Chao on Mercury and Li Qingzhao on Venus, are named after her.

Li Qingzhao, 1081-circa 1141. Ch’ing-chao, Complete Poems. Translated from the Chinese and edited by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung. New Directions, 1979.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

P is for Christine de Pizan


Christine de Pizan (1364-ca. 1431) was born in Venice to Tomasso de Pizzano, a graduate of the University in Bologna. In 1369, Charles V of France hired Tomasso as his medical advisor and Tomasso brought his wife and young daughter to Paris. Christine never lost sight of her Italian heritage, and is credited with introducing Dante and Boccaccio to French audiences. Although Christine was denied formal education, her father encouraged her intellectual curiosity.

In 1380, at age fifteen, Christine married Estienne du Castel, who had been appointed a secretary in the royal chancellery in that same year. However, Christine’s happy married life was short-lived. In the fall of 1390, Estienne died suddenly from an epidemic while traveling with the court. At age twenty-five, Christine was unprepared to become the sole support for her young children, as well as her mother, since Tommasso had died three years prior. Christine began writing love poems and confessional poetry, for which she received patronage from various members of the royal family, but she also began to study, beginning with Boethius and Ovid. 

From her studies, Christine became interested in the education of young people of both sexes, which remained a major theme of her writings for the rest of her life. In addition to the early works, the Epistre d’Othéa (The Letter of Othéa) and the Proverbes Moraulx (Moral Proverbs) written for her son Jean, Christine wrote two longer works on women, the Livre de la Cité des Dames ( The Book of the City of Ladies), an answer to Boccaccio’s view of women expressed in De Claris Mulieribus (Of Famous Women) and the Livre des Trois Vertus (The Book of the Three Virtues), a guide to enable women to enjoy a more respected place in society. Christine wrote about whatever piqued her wide-ranging interests:  the art of warfare, the evils of civil war, and a biography of Charles V, commissioned by his brother, Jean, Duke of Burgundy. Several of her works found favor with many of the royal house and were dedicated to Louis d’Orleans, Philippe le Hardi, Duke of Burgundy and Isabeau de Bavière, among others.

Christine’s works were circulated in manuscript, printed, and translated well into the sixteenth century. After a period of obscurity, Christine was rediscovered for her part in the “Querelle de la rose,” a debate in which she criticized Jean de Meun’s continuation of Le Roman de la Rose for its misogyny. After this initial discovery, her works on the importance of education and the ability of women to learn have become part of the history of women writers in the medieval period.

Christine de Pizan. The Book of the City of Ladies. Translated by Earl Jeffrey Richards. Persea, 1982.

Christine de Pizan. A Medieval Woman’s Mirror of Honor. Translated by Charity Cannon Willard. Edited by Madeleine P. Cosman. Persea, 1989.

Christine de Pizan. The Book of Deeds of Arms and of Chivalry. Translated by Sumner Willard. Edited by Charity Cannon Willard. Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.

Christine de Pizan. The Writings of Christine de Pizan. Edited by Charity Cannon Willard. Persea, 1993.

Willard, Charity Cannon. Christine de Pizan: Her Life and Works. Persea, 1990.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

O is for Amelia Opie

Amelia Opie (1769-1853) wrote The Dangers of Coquetry when she was only 18 years old. Her novel Father and Daughter (1801) is about misled virtue and family reconciliation. Encouraged by her husband to continue writing, she published Adeline Mowbray (1804), an exploration of women’s education, marriage, and the abolition of slavery. This novel in particular is noted for engaging Opie’s former friend Mary Wollstonecraft, whose relationship with the American Gilbert Imlay outside of marriage caused some scandal, as did her later marriage to the philosopher William Godwin. Godwin had previously argued against marriage as an institution by which women were owned as property, but when Wollstonecraft became pregnant, they married despite his prior beliefs. In the novel, Adeline becomes involved with a philosopher early on, who takes a firm stand against marriage, only to be convinced to marry a West Indian landowner against her better judgment. The novel also addresses abolitionist sentiment, in the story of a mixed-race woman and her family whom Adeline saves from poverty at some expense to herself.
In 1825, Opie joined the Society of Friends, despite the objections of her recently deceased father, due to the influence of Joseph John Gurney and his sisters, who were longtime friends and neighbours in Norwich. The rest of her life was spent mostly in travel and working with charities. In the meantime, however, she published an anti-slavery poem, The Black Man’s Lament in 1826 and a volume of devotional poems, Lays for the Dead in 1834. Opie worked with Anna Gurney to create a Ladies Anti-Slavery Society in Norwich. This anti-slavery society organised a petition of 187,000 names that was presented to Parliament. The first two names on the petition were Amelia Opie and Priscilla Buxton.
Opie went to the World’s Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1840 where she was one of the few women included in the commemorative painting. A somewhat sanitised biography of Amelia Opie, entitled A Life, by Miss C.L. Brightwell, was published in 1854. Other works by Opie include Simple Tales (1806), Temper (1812), Tales of Real Life (1813), Valentine’s Eve (1816), Tales of the Heart (1818), and Madeline (1822).

Opie, Amelia. The Father and Daughter: with, Dangers of Coquetry. Edited by SHelley King and John B. Pierce. Broadview Press, 2003.

Opie, Amelia. The Collected Poems of Amelia Alderson Opie. Edited by Shelley King and John B. Pierce. Oxford University Press, 2009.

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

N is for Isotta Nogarola

Isotta Nogarola (1418–1466) was born to Bianca Borromeo and Leonardo Nogarola. Both her parents came from noble families with a humanist view of education, so that Isotta and her sisters studied Greek and Latin. Influenced by this classical education, Isotta wrote Latin epistles, poetry, orations, and dialogues. As one of the most famous female humanists of the Italian Renaissance, Isotta exchanged letters with other humanists, such as Lodovico Foscarini, Ermolao Barbaro, and Damiano del Borgo. Isotta inspired generations of female artists and writers. Her most influential work was a disputation between herself and Foscarini, The Dialogue on Adam and Eve, about whether Adam or Eve was the greater sinner. As defender of Eve, Isotta does mention the weakness of the female sex; however, she also argues that Eve had a compelling desire for knowledge, a desire innate in humankind. The Dialogue contributed to a debate on gender and the nature of women that lasted for centuries in Europe.

Nogarola, Isotta. Complete Writings. Edted and translated by Margaret L. King and Diane Robin. University of Chicago Press, 2003,

Blogging from A-Z April 2018 Challenge

M is for Bathsua Makin

Bathsua Reginald Makin (c. 1600 – c. 1675) was a proto-feminist, middle-class Englishwoman who contributed to the emerging criticism of woman’s position in the domestic and public spheres in 17th-century England. Makin was referred to as “England’s most learned lady,” due to her knowledge of Greek, Latin, Hebrew, German, Spanish, French and Italian. Makin argued primarily for the right of women and girls to obtain an education in an age that questioned the ability of women to be educated. She is best known for her polemical treatise entitled An Essay To Revive the Antient Education of Gentlewomen, in Religion, Manners, Arts & Tongues, with an Answer to the Objections against this Way of Education (1673).
I was unable to find a modern edition of Bathsua Makin’s works, however, the following title has included selections of her works.
First Feminists: British Women Writers, 1578–1799. Edited by Moira Ferguson. Indiana University Press, 1985.