Judgments on the costs and benefits of the 2020 and 2021 Covid shutdowns are still far from final.
The government refuses to comment on a royal commission of inquiry, fearing that it will be largely negative. An independent review in Australia, funded by several foundations, had politicians in the most extreme lockdown states to defend their decisions.
These included border closures, rigid quarantines and the longest lockdown in the world – 262 days, or nearly nine months, in Melbourne.
Politicians said they made their decisions to protect lives. The uncompromising analysis of the 97 pages fault lines review found otherwise.
“For children and parents (especially women), we have failed to strike the right balance between protecting health and imposing long-term costs on education, mental health, life. economy and labor market outcomes,” he said.
“Rules were too often formulated and applied in a way that lacked fairness and compassion. Such overreach has undermined public trust in the institutions that are vital to an effective response to the crisis.”
English writer Kate Mosse undoubtedly spoke for many when she said of the January 2021 lockdown: “There seemed to be no end in sight – a growing death toll, fear, a such loss and grief, incompetent and dishonest political leadership…”
This judgment is perhaps too harsh. The fictional television miniseries This England depicts a well-meaning confusion among decision makers. But hypocritical breaches of the rules ultimately brought down Boris Johnson.
Mosse was among those who used the lockdowns’ forced house arrest for a special project. Hers was to launch a global campaign to identify women in history who should be celebrated or better known. She also sought an answer to the question: why are women ignored in history?
His starting point was his great-grandmother, Lily Watson (1849-1932), a highly educated daughter of a Baptist church leader, familiar with five foreign languages, educated in Edinburgh, went on a walking holiday in Switzerland and in Austria and knew painting and music well.
She raised six children, including three boys with hemophilia (one died at age 12), while also being a novelist, poet, lifelong contributor to The girl’s own papercommunity leader and more.
Except that when Mosse came to research Lily’s life, she found little documentation of her existence. The books were long out of print and, indeed, she had been “erased” from history.
treasure of letters
That changed when Mosse found a treasure trove of letters written almost daily between Lily and her husband, a London lawyer. However, they cast little attention on his public life and contain no reference to major world events of the time, which span the Victorian and Edwardian periods through to the Depression of the 1930s.
Mosse tells Lily’s story in chronological order as the “backbone” of Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries: How Women (Also) Built the World. It includes potted biographies of over a thousand women, the best known but some that will be unfamiliar to most readers.
Although the life of Mosse’s great-grandmother was not exceptional for women of her class, it is an exaggeration to say that she was deliberately erased from history because of “the effect Mathilde”, a term used to describe how the achievements of women scientists have been attributed. to male bosses. It is also used to accuse men of claiming all the credit for social and economic progress.
Looking back from the perspective of modern feminism, Mosse makes this startling observation: “Lily’s main definition of herself was that of a wife, a mother, a Christian – not a woman.”
This cannot apply to Mosse’s brilliant career – a degree at Oxford, a rapid rise in the publishing industry in London and his success as a writer of bestselling historical novels. His books have sold over five million copies in 42 languages.
She says her “overnight fame” happened at age 45 with the publication of Labyrinth (2005), the first of a trilogy and set in southwestern France during the 13th century Crusades. The inspiration for the third volume, Citadel (2012), comes from a base in Carcassonne which names all the men and “two unknown women” executed by the Nazis in 1944 for an act of resistance.
Erasing the history of any exceptional woman is unlikely in today’s world. Women are the main buyers of fiction, and biographies of women are more popular than those of men, famous or infamous.
But the main reason is Wikipedia, which has an entry for Lily’s daughter, Winifred (Winnie), author of more than 60 romance novels under the pseudonym Pamela Wynne (1879-1959). There is no listing for Lily herself.
I checked all the New Zealand and Polynesian women quoted in Warrior Queens and Quiet Revolutionaries for their achievements in literature, politics, botany, medicine, aviation and suffrage. All have entries in Wikipedia.
Incidentally, Wikipedia clarifies Mosse’s listing of Matiu Rātana as the first Wahine MP. She was, in fact, Iriaka Te Rio and married Matiu Rātana, who was a Member of Parliament until his death in 1949. She succeeded him and remained in Parliament for another 20 years.
The entry for Whakaotirangi describes her as the world’s first home gardener during the Polynesian migrations, arriving in Aotearoa around 1350. “She described the techniques she used to plant, grow and store seeds, enabling her people to settle in one place rather than having to keep moving when natural food sources run out.
No book of some 400 pages can do justice to all of history’s exceptional women, so Mosse had to be selective. She groups them into chapters for writers, educators, lawyers, warriors, pirates, scientists, doctors, engineers, etc. The bibliography is 16 pages, although it does not include local examples such as The New Zealand Women’s Book (1991). Online biographies have now become the go-to source for students and scholars.
New Zealand’s first recorded female doctor, Margaret Cruikshank – who died in 1918 during the ‘influenza pandemic’ – received a rare honor when the grateful citizens of Waimate erected a statue of her in 1923. The event was followed by Dr. Emily Siedeberg, Otago School of First female medical graduate, also listed by Mosse.
General readers will find much to draw from these thematic chapters, which include stories of bravery, conviction and courage. The adolescent warrior and martyr Joan of Arc is listed with parallel figures from Africa, the Americas, Armenia, Spain, India and Tibet. Similarly, New Zealand suffragists, civil and land rights activists also have their counterparts in other countries.
The work of correspondents, photographers and secret agents behind enemy lines in many theaters of war is recognized. For some artists, fame came after they died. One example is Frida Kahlo, the Mexican who was only “discovered” in the 1970s and whose work is exhibited in Auckland.
Austrian-born Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr’s invention of radio guidance for torpedoes during World War II, leading to Bluetooth, GPS and Wi-Fi, received much publicity. But I didn’t know Joséphine Garis-Cochrane, who patented the first dishwasher in 1886, or Eunice Newton Foote, who discovered the “greenhouse effect” in 1856.
Another interesting piece of information is that pioneering computer scientist Mary Berners-Lee (1924-2017) was the mother of Tim, inventor of the global web.
Warrior Queens & Quiet Revolutionaries: How Women (Also) Built the World, by Kate Mosse (Mantle/Pan Macmillan).
Nevil Gibson is a former editor for NBR. He has contributed film and book reviews to various publications.
This is content provided and not paid for by NBR.