The Ishango bone.
Dated somewhere between 18,000 to 20,000 B.C.E., the Upper Paleolithic era, the Ishango bone is a tool. It is a bone tool, with a piece of quartz attached to one end, for engraving or writing. Made from a baboon fibula, the bone was discovered by Belgian anthropologist Jean de Heinzelin de Braucourt and is named for the region in which it was found, in the “Fisherman Settlement” of Ishango in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Why is this important? It is the oldest attestation of the practice of arithmetic in human history; one of the first human conception of numbers. But history or herstory? Is it the world’s oldest menstruation tracker or is it a lunar calendar? Who but a woman keeping track of her period would need a lunar calendar?
Professor of Anthropology at University of Nebraska-Lincoln Raymond Hames, ” the menstruation interpretation is just one of many.”
And so the story goes…
Sandi Toksvig has famously been quoted: “When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. ‘This is often considered to be man’s first attempt at a calendar,’ she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. ‘My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.’ It was a moment that changed my life. In that second I stopped to question almost everything I had been taught about the past. How often had I overlooked women’s contributions?”
Who has influenced your story?
Joan of Arc! The Patron saint of France. She was a transcender of gender roles because. Even though she was a peasant girl, she followed her divine guidance. She was a military leader, becoming one of the first GoddessUp! Warriors! England tried to claim her country during the Hundreds Year War. But no! Orleans belongs to France! Thus, she earned the nickname “the maid of Orleans.”
She was only 19 when the English put her to death, accused of witchcraft and dressing like a man. She was burnt at the stake in Rouen by the English on May 30, 1431. Smoke inhalation was the cause of death.
Joan of Arc most famous quote.
“I would rather die than do something which I know to be a sin, or to be against God’s will. If I am not, may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me. Act, and God will act.”
Joan of Arc was a badass.
Born during the Hundred Years War. She fought for France. Her courage and skill were tested on the battlefield. She led troops in 13 battles, finding victory in 9 of those battles. Ultimately, her courage on the battlefield could not save her. She cut her hair short and dressed as a knight. The charges against her, while rooted in religious doctrine, were politically charged because she was a woman. Because she was a GoddessUp! Warrior!
The voices that you keep.
When she was twelve years old she had a vision of Archangel Michael in which she led the French to victory against the English. She was thirteen years old when she began hearing voices sent by God.
She was a fearless warrior who never actually fought in battle. She was an inspirational mascot. She had a banner and not a weapon. She was a martyr. She was a feminist who lacked female solidarity. This is why we NEED women having each other’s back.
Mark Twain said, “I studied that girl, Joan of Arc, for twelve years, and it never seemed to me that the artists and the writers gave us a true picture of her. They drew a picture of a peasant. But they always missed the face – the divine soul, the pure character, the supreme woman, the wonderful girl.”
Women’s herstory month is important.
Celebrate the achievements of women, past and present. Since California began a “Women’s History Week” in 1978, March has been associated with women’s herstory.
Watch a documentary. Read a book about women’s rights. Better yet, combine the two. Hidden Figures is an amazing book and movie about the voices of marginalized women who helped get us to space, the moon, and beyond!
As an activist and advocate for feminine freedom and equality, men always ask me how can they participate in female empowerment. My answer is simple. Hold other men accountable for their actions. – Sierra Bender