(Queen of England from 1558 to 1603)
Can you marry a country? Elizabeth chose in the Middle Ages to do exactly that: to marry England. And thus, she became the "Virgin Queen". However, through her choice, she renounced the possibility of having love, children and carrying on the Tudor line. She called England her husband and the people her children.
But how come did Elizabeth make that sacrifice? Well, she was very aware that if she married a royal suitor from another country – e.g. the Spanish king Philip the Second – then the throne would fall to him as a male, and thus England would come into the hands of Spain. On the other side if she married an Englishman, it could also cause trouble; jealousy and opposition from the scorned suitors and their allies and again, the throne of England would yet again slip of her hands and into the hands of the male. Thus, she made the clever and strong decision to marry no man but the land itself.
Women from the high nobility – as well as from society in general – were then mostly regarded as breeding mares, the property of their fathers and with no real influence on whom they should marry. The arrow most often pointed to a husband who could increase family wealth or social influence, or preferably both and regardless of his aged and disposition. After this, her sole purpose in life where to give birth to male children; the future heirs.
Elizabeth's choice not to marry required both courage, cunning and intelligence. Her decision also meant that she could navigate wisely in relation to the other European countries and play her cards wisely in relation to the former suitors.
The structural and cultural framework meant that Elizabeth lost personal opportunities (to express love) to prevent England losing opportunities and independence. Elizabeth remained unmarried – and was head of state for more than 44 years.
In her work on Elizabeth the First, Lisbeth Lunda has wondered whether Elizabeth actually overpowered men at all. She was the daughter of Henry VIII and his second wife Anne Boleyn. When Henrik got tired of Anne Boleyn, he had her accused of, among other things, adultery and high treason, after which she was sentenced to death and beheaded in the Tower of London. Did life with a man seem downright erratic and dangerous in eyes of the women from the middle-aged?
Text: Anette Prehn
(Eve, the first)
"Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.”
Genesis, chapter 3, verse 16
Just one small apple led to “the fall of man”, and it was Eve who tempted Adam. The old writings that characterize the great religions have unambiguously given the woman the role of the great temptress: She who led the man astray, on a stray path. She, who nurtured his sexuality and made it wild and untameable - even with complete premeditation. She who had deserved punishment and suffering as a result of her misdeeds.
The woman as temptress has since been a welcome cultural figure. It implied that men did not have to take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions. Vulcan urges were her fault; she decided to take a bit of the forbidden fruit,
In Islam, separation between the sexes is still practiced preventing temptation and sexual indecency. Entire societies have been built around the figure Eve: the woman is a temptress first and then, possibly, a person. Her notorious impurity and inferiority lead the man's direct into impure thoughts and temptations and she must therefore be restrained. It’s the weak woman there is fundamentally problem – and generation after generation has washed their hands of that figure and perhaps even rejoiced in her birth pains. With no incentive, moreover, to seriously prevent the many pregnancies or for that matter to find relieve for the woman in childbirth.
Lisbeth Lunda has painted Eve the first based on a mythological thought experiment: What if Eve looked at Adam in Paradise and thought: "You and me? Here in the Garden of Eden? For an eternity? No, I don’t think so, I’m taking a bite of that apple, getting myself some knowledge and getting out of her!” – In short: What if Eve's first, second and third bites of the famous apple were deliberate actions? That she wanted something and more in life than hanging out with Adam?
Text: Anette Prehn
(Maren Splids // 1600-1641)
Burned alive at the stake. Consumed by the flames. Mocked by the surroundings. This was the fate of tens of thousands of women mainly in the Middle Ages.
Researchers believe that between 40,000 and 60,000 people were killed in this way in Europe from the middle of the 15th century to the culmination in the years around 1600. The last "witch" in Denmark was burned in 1693.
Maren Splids life ended this horrible way. She is the best-known "witch" in Denmark because her case is well documented and because she was a wealthy woman from the middle class. Usually, as it was mostly poor women who were sentenced to death for witchcraft.
Maren Splids ran a pub in Ribe together with her wealthy husband, tailor Laurids Splid. Unfortunately for Maren, she lived during the reign of the danish King Christian IV, and he was obsessed with and terrified of the "witches".
The case began when another tailor in the town, Didrik, fell ill in 1636 and threw up a large lump of vomit. "It must be the devil's work", he thought, and remembered that 12 years earlier, Maren had probably cursed him. Then he accused Maren of bewitching him.
However, Maren was acquitted, but Didrik personally addressed the king himself. As many as 600 of the approx. 1,000 people who were burned as "witches" at the stake in Denmark, lost their lives under King Christian IV. And the king also chose to personally intervene in this matter.
A witch confession was forced out of Maren under torture. And in the end Maren was burned at the stake on the gallows hill in Ribe in 1641.
This woman's fate has also angered Lisbeth Lunda. In the battle between man and woman throughout history, the woman has almost always come out as the loser. She has been defiled and guilty – yes indeed, it is almost like she had the ”The Original Sin” tattooed across her chest.
Text: Anette Prehn
(Hildegard Von Bingen // 1098-1179)
"Everything flows through love, from the depths to the outermost stars". Thus, wrote Hildegard von Bingen, who was a famous writer, composer, naturopath and spiritual teacher in the Middle Ages. In addition, she was a recognized abbess at the Benedictine monastery in Bingen.
But Hildegard's path to power and recognition was paved with sacrifices. She was born into a wealthy family, as the 10th child. As a very little girl, she developed prophetic abilities, e.g. could she foresee events. When Hildegard was 8, she was given away to the Church by her parents.
The monasteries were the most influential institutions at the time. But Hildegard was not to move directly into the Disibodenberg monastery. Instead, she was placed in a cell on the grounds of the monastery, where the 14-year-old Jutta von Sponheim already lived. As Jutta and Hildegard were both of noble birth, there was also a woman living in the cell who assisted them.
Jutta and Hildegard led an intense religious life of prayer, psalm recitation and reading, without contact with the outside world. They were probably brought food and drink through a hole in the wall. Just as they have probably been able to listen to the monastery's hymn singing, services etc. through the very same hole. Hildegard lived in this way for eight or nine years.
What has it been like for a little girl of eight years to move in a cell with two others, without mother and father, without siblings, without toys? Did she cry herself to sleep at night? How many months did it take her to get used to these claustrophobic and cramped surroundings?
We do not know for sure what the purpose was for the parents to present the little girl to the monastery, but Lisbeth Lunda had this sacrifice in mind when she created the artwork of Hildegard. Hildegard lost her family and much of her freedom. But in her case there were also doors opened for her through this loss. Most certainly this has not the been the case for the millions of others little girls that over the centuries have been given away, sacrificed, or thrown out of families in the service of a higher cause or in the hope of rescue from purgatory and eternal damnation for the parents.
Textt: Anette Prehn
(Mahsa Amini // 1999-2022)
The Iranian woman Masha Amini died after being arrested by the Iranian morality police. Her crime? She had not worn her hijab accordingly to the rules and regulations of the government.
Iranian police claimed that Masha had suffered a "seizure" and collapsed during the arrest and later she went into a coma and died. However, eyewitnesses – including women who were in custody along with Masha – testifies that she was severely beaten by the police and as a result went into a coma and died. Also, the medical record, which was leaked, confirms this sequence of events.
Masha's death resulted in violent demonstrations inside and outside Iran. Where thousands of brave people, mainly women, took to the streets, burning their scarves and cutting off their hair. Iranian police reciprocate by firing live rounds into the crowd.
The hijab requirement was introduced in Iran in connection with the revolution in 1979. The country then got a new constitution after a referendum that was based on Velayat-e Faqih doctrines. The country's supreme authority became the most recognized by the legal scholars, based on Shia Islamism.
The jurists were, of course, men. Men who decided that women should wear hijabs. Men who punished and killed women if they didn't follow the laid-out laws. Men who felt justified in oppressing women in the name of their religion. It's ”The Original Sin” all over again. The woman must be tamed and restrained.
For Lisbeth Lunda, the treatment of Masha is a symbol of this oppression of women, which unfortunately continues in many countries in the world, where e.g. hijabs and burqas are used to keep women in place.
Text: Anette Prehn
(Mary Jane Clarke // 1862-1910)
The right to vote, equal pay and independence for women. The suffragettes sparked a more militaristic fight for women's rights. They wanted to do away with the degradation of women that was woven into the fabric of society.
Mary Jane Clarke was the younger sister of Emmelie Pankhurst, the leader of the suffragettes. She was an artist and known for her quit ways and gentle manner, however the cause of the suffragettes could bring her mind to a boil. Mary Jane stated in 1910 that "prison is the only place for self-respecting women."
The suffragettes used a wide range of means in their fight: demonstrations, window smashing, arson, bombings and hunger strikes, and this had great physical and social consequences for the women. The women were beaten, groped and violent arrested at their demonstrations.
Subsequently, they became social outcasts: they lost their jobs. Many were abandoned by their husbands and thus lost the right to their children. The women owned nothing, because everything went to the man when they got married: the money they had to inherit, the money they earned, the children they gave birth to.
Thousands of women were imprisoned in the struggle, and they began hunger strikes to be recognized as political prisoners. The system's countermeasure was to force-feed them so that they didn’t get to escape prematurely.
This force-feeding has – along with the other victims of the suffragettes – made an impression on Lisbeth Lunda. It took place through the nose or mouth after the woman had been fixed to a chair or bed. It was extremely painful and often went wrong with subsequent damage to the circulation, digestive and nervous systems and the physical and mental state.
Force-feeding has been compared to oral rape and torture. Some suffragettes experienced being force-fed up to 200 times. The doctor Frances Ede, who was herself a suffragette, describes how she cell after cell heard “sounds of struggle, pleas and protests, of choking, gasps, moans and disturbing cries. ”I have never in all my professional experience heard anything so painful.”
Mary Jane Clarke died in prison on Christmas Day 1910 after being force-fed. And thus, became the suffragettes' first martyr.
In 1918 England got limited voting rights for married women over 30, and only in 1928 the women of England got full voting rights. That was 13 years later than in Denmark and a full 35 years after New Zealand. Women in Saudi Arabia do still to this day, not have the right to vote.
"Suffrage" means "right to vote" in English.
Text: Anette Prehn