Thursday, June 20, 2019

Damn, Girl-Sappho, and her Immortal Daughters

The mysterious Sappho of Lesbos is one of the most influential poets in history. Her poems--what she called her "Immortal Daughters-- not only influenced the poets of her day but inspired the Romantic and Victorian writers of the nineteenth century. Plato so respected her that he called her "the Tenth Muse," putting her on par with the nine daughters of Zeus.

Related image
Fresco of a woman generally believed to be Sappho.
This may not be an accurate likeness, as it was
painted about a century after her death.
Sappho was described in her lifetime as being
"small, dark and ugly" and "violet haired, pure,
honey smiling."
Before we begin, it must be noted that very little is known about Sappho's life, and what is known is often contradictory. Given that so much of her work is lost, it's difficult to be certain of anything about her. New poems and sources on her are quite literally being dug up every day (well, every so often), so some facts presented here may be proved incorrect in the near future.

Sappho was born sometime between 610 and 620 BCE on the island of Lesbos. She was from the town of Mytilene, or the town of Eresus, where her parents were well-established and respected aristocrats. There is evidence that her father was from Anatolia, which would have made Sappho not entirely Greek.

The theory of Sappho's family being migrants comes from the name of her father, and the spelling of Sappho's name. Her father was named Scamandronymus¹, a name familiar to readers of the Iliad. In the Iliad, the hero Achilles fights the Scamander, the god of the river that surrounded Troy. The name Scamandronymus comes from that minor god. Greeks were not in the habit of naming their children after the gods of rival, defeated kingdoms. And while every generation and nationality has parents who enjoy giving their children "unique" names, it is reasonable to assume that Sappho's father may have come from farther afield. To further support this theory, the spelling of Sappho's name varies, also appearing as Psappha, which has Anatolian origins.

Sappho had three brothers: Larichus, Erigyius, and Kharaxos. Not much is known about Erigyiu--not even his name is certain. Larichus was a handsome and successful young man who served as a cupbearer to a noble family. Kharaxos was, by far, the most colorful of the three. Sappho disapproved of him, as he had fallen in love with Rhodips,² an Egyptian courtesan. They were deeply in love, and if that wasn't disreputable enough, Kharaxos had to turn to piracy to support his passion for the beautiful Rhodips.

Now, it must be noted that the Kharaxos story comes from Ovid, a Roman writer who lived hundreds of years after Sappho. Ovid wrote quite a bit about Sappho, but he was, to put it delicately, full of crap. Any story about Sappho put forward by Ovid should be taken with a large grain of salt. However, in the "Brothers Poem" discovered in 2014, Sappho wrote:

"...But you're always chattering that Kharaxos / comes, his ship with fully stuffed hold. As to that, / Zeus and the gods only know, but these thoughts should / not be in your head.
Instead let me go, having been commanded / to offer many prayers to Hera the Queen, / that his undamaged ship should deliver up / Kharaxos to us
here, finding us safe and serene. And as for / the rest of it, to higher spirits leave it / now, for calm seas often follow after the squalling of a storm..."
Image result for sappho fragments
Sapphic fragment
Now, it must be remembered that Greek lyric poetry, the genre in which Sappho wrote, was highly personal and often autobiographical. It was a significant departure from the epic poetry of the previous centuries. Much like the later shift from the medieval art style to the Renaissance style, poetry went from epics, which were only concerned with the doings of gods and heroes, to lyrical poetry, which were interested in the individual. Sappho doesn't explicitly spell out that her brother was a pirate with a taste for Egyptian prostitutes; she tells us that he was a seafaring man of trade. The scurrilous details (true or not) come from Ovid.

In 604 BCE, Sappho and her family were exiled to the island of Sicily for non-specific political reasons. Sappho's parents were aristocrats with some political clout, and it is speculated that they may have made enemies with the wrong people. They settled in the city of Syracuse. There's no real record of what happened in Syracuse, but the city was later so proud of being the temporary home of Sappho that they later erected a statue of her and minted coins with her face on them.

While Sappho's remaining poetry isn't explicitly political, that Sappho may have written about politics isn't out of the question because so much of Sappho's poetry is lost. In her later life Sappho was a well-respected political figure; when she started talking politics isn't known, but it isn't out of the question that it was pre-exile. It's difficult to say because Sappho was somewhere between six and sixteen at the time of her family's exile.

Sappho's family returned to Lesbos some time in the 590s, and it was then when Sappho married Cercylas of Andros and had one daughter, Cleis, named after Sappho's mother.

Now, Sappho is synonymous with female homosexuality. The term "lesbian" takes its name from Sappho's home island of Lesbos, and the world "sapphic," a word used to describe female homosexuals of all stripes, takes its name from Sappho herself. While many historians and writers have tried to dismiss Sappho's more homoerotic poetry as "just gals being pals," only people reading Sappho in a state of willful ignorance would agree. In her poem "Gongyla," Sappho writes:
"Gongyla, thou golden / Maid of Colophon / Like the breath of morning / Or a breeze from the sea, / Fresh thy beauty smote me, / Virile of the north. / Startled by thy vision, / Transports half divine / Flooded hearts and bosom, / Shook me with desire."
Image result for lesbos
The location of Lesbos (also called Lesvos.) Note the
proximity to Anatolia.
In Mnasidica, Sappho writes:
"Dica, Mnasidica, thou art shapely / With the flowing curves of Aphrodite; / ...All thy rays of loveliness concentered / Sun me till I swoon with swift desire."
And then, of course, the iconic and completely heterosexual:
"Sweet mother I cannot weave / Slender Aphrodite has overcome me with longing for a girl." 

While the above more than demonstrates Sappho's love for women, her sexuality is not definite. While she has become the poster girl for lesbianism, it is just as likely that Sappho was what we now classify as bi or pansexual. There are many men mentioned in the long list of Sappho's lovers, and she did have a daughter. And, don't forget, there was her husband, Cercylas of Andros.

However, "Cercylas of Andros" may be some ancient writer's idea of a joke, as the name of Sappho's husband roughly translates to "Prick of the Isle of Man." It is possible that Cercylas was fictional, an addition from later writers to sanitize Sappho, or, as was popular with later Greek writers, to make fun of her. It is certain that Cleis existed, as Sappho wrote of her:
"Sleep, darling/I have a small/daughter called / Cleis, who is
 like a golden / flower / I wouldn't take all Croesus' / kingdom with love / thrown in, for her"
Whether Cleis was Sappho's biological daughter, adopted daughter, or a particularly adored niece, it is evident from this fragment that Sappho adored her. This view of Sappho as a mother figure is unsurprising, given the large circle of women Sappho befriended and purportedly mentored.

Sappho had a lot of friends, that much is certain. However, her relationship with them is just as murky and uncertain as the woman herself. Were they friends? Were they students? The true answer is lost to history. Tradition holds that Sappho ran a thiasos, a sort of finishing school for young ladies. Modern theories posit that she was more the hostess of an Ancient Greek salon, or a hetairia.
Image result for aphrodite
Aphrodite. Of her, Sappho wrote:
"Aphrodite of the foam/Who hast
given all good gifts/And made Sappho
at thy will/Love so greatly and so much"

The idea that Sappho held a thaisos comes from the multiple young women she wrote poetry to as her students. Legend holds that her thiasos started out as a type of finishing school, where nobles would send their young daughters to be taught the womanly accomplishments they would need for marriage. However, over time Sappho's school evolved into a cult of Aphrodite and Eros, with Sappho as high priestess.

This theory is supported by the large volume of remaining poetry devoted to Aphrodite. And while there is no definitive proof of Sappho entering the priestesshood, she seems to have exercised an extreme level of devotion to the goddess of love and beauty. The only intact poem of Sappho's is her "Hymn to Aphrodite," and it ends with the provocative:
"All I long for; Lady, in all my battles / Fight as my comrade."
Now, while this sound like a completely normal thing for a religious person to say, it must be kept in mind that the Ancient Greeks didn't have the same sort of relationship with their gods as believers in Abrahamic religions. The Greek gods were capricious and cruel. Catching their attention ended in disaster 99% of the time.³ Enlisting the help of the gods was done with great caution and great reverence, normally in a temple with the appropriate sacrifices and offerings. This tender, personal entreaty to Aphrodite suggests that Sappho believed that she had a personal relationship with the goddess, priestess or no.

While Sappho may have thought herself to have a connection to Aphrodite, the amount of poetry dedicated to the goddess may exist because Sappho's bread and butter were wedding songs. (As a lyric poet, Sappho's poems were meant to be sung.) Ancient Greek weddings went on for several days, and singing was a major part of the celebrations. Songs comparing the groom to the great heroes of Greek lore, and the bride to the goddess Aphrodite or the infamous Helen were as much a staple of ancient weddings as Mendelssohn's Wedding March or Pachelbel's Canon are of modern weddings. In fragment 27, Sappho wrote:
"Raise high the roof beams, workers! / Hymenaeus! / Like Ares, here comes the bridegroom! / Hymenaeus! / Taller than the tallest men! / Hymenaeus!
In a different song, she wrote:
"Bride, of maidens all the fairest image / Mitylene treasures of the Goddess, / Rosy-ankled Graces / are thy playmates;"
Image result for sappho's school
Bust of the Poetess
It is possible that Aphrodite was just another love and beauty-centric subject for Sappho to write about and that Sappho held the goddess in no regard at all. It doesn't seem likely, but it's also possible that Sappho had purple hair and seven toes. With Sappho, most things are possible.

The idea that Sappho ran a hetairia comes from historians in the 20th and 21st centuries. Instead of running a school, it is believed that Sappho hosted a salon, exchanging artistic ideas with a diverse group of female poets and musicians. Even in this scenario, historical tradition portrays Sappho as being older than the rest of her gal pals and being in a mentoring position. While Sappho almost certainly did some instruction to the women performing her work, like any modern conductor would, there is no definitive proof that Sappho served as a teacher at all. In fact, Sappho's poetry suggests that she was more the member of an informal circle of friends. In a prelude, Sappho wrote:
"Deftly on my little / Seven-stringed Barbitos, / Now to please my girl friends / Songs I set to music"
In fragment eleven, she says:
"I will sing this skillfully to please my friends."
These lines make it clear that pleasing her friends, and having her friends' approval was important to Sappho, more important than the approval of a student generally is to a teacher. Furthermore, Sappho herself mentions her friends, writing in her poem "Damophyla":
"Sapphics thou has written, / Verses in my meter, / With a skill surpassing / In the melic art."
Sappho was clearly not the only poet in her social circle. Where then did this theory of Sappho being a school mistress or intellectual mentor come from? For hundreds of years, it has been an almost indisputable fact. This theory most likely comes from a misunderstanding of female friendships and Sappho's sexuality.

Since history has, until recently, been looked at from an exclusively masculine point of view (stay with me, gentlemen), historical women have been relegated to rigid roles, no matter the fact that women, just like men, are complex and cannot fit into a single defined category. It is easy to put Sappho in a teacher/mother category because of her poetry about her daughter. Her work, in certain lights--especially her work dedicated to her friends--might come off as instructional. However, looked at in a different light, her poems read more like a woman giving her best friend advice. For example, in fragment 75 she says:
"Oh Dica, set garlands upon your beautiful hair, / weaving plant strands with your delicate hands; for / those who wear attractive blossoms will surely / rank first, even among the Goddesses, who frown / upon those without garlands."
While more poetic, this has the same cant as a woman giving her friend fashion advice. Sappho goes beyond fashion advice, however. In fragment 66, she says:
"I believe the woman that has your wisdom will / never see the sunlight." 
This heartbreaking commiseration over the abominable treatment of women in Ancient Greece isn't the end of it. In Fragment 39, Sappho says:
 "But to you, Atthis, thinking of me is hateful, as you / flee to Andromeda"
This fragment has often been touted as definitive evidence that Sappho ran a school. Her student, Atthis, defected to a rival school run by Andromeda. However, if you scream this poem angrily, it becomes clear that it could also be interpreted as Sappho lashing out angrily at a friend who has betrayed her.

Then there's Fragment 33, which says:
"Foolish woman! Be not proud for a ring."
Here's Sappho reproaching a woman for vanity, poor money management, general bitchiness. Without more of the poem it's difficult to say. It is important to notice the subject is referred to as a woman instead of a girl.

Some of Sappho's poetry comes across as downright gossipy. Fragment 73 says:
"More pleasing is Mnasidika than tender Gyrinno"
And fragment 74:
"I never found someone more disdainful than you, O Anna." 
Sappho was clearly excellent at throwing shade.

Image result for pompe dressing for a dionysian festival
"Pompe Dressing for a Dionysian
Festival" shows the typical Greek
fancy dress (or undress) for women.
Note the garlands.
Looking no farther than her poetry, it is clear that Sappho had a much more intimate relationship with her friends than that of a typical teacher. Sappho felt comfortable advising her friends. She clearly viewed them as equals and had no problem calling them out on their bullshit.

Sappho was often likened to Socrates, a noted pederast. Because of Sappho's equation with Socrates, and because historically society has had difficulty wrapping its collective heads around women and copulation, her sexuality was understood not from a female perspective but from a masculine perspective, and Ancient Greek male sexual norms were ascribed to her for centuries. It is only in recent years that Sappho's sexuality has been looked at from a female perspective.

The assumption of female homosexuality being exactly like male homosexuality brings in the interesting question of pederasty. Among Ancient Greek men, homosexuality was normalized within a pederastic context. An older nobleman found a hot piece of ass he wanted to "mentor," and the pair struck up a relationship. It was assumed that the same would apply to women. However, in no context does Sappho demonstrate a romantic and sexual love for a younger person. In fact, she makes her feelings on the matter quite explicit in fragment 72, saying:
"For if you love me, choose another, younger / spouse, for I will not suffer to live with you, as an / old woman with a young man."
Though she is speaking to a man (remember, bi- or pansexual) these lines make Sappho's preferences clear. And while there are poems where Sappho describes her love for a "maiden", there were several different Greek words for love, and this should not be taken as sexual love.

Furthermore, when Sappho does describe a "maiden" in a sexual way, it's a maiden with another maiden, not with Sappho herself. In her poem "Telesippa," Sappho writes:
"Sleep thou in the bosom / of thy tender girl friend,/ Telesippa, gentle / Maiden from Miletus"
The poem goes on to become more sexually explicit, saying:
"Warm from her desireful / Heart the flush of passion / On your cheek unconscious, / With her sighs shall deepen. / All the long sweet night-time, / Sleepless while you slumber, / She shall lie and quiver / With her love's mad longing."
Telesippa is clearly engaging in an affair but with a person of her own age. Sappho doesn't project herself as Telesippa's lover, nor does she act the part of the voyeur. In fact, the poem could almost be seen as Sappho giving Telesippa a pep talk, assuring her of great things to come.

Whatever the dynamic of Sappho's friend group, Sappho garnered fame throughout the ancient world and not for her "school." She was referred to as "the poetess," an allusion to Homer, who was frequently called "the poet." This epitaph demonstrates that, in her own time, Sappho was though to be on par with Homer, who continues to remain the most influential male poet of antiquity.
Her fame was well deserved. Sappho was the vanguard of a new type of poetry, lyric poetry. Personal, introspective, and meant to be sung, lyric poetry was a big departure from epic poetry, which had been the zeitgeist for decades previously. In modern terms, Sappho was more of a singer-songwriter than a poet.

Much of Sappho's poetry was set in what we now call "Sapphic meter," which consists of four lines--three long, the last short. The combination of stressed and unstressed syllables⁴ gives Sappho's poetry a distinct character that has been copied over and over again since she conceived it.

Image result for pectis musical instrument
Woman playing the pectis
In addition to revolutionizing poetry, Sappho also made her mark on music. Sappho was a talented musician and vocalist herself and was noted for performing and leading performances of her own work. Based on her success, it is not unreasonable to assume that she must have been a good conductor as well. She was credited by her contemporaries with the invention of the pectis, a triangular harp, the plectrum, a type of proto-guitar pick, and the Mixolydian mode, a proto-scale that would survive into medieval music and make a comeback in modern popular music⁵.

There are two theories put out about the end of Sappho's life--the plausible and the dramatique. The plausible theory is that she died of old age in the 550s. The more theatrical story, put about by our old buddy Ovid⁶, is that, distraught over her unrequited love for a man named Phaon. This incident is referred to as the "Lucadian Leap," and appears multiple times in Greek mythology.

The connection of Sappho with the Lucadian Leap may have been an attempt at humor. It could be that this story of Sappho, a known homosexual, throwing herself from a cliff for love of a man could have been an attempt to satirize romantic love. Or an attempt to make fun of Sappho and her overblown love of love. Or, it's possible that when talking about the Lucadian leap, later writers weren't even talking about the Poetess Sappho of Lesbos, but instead another Sappho who was a courtesan working on Lesbos⁷.

Sappho was well respected during her lifetime. As mentioned, she was placed on the same level as Homer. Several of her turns of phrase entered Ancient Greek as common expressions. Phrases like "love, that sweet loosener of limbs," "I am of two minds," and "more golden than gold" entered the vernacular.

The philosophers Plato and Solon were big fans of hers. Solon, who wasn't known for his displays of emotions, reportedly:
"...heard his nephew sing a song of Sappho's over wine, and since he liked the song so much, he asked the boy to teach it to him. When someone asked him why, he said: so that I may learn it, then die."
Plato referred to her as "the tenth muse." Even Ovid gave her credit, saying, "What did Sappho of Lesbos teach girls but to love?"

The tale of the Lucadian Leap may have originated
from this myth about Aphrodite.
While Sappho's work was largely passed around orally, her complete works were also gathered into a nine-volume book by the scholars at the Library of Alexandria in the 200s. The books were most likely organized by meter, and each contained somewhere around 1,300 lines of poetry. Unfortunately, these books no longer exist in their original form.

A lot of the myths swirling around Sappho come from stories put around by New Comedy writers after her death. Her sexual habits were exaggerated and mocked. She was dismissed as a licentious deviant. This led to her work being banned by Roman censors and burned by Pope Gregory VII.

Much of Sappho's work is lost, not just because of censors and the tragic loss of the Library of Alexandria, but because Aeolic, the dialect of Greek Sappho wrote in, is incredibly difficult to translate. Even a few centuries after her death Sappho was a hard read, so her works weren't constantly transcribed like the works of other writers. However, archaeologists are still digging up new Sapphic fragments. Her poetry has been found in the wrappings of Egyptian mummies, and occasionally turns up in the collections of private individuals. With any luck, new Sappho poems will keep turning up, and our knowledge of this pioneering poetess will continue to grow.

In fragment 30, she predicted:
"I believe men will remember us in the future."
She certainly wasn't wrong.


Image result for sappho john william waterhouse
Sappho, by John William Godward

¹Or Scamander, Simon, Eunomius, Eumenus, Eerigyus, Erigyius, Ecrytus, Semus, Camon, or Etarchus. Sources disagree, but Scamandronymus is the most common.
²Rhodopis is also sometimes known as Doricha.
³Artistic license has been taken with the statistic, but, despite not being based in actual fact, 99% probably isn't too far off.
⁴For a much better, and painfully exact description of what Sapphic Meter is, click the hyperlink.
⁵For more information about modes, go here for a comprehensive explanation.
⁶This theory may have also originated from the Greek dramatist Menander, or the Roman writer Lucian.
⁷However, the existence of other Sappho is also disputed. She is often used to explain later stories of Sappho the Poetess being a prostitute. The tenuous existence of other Sappho is supported by the shaky claim that other Sappho was born in Eresus, instead of Mytileneans, where the Poetess was from. Other Sappho could have been a real person, but she may also have been a later invention meant to polish up the image of Sappho the Poetess, and absorb the malevolent stories put out about her.

This article was edited by Mara Kellogg.

Sources
Sappho: the Complete Works by Delphi Classics
Early Greek Poet's Lives: Shaping the Tradition by Maarit Kivilo (Chapter seven)
"Sappho, Schoolmistress" by Parker N. Holt
"Ancient Greek Wedding Songs: the Tradition of Praise" by Rebecca H. Hague
"Sappho's Company of Friends" by Anne L. Klinck
"Sappho's Prayer to Aphrodite" by A. Cameron
Sappho-Poets.org
Sappho-Poetry Foundation
Sappho-Britannica
Sappho-Ancient History Encyclopedia
Sappho-Ancient Literature

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Damn, Girl-Khutulun-Mongol

Khutulun Mongol, alternatively known as Aigiarne, Aiyurag, Khotol Tsagaan, Ay Yaruq,¹ and in fiction as Turandot, was a warrior princess of the Chagatai Khanate in the late 13th, and early 14th centuries. Her father, the warmongering Kaidu, trusted her as one of his chief military and political experts. He would have made her the next khan, but possessors of y chromosomes disagreed. Today, Khutulun is best known for refusing to marry any man who couldn't beat her in a wrestling match.

File:Qutulun daughter of Qaidu.jpeg
Khutulun wrestling a potential suitor. Painted by an Italian
more than a century after her death, it seems unlikely that
this is an accurate likeness.
At the time of Khutulun's birth in 1260, Genghis Khan's massive empire had been split into several, less massive parts. Kublai Khan, the preeminent of his successors, was ruling Yuan China in decadent luxury. Kublai had, for all intents and purposes, abandoned his nomadic Mongolian roots, something that irritated the lesser khans sworn to him.

Kaidu, leader of the Chagatai Khanate, was chief among the irritated. He didn't believe in settled existence, and instead spent his time making war with the peoples around his empire. The Chagatai Khanate, which encompasses modern Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Western China, was as nomadic and warlike as Genghis Khan had been. As such, they considered it their duty to make war on Kublai Khan and Yuan China as much as possible.

Enter Khutulun. The youngest and only girl of Kaidu's fifteen children, she was her father's favorite. Renowned for her skills in the three Mongol sports--archery, wrestling, and horse racing--Khutulun accompanied her father into battle, terrifying their enemies with her unique, but inefficient style of warfare. According to Marco Polo, one of the two contemporaries who wrote about her:
"...the damsel rushed into the midst of the enemy, and seizing upon a horseman, carried him off to her own people."
This daring do, along with her other victories, terrified her enemies, and made people believe that Khutulun was blessed by the gods.

Khutulun is best known, however, for her skill in wrestling. She was undefeated, taking down wrestlers of all shapes and sizes. It's not surprising, Marco Polo described her as:
"...so well-made in all her limbs, and so tall and strongly built, that she might almost be taken for a giantess"
Image result for chagatai khanate map
The Chagatai Khanate
Khutulun was a prime prize on the marriage market, but she made her father promise her, in writing, that she could choose her own husband. She then issued the challenge: she would marry any man who could beat her in a wrestling match, but to wrestle her, a man had to wager 100 horses. If he lost, she kept the horses. If he won, she'd marry him. No one quite measured up. By the time of her death, Khutulun had 10,000 horses.²

This served to increase Khutulun's popularity among her people, after all, victors in war and sports were considered blessed and favored, but it didn't get her married, something her parents weren't too happy about. In 1280, a rich and attractive prince came riding up. Cocksure, he wagered 1,000 horses that he would beat and marry Khutulun. Kaidu and Khutulun's mother begged her to throw the match. After all, the prince was young, handsome, rich, and a fierce warrior. Khutulun refused. She not only defeated the prince and took his horses, she so thoroughly defeated him that he slunk away, humiliated, in the night.

Khutulun did eventually get married, though not to a man who defeated her. Some sources hold that she married to stave off rumors that she and her father were getting biblical. Other sources say that she fell in love. That Khutulun married is not in doubt, who she married, on the other hand, is. According to contemporary sources and the legends that grew up around her, Khutulun may have married:

  • A man who failed to assassinate her father
  • An attractive man who had been taken as a war prisoner
  • A good looking soldier
  • A friend of her father
  • Ghazan Mongol, the ruler of Persia

Who she married is uncertain, but it seems that she stayed close to home, because her father tried to make her his successor as khan. However, as might be expected, despite her qualifications people objected on the grounds of her gender. Kaidu was instead succeeded by Duwa, the son of a rival. Though Khutulun supported her brother Orus in his attempts to become khan, she was unsuccessful. Khutulun died in 1306

Image result for Mongolian wrestling outfit
Modern traditional Mongolian wrestlers. In Khutulun's
time wrestling consisted of two people grappling. The
first to drive the other to the ground was the winner.
Aside from brief mentions in Marco Polo's travel diaries, and the letters of Rashad al-Din, Khutulun barely makes a mark in the historical narrative. She is known best in the west as the basis for the character of Turandot, but among the Mongolians she is remembered as the best wrestler to ever live. She influence is evident in the costume of Mongolian wrestlers--a vest that leaves the chest bare, boots, and briefs. Since her death, women have not been allowed to wrestle, this costume, along with the victory dance performed after a match, proves that the wrestler is male. Centuries later, Khutulun's athletic exploits are remembered, even if her name is not.


¹All of these mean something to the effect of "moonlight".
² In Mongolian tradition "10,000" doesn't really mean 10,000. It means "so many I didn't want to count". The real number of Khutulun's horses may be higher or lower, but either way, she won a LOT of horses.


Sources
The Secret History of the Mongol Queens by Jack Weatherford
The Travels of Marco Polo: the Venetian by Marco Polo
From the Oxus Rivers to the Syriac Shore by  Li Tang and Dietmar W. Winkler
The Wrestler Princess
Khutulun: Descendant of Genghis Khan and Asia's Fiercest Female Badass
Khutulun: the Undefeated Badass Mongolian Warrior Princess
Khutulun: the Wrestler Princess

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Cleaning House-Amanullah Khan

Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, and near the bottom on the Human Development Index. Riddled with corruption and extremism, Afghanistan is struggling to join the modern world. However, for a brief time in the early 20th century, Afghanistan made huge steps forward under the leadership of King Amanullah.

Image result for amanullah khan
Amanullah and his wife, Queen Soraya. Soraya was
behind many of Amanullah's reforms, and served
as the public face of his reforms in women's rights.
King Amanullah started off his reign in 1919 by declaring complete Afghan independence from the British Empire in his coronation speech. Afghanistan had been under British rule in some form or another since 1838, and at that time, Britain had complete control over Afghanistan's foreign affairs and an outsized influence on its domestic affairs. The Afghans were, of course, not 100% down with this, and Amanullah's declaration of independence was greeted with enthusiasm. He started the Third Anglo-Afghan war on May 6, 1919. The fighting lasted for about a month, and at the end, Afghanistan emerged an independent country.

With the British problem taken care of, Amanullah set about a reform regime that would bring Afghanistan into the modern world and improve the quality of life for almost every citizen.

Government 


After throwing off the English, Amanullah set about attempting to unite a divided country. Some of his efforts were small, like encouraging government officials to wear Western dress in order to erase tribal and religious divisions; others were bigger, like creating a constitution and purging corruption from the highest levels of society.

The Afghan Constitution, ratified in April of 1923, introduced bicameral legislation, a secular court system, and a series of checks and balances in which the king became a constitutional monarch. The 1923 constitution was revolutionary. It offered freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the domestic press, and made it possible to not only present petitions to a court but appeal those decisions to a higher court. It declared that the king was accountable to the country and that he ruled Afghanistan at the leisure of the people. Some local government positions became elected, and warrants were required for arrest.

Image result for afghanistan map 1920s
Central Asia, 1920. Afghanistan was separated from British
India by the "Durand Line." The peace treaty with the
British said that Afghanistan had jurisdiction over the
Pashtun tribes on their side of the Durand Line, and that
Britain had authority over the Pashtuns on their side.
Afghanistan wasn't too keen on this arrangement and
claimed authority over all Pashtun tribes.
Amanullah revolutionized the Afghan budget by having one. Before the 1923 constitution, Afghanistan had run without a budget. Amanullah not only established a budget, but he also sought to improve the economy of the country by replacing the valueless rupee with the afghani and by selling farmland to poor farmers at only ten afghanis for a half acre.

There was also a significant improvement to infrastructure during Amanullah's time. He connected the entire country with "The Great North Road," which enabled people to get quickly from one part of the country to the other. He created a postal service and installed telegraphs and telephones. He also decided to build a new capital, Darul-Aman. 

All of this would be very expensive. To pay for it, Amanullah reformed the tax system, getting rid of archaic and arbitrary taxes (like the "Tax for the Queen's Hair Oil") and by levying higher taxes on land and livestock. During Amanullah's reign, the tax on land increased four-fold, and the tax on livestock increased five-fold.

In a series of decrees, Amanullah also revoked the special privileges that had previously been offered to tribal and Islamic leaders. He cut tribal subsidies and abolished traditional ranks and titles. Mullah's were no longer allowed to preside over court cases. This would, unsurprisingly, make him very unpopular with the upper classes.

Social


Amanullah formally abolished slavery in article ten of the 1923 constitution. The article read:
"Personal freedom is immune from all forms of violation or encroachment. No person may be arrested or punished other than pursuant to an order issued by a Sharia Court or in accordance with the provision of appropriate laws. The principle of Slavery is completely abolished. No man or woman can employ others as slaves."
This was one of Amanullah's many attempts to unify fractured Afghan society. Previously, slaves had come from religious minorities or rival tribes, and not only was slavery a gross violation of civil rights, it was dividing a country that needed more than ever to be united.

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Afghans, especially women and high-
ranking officials were encouraged to
adopt western-style clothing.
Amanullah was firmly of the opinion that education was vital to a prosperous society. He made elementary school mandatory for both boys and girls and opened up schools in rural areas. Furthermore, he secularized schools and significantly expanded the curriculum. Previously, schools had been run by Islamic clerics and had focused mostly on memorizing the Quran. While schools still taught Islamic law and principles, they also branched out into math, science, and reading.

Education wasn't just for children either. Literacy classes for adults were offered, with Amanullah sometimes making an appearance to teach them himself. Higher education was also encouraged, with many Afghan students being sent abroad to go to school with the expectation that they would bring their skills back to benefit their nation.

What Amanullah is perhaps best remembered for (other than throwing out the British for once and for all) was his promotion of women's rights and his reforms that gave women a degree of freedom that hadn't been seen in Afghanistan before or since. Veiling was no longer mandatory. Seclusion was discouraged. Women were not only allowed to go to school, but the law said that girls had to attend elementary school same as the boys did. Several women were sent to college in Turkey, and working outside of the home began to seem possible.

In addition to being able to receive an education, women were also granted the rights to seek a divorce, and have a say in who they married. A woman's consent to marry was just as important as a man's. Amanullah outlawed the practice of bride money and passed laws saying that a woman wasn't allowed to marry until after she hit puberty.

Amanullah also discouraged polygamy and passed laws that said to take a second wife, a man had to appeal to the courts. This caused a major backlash from the religious community.

Military


Image result for afghan army 1920s
Bacha-i-Saqao, the Tajik rebel who would eventually
overthrow Amanullah.
Amanullah's first major reforms in the army department was the creation of an air force. With help from the USSR, he assembled a small fleet of planes with a small force of Soviet pilots to fly them. Afghans were sent to France, Italy, and Turkey to learn to fly, and gradually, Afghan pilots replaced the Soviets.

His second major military reform was to turn the Afghan army into something that more resembled an actual army. Pre-Amanullah, soldiers for the army had been chosen by the tribal chiefs. This meant that soldiers were usually more loyal to their tribes then they were to the state. This was a particular problem any time a tribal uprising came around, and tribal uprisings came around more frequently than Amanullah would have liked. To counter this, Amanullah introduced universal conscription. All men would serve three years in the army when they turned 21. They would live in army-provided housing and be provided with food and clothing, as well as a very small salary.

This small salary was a byproduct of Amanullah's attempts to purge the Afghan army of its veterans. Many veterans, though experienced, were loyal to tribal chiefs and were resistant to the changes that Amanullah was introducing. To induce them to quit, Amanullah lowered their salary to four rupees a month. This was largely successful, and many of the more experienced soldiers left the service. 

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Amanullah shortly before his death in 1960.
After his abdication Amanullah fled abroad
and lived in exile in Switzerland.
Unfortunately, nobody thought to train the new soldiers that would replace them. Amanullah brought in officers from the Turkish army to train his army, but many Afghan soldiers resented the Turkish influence, and saw it as an insult that they were expected to learn from the Turks. This, combined with failure to provide sufficient food, clothing, and housing, led to the army becoming disillusioned with the king. 

While Amanullah made some undeniably good changes, the manner in which he went about it irritated and alienated his people. At the beginning of his reign, he'd been encouraged to introduce reforms gradually, but Amanullah disregarded that advice. He introduced 57 different reform laws in the first five years of his reign, which resulted in an uprising in 1924. He lacked a competent bureaucracy to enforce his reforms, and outside of Kabul, it was nearly impossible to enforce the new changes. By secularizing the laws and creating state courts, Amanullah alienated the mullahs, who declared him an infidel. His military reforms made it so that when the tribes rebelled in 1929, his armed forces were not only unable but were also unwilling to put it down, resulting in Amanullah's abdication and the reversal of his reforms.

This article was edited by Mara Kellogg.


Sources
The Pitfalls of Protection: Gender, Violence, and Power in Afghanistan by Torunn Wimpelmann
"History Lessons: In Afghanistan's Decades of Confrontation with Modernity, Women Have Always Been the Focus of Conflict" by Christine Noelle-Karimi
"Abandoning the Wardrobe and Reclaiming Religion in the Discourse on Afghan Women’s Islamic Rights" by Leela Jacinto
Afghanistan-Reform, Popular Reaction, and Forced Abdication-Country Studies
Afghanistan-the Reign of King Amanullah. 1919-29-Country Studies
Reforms of Amanullah Khan and Civil War-California Polytechnic State University


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Damn, Girl-Jennie Jerome Churchill

Jennie Jerome, also known as Lady Randolph Churchill, or Jeanette Jerome Churchill, is most famous for being the mother of Winston Churchill. However, she was a trailblazing Dollar Princess with a dazzling life in her own right. Writer, socialite, philanthropist, and political pundit, Jennie campaigned to put her husband in power, fundraised, served on a hospital ship, and wrote a bestselling memoir.

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Jeanette "Jennie" Jerome Churchill
Born January 9, 1854, Jennie was the daughter of Leonard Jerome and his wife, Clarissa (Clara) Jerome, nee Hall. Leonard was a financial speculator and prolific rakehell. Clarissa was a fashionable social climber, shuttered from society because of her rumored Haudenosaunee ancestry, and her husband's loose morals. They had four daughters together--Clara (called Clarita), Jennie, Camille (who died at age seven), and Leonie. The three surviving daughters were referred to in society as "the Good, the Beautiful, and the Witty".

Leonard was new money and had fingers in many pies. Most of his money had been made on Wall Street, but he had also been a part owner of the New York Times and had started a political journal called The Native American with one of his brothers. However, he dropped all journalistic ambitions after the Civil War and instead turned to horse racing and women. He popularized horse racing among the elite of New York society and was infamous for his love of opera singers, so infamous that it is rumored that Jennie was named after the famous soprano, Jenny Lind. He frequently combined his love of women and horse racing, packing a coach full of beautiful women and racing at a breakneck pace around New York. He took up with opera singers, and had more than one illegitimate child, some of whom even lived with the family.

Unsurprisingly, Leonard's antics were humiliating to Clara, and put the reputations of their daughters in jeopardy. New York society at the time was headed by the formidable and unforgiving Mrs. Astor and her henchman, Ward McAllister, neither of whom would even think of receiving Clara and her daughters anywhere.¹ At the end of her rope, Clara separated from Leonard in 1867, moving herself and the girls to an apartment on Boulevard Malesherbes in Paris. Leonard was informed that he could visit whenever he liked, and that he was to pay the bills.

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Jennie and her sisters. They were close all their lives

Left to right: Jennie, Clarita, Leonie
If the Jerome's were coolly received in New York drawing rooms, they were welcomed with open arms in Paris. Empress Eugenie, the beautiful wife of Napoleon III, had an American grandfather and loved American women, specifically young, pretty American women with a great deal of cash. Jennie hadn't yet made her debut into society at this time, but her older sister Clarita was smashingly popular. Clarita made an impression on Napoleon III and his wife and was sought by many members of the French nobility. Clarita was so popular that when the Prussian army came knocking in 1870, Clara put off leaving Paris. The Jeromes stayed in Paris until the Prussians literally came marching down the streets. Clara, who had a sprained ankle at the time, had to be pushed out of the city in a wheelbarrow, and the Jerome's carried their possessions wrapped in sheets. They managed to beg their way onto a boat bound for Brighton, and were met there by Leonard, who saw them installed comfortably in London.

Once settled in London, the Jerome's took up the threads of their old lives. Many of the people they'd rubbed elbows with in Paris had resettled in London (including the emperor and empress), and English high society was just as welcoming of the nouveau riche Americans as the French. The Prince of Wales was notoriously fond of pretty American ladies, and wherever the Prince of Wales was welcome, they were welcome too. Given that the Prince of Wales was the leader of society at the time, Dollar Princesses like the Jeromes would be welcome everywhere.

The Prince of Wales took a particular shine to Jennie; they were lifelong friends and sometimes lovers. It was at one of his boating parties that Jennie was to meet her first, and most illustrious husband, Randolph Churchill.

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Jennie and Randolph, 1874
Randolph Churchill was the second son of the Duke of Marlborough. He was something of an eccentric and not at all good-looking, being described as "slender, pop-eyed, balding with a bushy mustache." His chief love and ambition in life was his hounds. He had performed poorly in school and seemed an unlikely match for Jennie who was, at nineteen, fluent in two languages, a talented pianist, well educated, and a renowned beauty with all the requisite accomplishments of young lady of the era.

The story of how Randolph and Jennie met is very romantic, and various versions of it can be found across history and literature. It was August 12, 1873 when Randolph saw beautiful, brilliant Jennie across the ballroom at the Cowes Regatta Ball and had to be introduced to her. They had one dance together (a quadrille, in their case) and talked the rest of the evening. They spent the ensuing days together, and Randolph proposed three days later.

This, of course, caused an enormous scandal. Randolph was twenty-four, and Jennie was only nineteen. They had known each other only three days, and Randolph hadn't made his intentions known to Jennie's parents before he asked her to marry him.² Both sets of parents objected; Jennie's on the grounds that Jennie had only known Randolph for three days, Randolph's on the grounds that Jennie was American and that her father was a speculator. The fact that Leonard had seen huge financial losses a few months previously didn't help their case. All parental units were firmly against the match, but the approval of the Prince of Wales, and Jennie and Randolph's pleading eventually broke them down. Randolph and Jennie would be allowed to marry, but only if Randolph could get a seat in Parliament.³

This pronouncement was calculated to put the brakes on Randolph and Jennie's relationship, as parliamentary elections were held sporadically at best, and it seemed unlikely that the then prime minister, Gladstone, would hold another election. However, to the shock of all, Gladstone dissolved his government, and 1874 saw the first election in six years. Randolph was able to secure the Woodstock seat by a narrow margin.

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Lord Randolph Churchill

Never especially close to Randolph's parents, the
negotiation of Jennie's dowry would
cause a permanent chill between Jennie
and her in-laws.
The first hurdle overcome, the engagement next stalled over the negotiation of Jennie's dowry. The Duke of Marlborough, like most English noblemen of the time, was deeply indebted. He had a lot of land but not have a lot of money. He and his eldest son saw Jennie as a temporary reprieve from financial difficulties and acted accordingly. The tense transatlantic negotiation ended with Leonard offering a respectable £50,000⁴ (or $250,000⁵) as a dowry and the duke paying Randolph's debts.

However, there was a hitch. Leonard insisted that Jennie get £1,000⁶ pounds a year of her own($139,528⁷), and that simply wasn't done in Britain. It was unthinkable for a married woman to have her own money; upon marriage, all that a woman owned went to her husband. Among the English, a man that allowed his wife to have her own money was seen as weak. In America, however, it was perfectly normal for women to retain their property after marriage. Leonard had been fairly flexible when it came to Jennie's dowry, but he worried about making his daughter wholly dependent on her husband. Leonard and Jennie were very close (Jennie was far closer to her father than she was to her mother, with whom she butted heads constantly), and he worried about his headstrong daughter becoming subordinate to Randolph. Though the Churchill's blustered, Leonard held firm, writing:
"In the settlement as is finally arranged I have ignored American custom, and waived all my American prejudices. I have conceded to your views and your English custom in every point but one. That is simply a somewhat-unusual allowance of pin money to the wife. Possibly the principle may be wrong but you may be very certain that my action upon it in this instance by no means arises from any distrust of Randolph."
Finally, the Duke acquiesced, though there were some bad feelings between the families, and Randolph's family did not attend the wedding. Jennie and Randolph were quietly married in the British Embassy in Paris on April 15, 1874. In attendance were Jennie's family and a few friends. Jennie had wanted a big, church wedding, but Randolph wouldn't have it, saying that he could not stay in Paris any longer. Jennie, also desperate to be married, agreed.

For Jennie, with marriage came a certain amount of freedom. She had informed Randolph early in their engagement that a condition of their marriage was that he allow her to do exactly as she liked, and Randolph agreed. After being married, Jennie was freed from the constraints of needing a chaperone and having her mother breathing down her neck.

Additionally, there was a certain amount of sexual desperation between the pair. Clara was constantly getting after Jennie for being caught alone with Randolph, and more than one ruinous letter was sent back and forth. It is worth noting that their first son, Winston, was born only seven months later.

Jennie seems to have genuinely loved Randolph, and he her. She was devoted to him, and though they tended to argue a lot, they were quick to make up. They had a shared love of politics, and both followed parliamentary affairs voraciously. During their engagement they wrote scores of letters back and forth to each other, full of academic debate, endearments, amours, and not infrequent admonishments. Though their affection undoubtedly cooled after their marriage, Jennie remained loyal to Randolph (if not quite faithful).

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Jennie with her sons.

Left to right: Jack, Jennie, Winston
After the birth of their first child, the Churchills returned to London and settled into a house on the fashionable Curzon Street. Jennie set about ingratiating herself into society, and Randolph worked at his political career. They were close with the Prince of Wales, fashionable, and invited to all the right places. Things were fantastic when, in 1876, disaster struck.

Randolph was, as mentioned, the second son of the Duke of Marlborough. His elder brother, George, was the Marquess of Blandford, an unhappily married peer with a taste for married women. He embroiled the entire family in scandal when he eloped with the married Edith Aylesford.

At the time of the elopement, Edith's husband had been touring India with the Prince of Wales. The Prince of Wales was less than impressed with Blandford and made that well known. There was talk of Aylesford divorcing Edith, which would have sent Edith and the entire Churchill family to social Siberia. In order to prevent this, Randolph produced some indiscreet correspondence written by the prince to Edith Aylesford. He took it to Alexandra, the Princess of Wales, and informed her that, should Aylesford divorce his wife, the letters would be made public knowledge, which would embroil the prince, who had already been named in one divorce case that year, in scandal.

Queen Victoria was livid, and the Prince of Wales was furious. He declared that he would not appear anywhere that the Churchills were received, and suddenly the Churchill family was shuttered from society. The position of Viceroy of Ireland was extended to the Duke of Marlborough, and despite having turned down the position before, the duke hied himself off to Dublin. Jennie and Randolph went on an extended tour of North America before joining the Duke in Dublin.

The Churchills would spend nearly five years in Ireland. During that time, they developed a sympathy for the Irish and became proponents of Irish Home Rule. They also saw the birth of their second son, Jack Strange Churchill, in 1880. Shortly after Jack's birth, the Churchills returned to London, kowtowed to the Prince of Wales's satisfaction, and in 1884, they were welcomed back into society.

By this time Jennie and Randolph's amours had cooled somewhat. Though they were still a loving and devoted couple, there were infidelities on both sides, and it was heavily rumored that Jack was not Randolph's son but instead the son of Star Falmouth, a handsome military man Jennie was enamored with, or John Strange Jocelyn, an close friend of Jennie's.

This was not unusual for the age and class to which Jennie belonged. Many upper-class marriages were made for convenience, politics, or money, and not for love. A love match like Jennie and Randolph's was rare, and affairs on both sides were acceptable so long that all sides were discreet, and nobody told the papers. Throughout her marriage, Jennie would have many lovers, especially as Randolph's behavior grew more erratic and cruel.

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Winston, a year or two before
being sent to boarding school.
Despite her distance during
his childhood, Jennie and
Winston would be quite
close when Winston became
an adult.
As a mother, Jennie didn't quite measure up to Victorian (or modern) standards. Like many women of her class and era, she left her sons to be raised by their nanny until they were house trained. However, even for the relative coldness of the age, Jennie was an exceptionally cold mother, and Randolph was no better as a father. The pair rarely saw their sons as babies, skipping the customary daily baby inspection. When the boys were sent off to boarding school, Jennie and Randolph almost never visited. In the case of their eldest son, Winston, they each visited exactly once. There were several instances of Jennie or Randolph being across the street from the school their son attended, yet not bothering to drop by.

It wasn't until her sons were older that Jennie started to become a part of their lives. She took a particular shine to Winston and served as his political advisor and mentor for many years. Despite his mother's early distance, Winston adored Jennie. According to him, "she shone for me like the evening star." This was despite the fact that she and Randolph had ignored Winston's pleading letters and left him to rot in an abusive boarding school. Winston later wrote:
"She seemed to me a fairy princess; a radiant being possessed of limitless riches and power."
Winston would retain fond memories of his mother throughout his life and would defend her relentlessly. Due to this, Jennie's inadequacies as a mother are usually glossed over.⁸

One of the main binding factors in the Churchills' marriage was their shared love of politics. Jennie was Randolph's close advisor, observing him in the House of Commons and helping write his speeches. She was instrumental in his campaigns, both for office and for specific pieces of legislation. She was glamorous and vivacious and charmed those she met. This made her an excellent political hostess, and even Randolph's political opponents couldn't help but adore his wife.

Chief among Jennie's political achievements was the founding of the Primrose League. The Primrose League was established in 1883 and was a group that brought a social element to politics. Chiefly conservative, the League was inspired by Benjamin Disraeli's death in 1881 and the worry about Gladstone's liberal policies. The primrose was chosen to represent the League because the primrose was Disraeli's favorite flower, and League members were already conveniently wearing it to commemorate the anniversary of Disraeli's death.

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Members of the Primrose League wore badges
like this.
Primarily a social club, the Primrose League was known for its balls, high teas, dinner parties, picnics, train trips, and cycling clubs. The league helped the conservatives into power between 1885 and 1906 and had a significant influence on Gladstone's policies on Irish Home Rule. Though they fell from power after 1906, the Primrose League remained active until it was dissolved in 2004.

The Primrose League was unique in that it not only allowed women to join its ranks but that it encouraged women to join. Membership was more than 50% female, and the women of the Primrose League helped promote conservative legislature, and influenced the men in their lives to vote along conservative lines.

However, despite Jennie's glittering facade, things at home were tense. Randolph, who had contracted syphilis⁹ during his time at Oxford,¹⁰ was, to put it delicately, cuckoo for cocoa puffs. He grew increasingly cold towards his wife, and would upbraid her in public. Never a team player, Randolph increasingly excluded members of his own party from his political decisions, and publicly fought with his political allies. He began acting erratically in public, until he abruptly resigned from his position as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1886.

Jennie was just as invested in Randolph's political career as he was, but he had increasingly excluded her from his public life. He purposefully kept her out of the loop concerning his resignation, and Jennie didn't find out about his resignation until she read about in the newspaper the next day. When Jennie confronted Randolph about this, his reaction was unsettling to say the least. Of that occasion, Jennie wrote:
"When I came down to breakfast, the fatal paper in my hand, I found him calm and smiling. 'Quite a surprise for you,' he said. He went into no explanation, and I felt too utterly crushed and miserable to ask for any, or even to remonstrate."
This was the beginning of Randolph's downward spiral. He continued to participate in the House of Commons, but his absences due to ill health grew longer and longer until Jennie had to take him abroad for his health. He died on January 24, 1895. He was only 45.

Jennie went into a short period of mourning, then threw herself back into society. She mingled and partied, and did all that widowed ladies of her class were expected, including charity work. In 1899 Jennie turned her attention to fundraising. The Second Boer War was raging, and both Jack and Winston were serving in South Africa. She rallied the other American ladies of her class to fundraise to buy and outfit a hospital ship. She was successful, convincing American financier Bernard N. Baker to donate a ship and crew. They called the ship The Maine, and Jennie shocked society when she went along with the ship to South Africa. She served as a sort of hospital administrator for the duration of the war, and in 1902 was awarded the Red Cross by King Edward VII (the former Prince of Wales).

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The RFA Maine, 1902
Jennie's motives for accompanying the Maine weren't entirely pure, however. While both of her sons were serving in South Africa, so was her boyfriend, George Cornwallis-West, a young member of the Scots-Guard. Jennie had been a friend of George's mother and had known George for years. They started to seriously court in 1897, despite the objections of George's family. Jennie was twenty years older than George, with George being only sixteen days older than Winston. Nonetheless, they were married in 1900.

Shortly after her marriage, Jennie began helping Winston with his political career. She became his political mentor and helped him in much the same ways that she had previously helped Randolph, serving as his political hostess until Winston married in 1908.

Despite being disgustingly wealthy, Jennie had always had money issues, even during Randolph's lifetime. Money flowed out faster than it came in, and this problem was further exacerbated with her marriage to George Cornwallis-West, who had very little fortune of his own. Leonard had died, and Clara didn't have much money to send. In order to make a little extra cash, Jennie turned to writing.

In 1899 Jennie started the Anglo-Saxon Review, a quarterly magazine dedicated to preserving the ideas of her time. Its circulation included prestigious heads of state and society, and its contributors were equally prestigious. The Review contained articles from Algernon Swinburne, Henry James, Cecil Rhodes, and Lord Rosebery, among others. It was a lavish publication, fronted with leather covers, each individually hand-tooled by master craftsmen. It was an enormously expensive publication and, unsurprisingly, failed in 1901 after only ten issues.

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George Cornwallis-West. Jennie was noted,
more than once, for her love of men with
mustaches.
Undeterred, Jennie set pen to paper in 1908, writing the play "His Borrowed Plumes." It was produced at the Hicks Theatre and starred Mrs. Patrick Campbell,¹¹ a popular, if unscrupulous, actress. The play was a financial failure, as was Jennie's 1913 play "The Bill."

While Jennie wasn't much of a playwright, she was a talented memoirist. Her book The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill came out in 1908 and was a great success. Her 1916 collection of essays, Short Talks on Big Subject,s was also very successful.

To add insult to the "His Borrowed Plumes" injury, George, never faithful, ran off with Mrs. Patrick Campbell. Jennie had quite liked Mrs. Campbell, and the cut was deep. In January of 1913 Jennie filed for divorce, claiming that George had "denied her her conjugal rights." Their divorce was finalized in July of 1914.

Times were changing, and Jennie was beginning to feel a bit lonely. Her friends were dying, and the world was rapidly changing. When World War I started in 1914, Jennie helped translate French documents for the English government and wrote on the war in Ireland for the London Daily Chronicle. The war came and went, and Jennie continued on as before--society, parties, charity.

In 1913, however, Jennie had had a fortuitous meeting with Montague Phippen Porch, a colonial secretary in Nigeria who was three years younger than Winston. They met at a wedding in Rome, and Porch was smitten. They corresponded while Porch served as an intelligence officer in Africa during WWI, and in 1916 he proposed to Jennie.

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Montague Phippen Porch
Jennie was hesitant to marry again, but she accepted on the caveats that she would retain her name, and that she would not move to Africa. The pair were married in Ireland at the Harrow Road registry office on June 1, 1918. Her sons were, surprisingly, fine with Jennie marrying for a third time. Both realized that their mother had been unhappy and gave their blessing. Winston informed Porch that he would never regret marrying Jennie. Porch later agreed.

After tying the knot, Porch left the military, and the pair traveled. Porch was not wealthy and had to return to Africa to make a living. There was quite a bit of tittering around London about the pair, and Porch never felt quite comfortable in English society. Despite the distance, their marriage was very calm. Montague was madly in love with Jennie, and she liked him. Many people remarked that she looked happier with Montague than she ever had with Randolph or George. When people brought up their age difference, Jennie merely remarked "he has a future and I have a past so we should be alright."

Though separated by a continent, Jennie and Montague stayed in close contact, writing frequently. Jennie kept busy, volunteering with the YWCA and the Shakespeare Union. She shocked society by appearing in a movie and boarding an airplane. She was visiting a friend in June of 1921 when she slipped down the stairs in her new high-heeled shoes. She broke her ankle, and a few days later, gangrene set in. The doctor amputated her leg above the knee, but that didn't stop the infection. A few days later, Jennie started bleeding profusely. She slipped into a coma and passed away on the 29th of June. She was only 67. Her sons were with her, but Montague had not been able to make it back from Africa.

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Jennie
Jennie was buried with Randolph in the Churchill family cemetery. She was memorialized by her son and nephew and has been a favored topic of Edwardian Age enthusiasts ever since. Though her fame has been far eclipsed by that of her son, Jennie Jerome Churchill was one of the most colorful women of her time.



¹Though Ward McAllister was a big fan of Leonard's, specifically Leonard's habit of giving guests at his dinners lavish presents.
²Nor, for that matter, had Jennie's mother even been aware of Randolph's suit.
³Because he was the younger son, Randolph was not entitled to a seat in the House of Lords, and had to run in the House of Commons. He ran for the Woodstock seat, which was the location of his family home. That same seat had once been held by his father, who cherished the idea of a career in politics for his younger son.
⁴£5,391,452 in 2019 currency
⁵$6,976,404 in 2019 currency
⁶£107,829 in 2019 currency
⁷$139,528 in 2019 currency
⁸It must be said that Randolph was an equally terrible parent. He appeared to despise his sons, and never spoke to them. Winston recalled once asking his father if he had gone to Harrow or to Eton, and being completely ignored.
⁹The popular historical story is that Randolph's illness was syphilis. However, not all of his symptoms line up with the typical syphilitic, and many historians have speculated that he may have suffered from a brain tumor or bipolar disorder. These theories are further backed by the facts that neither Jennie nor Winston seemed to suffer from syphilis.
¹⁰Randolph and his Oxford cronies explained his contraction of the disease with a lurid tale that began with a glass of champagne, and ended with waking up in a bed with an old prostitute with one tooth. However, Randolph's family claimed that he contracted it from a chambermaid shortly after his marriage to Jennie.
¹¹Mrs. Campbell would later go on to create the role of Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion.

This article was edited by Mara Kellogg.


Sources
American Jennie: the Remarkable Life of Lady Randolph Churchill by Anne Sebba
The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill by Jennie Jerome Churchill
To Marry an English Lord by Gail MacColl and Carol McD. Wallace
Society as I Have Found It by Ward McAllister
The Husband Hunters by Anne De Courcy
"The Love of Power and the Power of Love: Churchill's Childhood" by Marvin Rintala
UK Inflation Calculator
Leonard Jerome New York Times Obituary
Clara Hill Jerome New York Times Death Announcement
Camille Jerome Genealogical Records
The Primrose League
Jennie Jerome Churchill-The History Chicks
Jennie Jerome Churchill-Britannica
Churchill, Jennie Jerome
American Jennie-Portrait of Jennie Jerome Churchill

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Cleaning House-Peter the Great and Reforming Russia

Peter the Great served as the autocratic czar of Russia for more than 43 years. He inherited a medieval kingdom, and over the course of his reign dragged it kicking and screaming into the seventeenth century. He changed Russia on every level--religiously, culturally, administratively, militarily--and paved the way for the great reforming czars and czarinas of the eighteenth and nineteenth century, including our old friend, Catherine the Great.

Born Pyotr Alekseyevich in June of 1672, Peter ascended to the co-czardom at the age of ten. He was the son of Emperor Alexis and his second wife, Natalya Kirillovna Naryshkina. Alexis's heirs by his first wife were sickly and unfit to rule, but both were propped up by their sister, Sophia Alekseyevna, who served as regent until 1688.

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Peter the Great: 1672-1725
During this time, Peter and his mother were sent off to the village of Preobrazhenskoye, far from the center of power in Moscow.¹ Preobrazhenskoye was close to a German enclave, allowing Peter to be in contact with Westerners. It was in Preobrazhenskoye that Peter started to gain an interest in all that western Europe had to offer and to plot reform.

Russia, at the time, was a backwards and medieval nightmare. Strictly isolated from the rest of Europe, it still hadn't adopted the new technologies of ships and the Julian calendar. People dressed much the same as they had for hundreds of years, and the power of the country was in the hands of the boyars, or petty princes. The Russian economy relied on agriculture, which wasn't ideal for a country with such harsh winters. Compared to the rest of Europe, Russia was a dilapidated cesspit, and Peter wanted to change that.

However, to turn Russia around, Peter needed to educate the Russians, starting with himself. In 1697 he set out with 250 of his closest friends for the rest of Europe. Peter traveled incognito as one Sergeant Pyotr Mikhaylov. Peter used his relative anonymity to study shipbuilding in the Netherlands and to tour factories, schools, arsenals, museums, and Parliament. They trashed hotel rooms and hired master craftsmen to go back and work in Russia. Peter would have gladly extended his embassy, but in 1698 a rebellion broke out back home, and Peter reluctantly returned.

His visit to the rest of Europe made Peter even more eager to reform Russia, which he did, undertaking a reform process that would overhaul Russian society from top to bottom. This reform process would take Peter's entire lifetime, but to break it into easily listable paragraphs:

Military 

One of Peter's most urgent goals was obtaining more ports for Russia--ports on the White, Baltic, and Caspian Seas. Russia didn't have a lot of ports, and thus had no way to efficiently export Russian goods. While Peter did have his ports on the Pacific, the eastern part of Russia was mostly unoccupied. His one western port was very northerly and spent much of the year frozen over. To gain the western ports he desperately craved, Peter needed to do some conquering, which meant dealing with the formidable Swedish and Ottoman Empires.

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Peter was obsessed with ships from a young age. He built
a small fleet at his home in Preobrazhenskoye, which
came to be known as his 'toy navy'
Firstly, Peter set about obtaining a larger fighting force. Military service was extended to last a lifetime, and serfs were press-ganged into service. He imported export shipwrights from England and the Netherlands and set them to work building him a navy. They constructed a vast fleet in a short amount of time, and by 1703, Peter had a formidable seafaring force, equipped with all the latest technology, like steering wheels.

Because of his navy, Peter was finally able to hold his own on the world stage. He was finally able to kick out the Swedes and continue the proud Russian tradition of invading Ukraine. He took on the formidable Ottomans and won, gaining both the ports he took and a bit of Iran in the process.

Church

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Patriarch Adrian, the last patriarch until the
Patriarchy of Moscow and All Russia was restored
in 1917. There is still a patriarch, and, as of 2019
the holder of that office is Patriarch Kirill
Like Henry VIII before him, Peter wanted to take the clergy down a peg or five. In another example of Russia's medieval-ness, the Russian Orthodox Church still exercised an outsized amount of power, including over the czar. Many clerics were resistant to Peter's reforms and were leading voices of dissent. In order to get these uppity churchmen under control, Peter refused to appoint a new patriarch²  after Patriarch Adrian died in 1700. Instead, Peter appointed a "custodian to the throne of the patriarch," or an acting patriarch, who was counseled by a group of bishops. The custodian was later replaced by the Holy Synod, a group of churchmen who ruled the church under the authority of the czar.

As might be imagined, this wasn't a hugely popular move, especially among the churchmen. Monks in particular didn't like the changes, as it meant that they lost political power and monasterial lands. To quash this rebellion, Peter forbade monks to have pen and paper and started to bring in loyal churchmen from Ukraine to outnumber the dissenters.
Peter also set about educating the clergy, many of whom were practically illiterate. Every priest was required to attend a seminary where they learned Latin and Greek and were deeply immersed in church doctrine. This was successful in that it resulted in a better educated clergy, but this series of study neglected to teach the vernacular Russian and Church Slavonic, which made it difficult for clergy to communicate with their flock.

Culture

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Typical clothing of a pre-Peter the Great
boyar.
Not content to Westernize institutions and commerce, Peter imposed a series of laws that westernized the behaviors of the Russian people. Traditional Russian clothing was forbidden, and the nobility were required to wear French court dress. Noblemen were no longer allowed to have beards, and Peter would cut them off personally. To wear a beard or non-Western clothing would mean incurring a fine of 100 rubles³. Cultural customs were also taxed, and traditional activities like fishing and beekeeping were subject to a tax⁴.

Banning beards in particular was quite an inflammatory act. Beards were a religious thing for Russian men, and it was thought that a man without a beard was naked. By forcing men to be clean-shaven and to wear cold and impractical French style clothing, Peter was stripping away their old Russian identity.

Education

Peter was determined to have an educated populace, and to do this he secularized the school system, allowed the middle classes to attend schools (so long as they entered civil service), and founded several institutions of higher education. Like Caliph al-Ma'mun, he oversaw the translation of many Western books into Russian and encouraged his citizens to study abroad--whether they wanted to or not.

By wresting the schools away from the church, Peter strengthened his control over his people. After he appointed the Holy Synod, Russians were taught to fear the czar across the pulpit, but with state-controlled schools, Peter could teach it in schools too. Opening schools to middle-class children ensured that Peter would have a talented bureaucracy to run the swollen Russian Empire, something that would be very important when Peter changed the administrative boundaries of the country.

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Peter moved the capital from Moscow to St. Petersburg,
a European style city he had built near the Baltic.
A fan of higher education, Peter allowed (and forced) middle-class and noble boys to attend school in Europe proper. Like with the members of his Grand Embassy, these young men were expected to come back and use their skills for the benefit of Russia. However, Peter didn't neglect the native Russian institutes of learning. He established artillery and language schools in Moscow and St. Petersburg, along with colleges devoted to science. A short list of the institutions founded by Peter include:
  • School of Navigation and Math (1701)
  • School of Medicine (1707)
  • School of Engineering (1712)
  • School of Science (1724)
While education still wasn't open to girls or to the peasantry, Peter set Russia on the road to becoming an educated and enlightened nation.

Commerce 

One of the downsides to all of Peter's reforms was that they were expensive. After all, you can't get state-of-the-art naval vessels and a palatial European city at the Dollar Tree--it takes some serious capital. To get that capital, the tax system had to be changed.

Previously, Russia had operated on a "Hearth Tax" system, where the peasantry was taxed by the household. No matter how many people lived in the home, they paid the same flat rate. To avoid paying more tax, peasants would often move in together. In 1680, Peter introduced the "Poll Tax," a system that taxed each adult member of the household individually, no matter how many people lived there. Not only did this give Peter some of the capital he needed, but it also allowed him to gain the favor of his nobility by lowering their taxes.
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Peter the Great on 2 ruble coins.
However, not all of the expenses could be defrayed by taxes. After all, you can't get universities and top-notch cannons at the Dollar General. Peter picked up the rest of the slack by introducing high tariffs on imports, and creating state monopolies around salt, vodka, oak, and tar. Under this, Peter controlled the prices of Russia's most popular goods and encouraged people to buy products made in their own country. He also made sure revenues from those products went to the states, as merchants weren't allowed to buy goods from manufacturers until after the Russian government had had their pick. If there was any surplus after the government picked out the choicest goods, merchants could sell those, but it wasn't a good business model. Peter's policies ensured that not only would his citizens buy Russian, but that the profit from their purchases would go to the state.

Administrative Districts

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The areas in brown, purple, and red show the size of Russia
around the years of Peter's reign.
Because of its size, administering Russia was no small feat. Then, as now, Russia was the largest country on Earth in terms of land area. The population was heavily concentrated in the west of the country, leaving the east and frigid north sparsely populated. Prior to Peter, the Russian administration system was incompetent and antiquated. To change that, in 1708 Peter divided the country into eight governorates, who were ruled over by a royal governor and the Landrats, or eight to twelve civil servants assigned to help the governor. The governorates were later scratched, and the country was broken up into 50 provinces in 1719. Those provinces were later subdivided into districts.
Peter wasn't just interested in redrawing lines on a map. Under Russian law, towns were subject to rule from the military and local lords. Peter loosened the rules, and while towns were still subordinate to Moscow, they were allowed to elect their own leaders.

Class

Perhaps the biggest changes that Peter made during his reign were changes to the class system of Russia. He hit every level of society with a series of reforms that ensured that the Russian people would be more tightly under his control and loyal to him. 

Peasantry

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Serfs were allowed to continue to wear their traditional
clothing, but became even more firmly the property of
their lords.
Life did not get better for the peasantry under Peter--it got much worse. In addition to imposing harsher taxes, Peter also made it more difficult for serfs to leave their homes, essentially reducing them to slaves. Serfs had no rights and could be press-ganged into military service or municipal building projects at any time. Between 30,000 and 100,000 serfs died building St. Petersburg alone. 
Peter, like every other czar, saw the peasantry not as actual people but as another resource to be exploited. His treatment of the Russian serfs is damning and stains an otherwise brilliant career. It is for this that it's difficult to wholeheartedly support Peter the Great, and it's what makes him such a controversial figure.

Towns

For the middle classes, laws were enacted that said that any person in trade could settle in whatever town they wished, so long as they informed the proper authorities that they were there. Tradesmen were no longer tied to the land like serfs, and this allowed the spread of skilled manufacturing across Russia. 
Additionally, to structure town society, townspeople were put into one of two guilds: the regulars or the commons. The regulars were the skilled craftspeople and merchants who were their own bosses. They had rights to move around as they wished and be appointed to governing bodies. People who worked as hired labor were relegated to the commons, and they were little better than serfs.

Nobility

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A page from the Table of Ranks
In 1722, Peter introduced his Table of Ranks, which was a list of every rank of nobility, court, military and government. This table was essentially a how-to guide to gaining higher positions, and, theoretically, anyone (anyone being anyone noble) could work their way up by providing the required civil or military services. While some levels had to be approved by the czar himself, all ranks were achieved by service.
There were, of course, a few exceptions, mainly relating to the czar's immediate family, and once a person reached the eighth rank, their title did become hereditary. However, by doing this Peter deputized the idle rich into helping him run the country.

Government

As part of his efforts to bring Russia under an autocratic regime, Peter had to contend with the boyars and the Duma. The Duma⁵ was a collection of noblemen, civil servants, and wealthy landowners whose job it was to advise the king. In theory anyways. By the time Peter came around the Duma was a formidable governing body that controlled governance on every level. They stood between Peter and his goal of complete control, so in 1711 he dissolved the Duma and instead created a Senate. The senate had ten men, all of whom had been appointed by Peter personally and could not resign without an imperial decree. Some were noblemen, but there were also churchmen, scholars, and businessmen. 

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Peter the Great statue in St. Petersburg. This statue was
erected by Catherine the Great.
On the lower levels of public service, bureaucratic ranks became non-hereditary, meaning that to hold a job in public service, one had to be qualified. This also meant that any ambitious fellow with an education could technically work their way up to the senate. These bureaucrats displaced the boyars, and remained in power until 1917.

Make no mistake--Peter the Great isn't the fluffy bunny sort of guy you can feel comfortable having as a role model. He received plenty of pushback during his life, and anyone with a conscience is still side-eyeing him now. However, his determination to drag Russia kicking and screaming overall did the country a lot of good, even as it quashed individual freedoms. Peter was, out of all of the Romanovs and those that came before them, the most farsighted of Russia's monarchs, and his reforms, however brutally undertaken, ultimately changed Russia for the better.


¹While Preobrazhenskoye is now a part of Moscow, during Peter's time it was a prosperous, mid-sized town.
²Patriarch is the Orthodox version of a Pope.
³This rule did not apply to commoners or the clergy.
⁴I also remember reading once that under Peter the Great, any man found going to bed with his boots on could be killed. I've been unable to find where I read that, so treat that factoid with caution.
⁵The Duma of this time period is usually referred to as "Boyar Duma" to differentiate it from the Duma of Czar Nicholas II and the modern Duma.


Sources
Empire of the Tsars: Romanov Russia presented by Lucy Worsley