I am reading Isabella, Braveheart of France by Colin Falconer. The book itself is unputdownable. Which sounds funny because it’s an ebook. But this makes it easier for me not to part with it, to keep up with it, whether it be on my tablet, my phone or my laptop, where I’m supposed to be working.
Rarely does a story capture me in this way, but this one sates several of my appetites. It’s based on history. It’s based on French and English history, which fascinate me. It’s based on a woman, a strong woman, with whom I can easily identify with.
I don’t consider myself a student of women’s studies, but I often wonder how women did it. Since the time Eve supposedly went rogue. How did they handle life’s challenges? No matter the culture, no matter the society, women ended up relegated to second class status, if even that high.
How did they handle their personal and family needs in primitive times? How did they get up each morning to ferry the water from the river or the well and carry it home on their head or on their hip, how did they go out to cut the wood to build the fire to cook the food that perhaps they themselves had grown or gathered?
How did they deal with illness when there was no science to lead the way, or at least point the way? Many died in childbirth and there were other diseases that killed them outright. But RA doesn’t do that, not so genteelly, for it is vulgar and rude. It toys with you like a cat with a mouse.
I’m sure this scourge of a disease existed way before we ever put the wrong name to it and I wonder how all who suffered from it dealt with its invasions and assaults. What fortress did they have to shelter them from its slings and arrows? What did they do when it battered at their gates?
I wonder about all its sufferers from the past, but mostly I wonder about the women. For all that we are called the “fair sex” or the “weaker sex,” we have to be mighty in all that we do. Even while being accosted by an uninvited, malevolent presence we have to grit our teeth and bear it.
And so it cheers me when I read about strong female characters, real historical figures. Though obviously fictionalized to some extent, these women did exist. These women did persevere. These women did prevail, and even flourish, in spite of it all.
Women like Doña Antonia Avero, whom I “ran into” at the Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine.
I was both surprised and impressed to read
the words next to her portrait. I had not known this fact about Spanish Florida.
I had never heard of her either, but I plan to find out if there is more to read about her life. Even at my age, I am always looking for role models, and for inspiration to help me face life with hope each day.
This might be another story I can share with my granddaughters. Already they have demonstrated a love for books and reading, which pleases me no end.
For you are never bound to one station or one place when you can read yourself away or beyond. When the portals to dreams and possibilities are opened for you by those who came before.