For every woman who has ever wondered what the women were doing while generals fought battles and kings beheaded their enemies (and for every man who hasn't), this book is for you. Originally published as The Women's History of the World
, this reissue comes complete with Rosalind Miles's wry wit and disarming puns on everything from the phallus to bride sales, a very necessary comic relief to the recounting of centuries of abuse and oppression. Miles's engaging story starts with the first woman and her contribution of the essential human gene imprint, and the great evolutionary leap made by the development of monthly menstruation (rather than occasional heat). From the very beginning, women played a central role in human evolvement, from their critical part in sustaining early tribes with their food gathering (hunting brought marginal food contributions) to the impetus for developing the first technologies--sticks for digging and slings for carrying babies. In fact, the first God and the first priest-poet were female. Miles gives a relishing description of the Great Goddess Mother and her worshipers, poets, priests, queens, lovers, athletes, and soldiers who had not yet been told that they were physically weak, emotionally unstable, or intellectually inferior.
The history of women is, of necessity, also the history of men, and Miles claims the turning point for the former came when the latter finally got the great Aha!--the realization that sperm was essential for fertilization and that men weren't as superfluous to procreation as previously believed. What follows is not only the story of the attack on women's bodies and repression of their lives, but of women who found ways to subvert and convert the power of men. Examples of active, courageous, and inspiring women abound, from women warriors in Islam to the woman doctor who opened the first birth control clinic. Miles also reveals the barbaric truths behind euphemisms like chastity belt and child bride, and the truly impressive strength of such heroines as Florence Nightingale, who was nicknamed "the lady with the hammer" for attacking a locked storeroom when she needed nursing supplies, and Harriet "General" Tubman, who not only smuggled black slaves to freedom but commanded an action during the Civil War that liberated more than 750 blacks. This is a bracing, disturbing, and always lively read and proves definitively that in history there were always women, too. --Lesley Reed
From Publishers Weekly
A Woman's PlaceThere may have been only men sitting at the table, but Who Cooked the Last Supper? asks writer Rosalind Miles (I, Elizabeth; Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country). Bent on setting the record straight, Miles offers a keen and passionate look at women's contributions to civilizations from hunter-gatherer societies to the present, shining a spotlight into neglected corners as well as on familiar figures: who knew, for example, that Florence Nightingale defied a military commander and, wielding a hammer, broke into a locked storeroom after he refused to give her medical supplies? Readers will delight in this rebel-rousing read, previously published in 1990 by HarperPerennial as The Women's History of the World.
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