Ordinary Women (Reprise)

Ordinary Women (Reprise) is this week’s episode of The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast with Heather Rose Jones

Episode 31c

The show revisits our very first episode with the story of some ordinary women who loved women in the European past.

In this episode we talk about

Links to the Lesbian Historic Motif Project Online

Links to Heather Online

Listen to this episode here


please note this transcript has not been edited and is automatically generated meaning certain words will be incorrect

[Music] this is Heather Rose Jones with The Lesbian Historic Motif Podcast. This weekly podcast looks at lesbian themes in history and literature and historic research into gender and sexuality we talk about current historical fiction with queer female characters including fantastic versions of the past and have interviews with authors who write those stories and in months when we have a fifth show we’re proud to present new original lesbian historical fiction for your enjoyment I’m sure that some of my listeners are fanatic enough to go back and listen to all the previous episodes but for those who are only lately come to the lesbian historic motif podcast every once in a while I’ll reprise one of the earlier episodes that I think new listeners might enjoy okay so really this is a way of filling in an episode when my interview schedule has a gap in it the following show ordinary women was the very first episode of the lesbian historic motif podcast originally airing in August 2016 I think it still stands as a good introduction to some of the very ordinary women who loved women in times past I hope you enjoy it the lesbian talk show relies on support the support of you our listeners the support of those who like and review our show on their favorite podcast app the support of our patrons on patreon and the support of our sponsors we hope you’ll continue to enjoy and support the lesbian talk show let’s start this series with some ordinary women nobody special they weren’t scandalous aristocrats or dashing adventurers or women who set out to transgress the rules of society all they did was love each other perhaps not wisely perhaps not always well in southern Germany almost on the border with Switzerland there’s a town called Moose Kirk it has relatively few claims to fame a composer a philosopher a painter whose name hasn’t actually survived a few talented Brewers in the 16th century it was the residents of the counts of simran but we aren’t concerned with any of them were interested in a different 16th century resident a servant girl named Greta who came to the attention of history in 1514 because she kept falling in love with girls much of the solid historic evidence we have from medieval Europe about women who loved women is rather depressing because the authorities only tended to pay attention to them when they’d stepped so far outside acceptable behavior the drastic penalties were invoked and we’ll we’ll talk about them some other time but Greta story as much as we know of it is happier it is recorded that she loved young women and pursued them romantically as if she were behaving like a man there’s no mention that Greta was masculine in any other way than falling in love with women no indication that she dressed as a man or tried to take on a masculine occupation or that she made love to them using it as they called it an artificial device those were the sorts of things that could draw harsh consequences in fact the only concern her neighbors seem to have had was to make sure that she actually was a woman the concern wasn’t that she might have been a man disguising himself as a woman that would have been a rather roundabout way to court girls at the time no the problem was that her neighbors thought that she might have been a hermaphrodite something halfway between man and woman and that this might be the reason why she felt erotic desires from women the idea of hermaphrodites is understood in that era is one of those odd social inventions it probably derived in part from trying to understand intersex persons who might have Anatomy that seemed to be part male and part female but it also derived from an inability to imagine anything other than heterosexual desire so as the think it went if a person who appeared to be female fell in love with or desired a woman then that person must actually be a man in some fashion the idea of hermaphrodites also overlaps with transgender history some historic individuals used the social belief in hermaphrodites as a legal tool to gain recognition as a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth and some even succeeded we’ll talk about that in another episode but all that is a side note to greta’s story the midwives of most Kirk who were given the responsibility of examining grete medically proclaimed that she was quote a true proper woman unquote and as far as we know that was an end of it there’s no mention of any legal charge against her no mention of any consequences or punishment and so we are free to imagine grete fun musk her flirting with other girls at the market fair perhaps saving her money to buy a hair ribbon as a gift in hopes of being thanked with a kiss and living her life fair happily now the second example I want to tell you about has a bit of a less happy end although it’s likely that the women in question only came to the attention of the authorities because they got involved in a domestic dispute our story happens at the very beginning of 15th century France to set the stage this is about a decade before the birth of Joan of Arc in fact we’re concerned with a different French peasant woman named Jehan thus Johan was married as one was at the time but it seems that at some point she had discovered the entirely different joys of making love to women she was friends with another married woman and Lawrence one day they were walking out to the fields together when Jehan ventured a proposition she whispered in the Lawrence’s ear if you will be my sweetheart I will do you much good Lawrence may have been a bit naive perhaps she never had the occasion to consider the question of whether enjoying a roll in the hay with a woman would be a sin a literal roll of hay as the testimony indicates she told people later that she didn’t think that there was anything evil in it and presumably jahan’s offer sounded like a bit of fun they made their way to a convenient haystack as Jehan lay on top of her and made love to her rubbing against her quote/unquote as a man does to a woman the end results were satisfying enough for the both of them that the two continued to meet for erotic encounters sometimes at Lawrence’s house sometimes in the vineyards outside the village or sometimes even near the village fountain but eventually things turned sour we don’t know whether Lawrence started getting nervous about what they were doing or if one of their husbands started asking questions or perhaps it was just one of those things so one night when Jehan came to Lawrence’s house Lawrence told her she didn’t desire her anymore Jehan let us say took the big breakup rather badly she attacked Lawrence with a knife and then ran away although the records don’t say so in as many words it’s likely that this attack and the consequences of it are the only reason the relationship came to the attention of the authorities in fact the record skips entirely over any original accusation or trial and brings us the to the story when Lawrence is appealing for a pardon from her sentence on the basis that the relationship was all Jehan tall people are people no matter what the century and if society and the law imagines that forbidden sexual relationships involve an aggressor and a naive victim then there will always be a temptation to throw one’s partner under the bus when push comes to shove Lawrence’s appeal was successful and she was pardoned this is no small matter given that the original sentence might well have been execution it happened that way to other women there’s no word in the record about jahan’s fate it would be nice to fantasize that she ran away entirely changed her name got a hold of her anger management issues and found happiness and some other woman’s arms eventually it probably isn’t the way to bed but we’re free to dream I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of the lesbian historic motif podcast if you want to follow up on anything we’ve covered see the show notes for links and to contact me with questions book announcements or topic suggestions if you enjoyed this podcast please rate it and subscribe on iTunes stitcher or pod bean and consider supporting our patreon and if you’re on Facebook check out the lesbian talk show chat group [Music]