“There are people in every time and every land who want to stop history in its tracks. They fear the future, mistrust the present, and invoke the security of a comfortable past, which in fact never existed.”
~ Robert Kennedy, 1925 – 1968
I’ve referred to my recent conversation with Mary Victoria several times recently, but Mary and I are both good friends and on the same wavelength so our chats tend to be wide-ranging.
The comment that sparked this post and the link to the Robert Kennedy quote was my observation (responding to one by Mary) that: “…I believe there is plenty of evidence to suggest that history was by no means as monolithic as some writers would have us believe, even in relation to the status of women.”
Yes, even that! Certainly, wherever I have scratched the surface of historical research there is plenty of evidence to suggest that relationships between women and men were by no means locked into one conforming pattern.
Just for example:
- pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read lived swashbuckling and violent lives outside the square of mainstream society;
- William Morris is alleged to have effectively assigned rural Kelmscott Manor to his wife Jane (nee Burden) so she could conduct her long-term affair with painter Gabriel Dante Rossetti out of the public eye — writingto her that he hoped she could now “be happy.”
- One of the reasons Claude Monet is said to have moved to Giverny was to better support Alice Hoschede, who together with her six children, had left her husband to be with him (or was left by him: history not being monolithic, it can be hard to be sure) — although initially Monet was still married to his ailing first wife Camille. Alice nursed Camille until her death three years later and the move to Giverny with their belnded families happened after this.
My point being, none of these stories fit with the very conventional view of historical relationships between men and women that some today hark back to, speaking with longing of “the rules” which everyone once followed — or in fact not, as these stories would suggest.
It’s not just relations between men and women, however: whether the nostalgia is social, cultural, economic or religious, Robert Kennedy was quite right — we love to yearn for a golden age of idealogical and behavioural security and comfort that never really existed.