Friday 4 February 2022

Received Ideas 26

Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush (on a cold and frosty morning): This mid-19th century [nursery] rhyme is thought to be about female Victorian prisoners exercising at HMP Wakefield in West Yorkshire. (The Sun)

Three Blind Mice: The mice were Protestant loyalists (the Oxford Martyrs, Ridley, Latimer and Cranmer), accused of plotting against Queen Mary I, daughter of Henry VIII, who were burned at the stake – the mice's "blindness" referring to their Protestant beliefs. ... The farmer's wife refers to Mary. (LinkedIn)

The author of the book The Traditional Games of England, Scotland and Ireland, Alice Bertha Gomme, suggests that “London Bridge Is Falling Down” refers to the use of a medieval punishment known as immurement – being encased into a room with no openings or exits and left there to die.

A review in the Fortean Times by Ronald Hutton of The Last Witches of England (John Callow) and The Ruin of All Witches (Malcolm Gaskill) encapsulates received ideas about witches that have been accepted since the 70s. In the examples studied here, the suspicions were allowed to spiral out of control and the cases got to court not because the authorities were witch-hunters but because they were weak or negligent. ... The Bideford women were hanged because the royal judges, faced with their confessions, were unwilling to cause public anger by discounting them. They and the couple at Springfield were not pagans, folk magicians, feminists or cultural nonconformists; they were simply unpopular, isolated, antisocial and vulnerable personalities, in communities where seemingly uncanny misfortune struck inhabitants regularly and where people believed... in the power of magic. Some individuals involved in the Bideford prosecution may have been misogynists, one was a clergyman and two were professional physicians, but these identities were not general factors in the cases. The latter were not male persecutions of women, because women had crucial roles in generating the accusations... Nor were they attempts by new-style professional doctors to suppress traditional healers and midwives, because none of the accused had anything resembling such a role...

Most of the women prosecuted for witchcraft were not wise-women or midwives. Fact. How do I know? Hundreds of scholarly books and journal articles in different languages over 50 years say so.

There was a backlash of “well they would say that wouldn’t they”, and @Nexxo00 replied: Indeed. "But all the historical documents say so" is not a valid argument; plenty of (what was considered at the time as) 'scientific' documents repeatedly asserted the intellectual and moral inferiority of women and people of colour.)

Yea, a lot of second-wave feminists really loved to romanticise both the witch trials and nature. Though, obviously, it has roots in the work of 19th C writers like Matilda Joslyn Gage. (Dr Miranda Corcoran @middleagedwitch. See Woman, Church and State: A Historical Account of the Status of Woman Through the Christian Ages With Reminiscences of Matriarchate by Matilda Joslyn Gage)

In the olden days, people were sewn into their underclothes for the winter. Working-class women bled into their skirts, or onto the floor. Cotton mills had straw on the floor so that women workers could urinate where they stood. “Rather than be ashamed, the Victorian poor woman was proud of her menstrual blood, believing it made her sexually attractive to men,” says Jennifer Borrett, MSc and BSc Archaeology, on Quora. (You could get a reversed rubber apron to wear under your skirt when menstruating. In WWI, the nurses stole disposable field dressings, which were more effective than the washable cloths currently used.)

AT opines that “sewing” is a misunderstanding for lacing – a common fastening for medieval clothes.

BV adds that “This is an old joke someone made up years ago... They had drawstrings instead of elastic.” She means on your pants – many in the conversation wonder how you would “go” if sewn into your undies. 

CM thinks our ancestors lacked buttons and zips.

TF on gransnet: Another of my supply teaching jobs in the late 50s was at Trimdon Colliery Primary. I was told that at the beginning of winter the children were smeared with goose fat and sewn into their winter underclothes. I'm not sure if it was an urban myth?

I remember being told horror stories about children whose skin had fused with the woolly vest... 
Perhaps the vests were tight-fitting, made of a non-stretchy material, and buttoned down the front. If you sewed up the opening, the child wouldn't be able to doff the garment.

More here, and links to the rest.

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