It strikes me as odd that The Times described this innovative and fascinating chronicle of women’s history as “ballsy”. Actually, it’s more than that. I imagine a few “old boys” sitting around the newsroom tossing out descriptors for Dr. Amanda Foreman’s study and guffawing when they came up with this one. The irony is not lost.

Since the dawn

In the past week, I watched the entire four programs and enjoyed this look at women’s place and part in history to be both fascinating and disturbing. It begins at the dawn of civilization giving us a cloudy look at the roles of women based only on ancient pottery and statuary.

Leaping through the ages, the tale, produced by BBC Two, takes us from the Sumerians who enjoyed an abundant lifestyle. In that context, women shared equally in land ownership, education, marriage, and commerce.

Alas, it didn’t last

Throughout the ages, as cultures changed and more powerful groups conquered weaker ones, the roles of women were generally eroded according to the dominant people’s rules.

What I found interesting was that the power women held in societies was not uniform across cultures and through time but could be great in some cultures then completely overturned by the conquest of another, less egalitarian, society.

Such was the case in Korea, where the sexes shared equally in societal roles, until the strictly misogynistic Confucian Chinese invaded and imposed their laws, which knocked women back to a subservient and severely restricted life.

Bound feet and other restrictions

The restrictions placed on women’s lives range from the ridiculous to the brutal. The Chinese custom of foot binding, which essentially crippled women and severely hampered everyday movement, is one example of how society restricts women’s behaviour in their own lives.

Even today, in many cultures, male dominance causes women suffering everyday through limiting choices, physical abuse, and archaic customs, often imposed by male-centric religions.

It’s not all bad news

While the history of women is rife with horrors and oppression, there are bright spots. Dr. Foreman has made sure to point these out as she leads us on this journey.

I give this series five stars because it’s by a woman about women and gives us a brief glimpse into the lives of our sisters throughout the ages.

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