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 Girls dressing as boys for family honour

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Caro
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PostSubject: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptyMon 17 Apr 2017, 04:54

I am reading The Underground Girls of Kabul by Swedish journalist Jenny Nordberg based in the USA.  She is writing of girls brought up in their early years as boys either because there are no girls in the family and that damages the reputation of both the mother and the father or to bring good luck in the form of a boy the next time.  Most of these girls turn back to girls at or just before puberty.  Their family knows they are girls, and apparently quite a lot of the community is probably aware of their actual gender, but it is a way of saving face. For three quarters of the book it has just been about Afghanistan but in the last chapter I have read she talks about other countries where similar practices take place.

She talks of warrior women in Ancient Rome, Syria, China and France.  She says Dutch historians Lotte C van de Pol and Rudolf M Dekker documented more than 100 women who lived as men between the 16th and 19th C.  Sailors and soldiers mostly.  (She doesn't mention the doctor James Barry.)  Some Swedish and German women served in the army or navy. 

Mostly she talks about Albania as a place with a similar tribal society to Afghanistan with a strictly patriarchal society with the family structure focused on producing sons and where women move in with their husband's family when they marry.  "Sworn virgins" they were called.  "At the core of the sworm virgin construct was an absoolute requirement to remain a virgin and never marry.  They would be dressed like boys with their names tweaked to male versions, and taught to hunt and shoot. As they entered puberty, they would master most exterior male traits and use them to compensate for anything girlish in their physical appearance."  Then she mentions the practice declining in recent years.  "Perhaps this decline speaks to how much women pretending to be men really is one of the clearest symptoms of a segregated society so dysfunctional that it inevitably must change. As the practical and financial need to be a man in Albania has lessened, with women able to inherit property and gaining rights to take part in everyday life outside the home, there is now a lesser need for women to disguise themselves as men." Begs the question of why this has happened in the last few years.

I didn't really know of this practice in Afghanistan or Albania.  The author seems concerned about what happens to the girls who have been what is called bacha posh when they go back to being girls.  Will they be affected badly?  Most of the examples she gives seem to have adjusted well to being women and the ones who have insisted on staying men have been happy (and supported) in that decision.  The odd one has felt out of kilter, neither happy in the restricted women's world or able to join the male world where they were happy. 

Do any of you know more of this and do you agree with her conclusions about why it happens?  She said Afghan women are not expected to be sexual beings at all - they are expected to have children but not to have any sexual feelings.  On the other hand the girls seem allowed to watch American television or Bollywood movies.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptyMon 17 Apr 2017, 21:38

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Anglo-Norman
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptyMon 17 Apr 2017, 23:13

It's not something I've heard of before, but a preference for a son is something widespread in numerous cultures at various times, and it's not surprising that sometimes girls would be dressed up as boys for practical reasons.

The armed forces is often a place to find cross-dressing women in history (following a man seems to be a common reason).  A soldier in the New Model Army was once exposed as a woman due to his/her suspiciously feminine singing voice (although luckily for her, that same voice got her out of trouble because she was such a good singer that Cromwell - always something of a music lover - spared her the statutory flogging!).  On the other hand, in one painting I've seen of Mary of Modena (i.e. Mrs James II) she is dressed in male clothes because it was apparently considered very sexy at the time. 

In contrast, young boys at the time (and indeed into the 19th century) were dressed in a manner which often makes it quite difficult to tell them from girls; they were typically not 'breeched' about seven years old (although there are a few stories of some unfortunates who did not become bifurcated until many years later).  The main reason was probably for reasons of toilet training and the fact its arguably easier for a rapidly growing child to expand into a 'dress' than a pair of britches.  However, I have read that there was a folk belief in some quarters that the fairies were less likely to steal a female child.  The traditional christening gown still clings on as a survivor of the days of pre-breeching.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptyTue 18 Apr 2017, 10:49

Women voluntarily adopting male personas historically in order to pursue a career are a rather different kettle of fish to females being forced through cultural convention to impersonate boys/men, I reckon. Though in both cases the culture in which they live has imposed a preferential status on being male.

Warrior women, on the other hand, are another kettle of fish again. In cultures where they arose they did not involve impersonation of the other sex but instead adopted a definition of being female which did not preclude activities "reserved" for males in other cultures. We really only know about Boudicca for example because Tacitus, like his fellow Romans, was simply wowed by the whole concept of a female warrior leader. Otherwise her rebellion might simply have merited a small footnote in his history.

The burrneshas in Albania, as far as I knew from reading about them before, were a tradition confined to quite remote mountainous areas in Albania, and also that this was a tradition which has been dying out now for several generations, discouraged under the Zog regime and practically outlawed under Hoxha when compulsory education was introduced for children in registered girls and boys schools.

Part of the burrnesha "pledge" (taken often by parents on behalf of their daughters, and can only be taken voluntarily by a daughter if she can satisfy everyone she is a virgin) was not to submit the burrnesha to a school education as their "honoured" status as "he-shes" (not to mention their vow of celibacy for life) might be compromised or threatened by mixing with their peers. Likewise they were in effect tied very much to the property they represented, almost to the point of imprisonment, especially in areas where the succession issue was complicated by blood feuds with neighbours (a tradition which is still very much alive and kicking in the same parts).

Their primary function was to ensure that property was kept in one family in a strictly patrilineal system where otherwise the death of a natural male heir to the property might temporarily have rendered the estate vulnerable to a takeover from another related clan. All very hillbilly stuff with some very extreme machismo thrown in. The burrnesha, as an honorary male, kept the thing legally ticking over until a "real" male heir within the family could be produced. The price was that once the pledge was taken it could not be reversed, so while the tradition may be close to extinction there are still several living burrneshas for Nordberg and others to meet and interview.

This GQ article from 2014 contains interviews with some extant he-shes in Albania today. The article states that there may be as few as under a hundred he-shes remaining and stresses that the tradition was always only ever pursued by a small minority, so much so that many Albanians today actually refuse to acknowledge that it ever really existed at all and prefer to regard the whole thing as myth.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptyTue 18 Apr 2017, 21:28

@PaulRyckier wrote:
Never heard about it Caro.
But found this on the internet:
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-15262680
Yes and after a while also this:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/bookreviews/11121297/The-Underground-Girls-of-Kabul-The-Hidden-Lives-of-Afghan-Girls-Disguised-as-Boys-by-Jenny-Nordberg-review-a-tale-of-discovery.html

Kind regards from your friend Paul.

Addendum to my message:

I thought further about the question, Caro.

As males were very important and had an high status in ancient societies and most ancient societies were patrilenial, having a son to so-called prolongue the family...otherwise the family could be extinguished...it is perhaps still embedded in our cultures from ascending of men?...from the time of the extended families, the tribes?...
So as Anglo-Norman said there was in many cultures a strong desire for male descendants. So as in China. Even to that extent, with the one child policy of the Communist directorium, that many women were nearly obliged (by their husbands?) to commit abortus if it was a girl (old customs even more surviving than the strong rules of the Communist party). The consequence is that there are now more males than females in China...and there is now the spectre of less babies due to less mothers and thus an againg population.

It is unbelievable how it is all changed that quickly in Western-Europe and perhaps even more in Belgium. The status of the women and the birthrate...Only from 1948 that there is voting right for women in Belgium. Not because they were so backwarts in Belgium, but just to the "playings" between the strong Catholic party against the Liberals and Socialists, because although the Liberals and Socialists were for the emancipation of the women, they were nevertheless afraid of those overwhelming quantity of Catholic women, which could alter the balance of votes. As many times reality was other wise than predictons...
If I hear about my grandparents from both my parents sides...(that's around 1870) all with seven to nine children (have to say also many dead borns too)...Nowadays the birthrate is not strong enough anymore for subsistence...if it wasn't from the Moroccon and Turkish Erdogan immigrants...
And the status of the women...even in my lifetime! I have seen a complete change...read yesterday in the paper that their are now a lot of women which earn more than their husband (as more women are high educated), even to the extent that there are more and more "house men" in the nowedays society. And the interviewed men didn't complain about that status...after all the women have besides their work the difficult task to bear the children?...

Kind regards, Paul.
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptyFri 22 Nov 2019, 09:35

I mentioned this (the phenomenon of bacha posh) back when I went through my spell of looking at conspiracy videos and I apologise that I had not noticed this thread back then.  I came across an item online regarding its reverse the reverse - in Samoa sometimes (though a minority) boys are or at least were raised as Fa'afafine (which means after the manner of a woman), possibly because in some households there were more boys than girls and well, somebody has to do those confounded chores, so one lad would be assigned to be a Fa'afafine, though Wikipedia says this is not necessarily the case.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fa'afafine 

I'm still getting my news to some extent from the Sky News channel - I get various recommendations and there was a recommendation recently (which I didn't click on) about a story about American surrogate mothers going through pregnancy for Chinese people.  I DIDN'T watch the video but reading above in Paul's comment about a disproportionate number of males to females in the Chinese population I wondered if that had anything to do with the recourse to surrogacy - but that's just me surmising.


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Vizzer
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptyFri 22 Nov 2019, 11:15

@LadyinRetirement wrote:
I came across an item in the reverse - in Samoa sometimes (though a minority) boys are or at least were raised as Fa'afafine (which means after the manner of a woman)

During my brief stint aboard a New Zealand merchant vessel, we served Niue and the Cook Islands. What I seem to remember was that in those places all the children looked like girls as they all had very long hair. It was virtually impossible to differentiate the sexes. I was told that at a certain age (12?) the boys then went through a coming-of-age ceremony called a 'hair-cutting' whereby (as the name suggests) the hair was cut and after which they were considered men.
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptyFri 22 Nov 2019, 14:02

I made a mistake many years ago wondering why some young Sikh girls (as I thought) fought so much - I had a stereotyped idea I suppose that girls whose ancestors came from the Indian subcontinent were always brought up to be little ladies but of course there can be tomboy girls from any ethnic backgrounds.  However the fighting "girls" in this instance of course were boys but didn't wear turbans until they reached a certain age.
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptySat 30 Nov 2019, 03:41

While doing some internet surfing on the riding side saddle v riding astride thread I came across something about the legendary Chinese female warrior Hua Mulan.  I've never seen the Disney film about her but her Wikipedia entry says the story runs that disguised as a man she took her elderly father's place in the army (though I suppose in her case she wasn't particularly dressing thus for virtue).
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptySat 28 Dec 2019, 14:00

Not for family honour (is this the right thread?) I guess now that we have pantomime season upon us there is some cross-dressing in that the principal boy in such works is often played by a young (or youngish) female and there is usually a "dame" played by a male.  The explanation I heard for this was that back in the day when it first became legal for women to act on the (English) stage, the young women actresses didn't want to play an older woman's part and having a comely female playing the male lead in spangly tights and a tunic gave an excuse for a female entertainer to show "a natty pair of pins"*.  It wasn't in a pantomime but on another thread Abelard explained that in the time of Beaumarchais the part of Cherubin was played by a female because it was deemed that a man could not convey the devious side of the character.   Of course nowadays we do sometimes have the principal boy played by an actual boy - or a young man at least - but then short skirts are quite fashionable again in everyday life as are close-fitting leggings combined with a tunic so the males of the species can see a "natty" (or not) "pair of pins" on the street so doesn't need to go to a show to see female legs.

"Pin pegs" is or was Cockney rhyming slang for "legs" - might be getting a bit old-fashioned now.

"Natty" I am informed can nowadays be a slang expression for "natural" but in my younger days it was used (often in an expression as a "natty dresser") for something like "dapper" or "well put together" - I did hear the expression "a natty pair of pins" though that was more than 50 years ago.  [url=Natty Synonyms | Collins English Thesaurus]Natty Synonyms | Collins English Thesaurus[/url]
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptySat 28 Dec 2019, 14:33

LiR,

'Pantomines' - is something I've read of in English novels in particular but not a custom really recognised where I've lived.
Is there only one or are there more stories told - and of what content?
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptySat 28 Dec 2019, 16:36

Nielsen, I'll give a link to the Wikipedia entry on pantomime but I'm thinking of the English pantomime not the Roman pantomimus.  [url=en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantomime]en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantomime[/url]  Though it does seem as if the pantomime started in England a few centuries ago as a mime show. [url=victorian-era.org/victorian-pantomime.html]victorian-era.org/victorian-pantomime.html[/url]  Nowadays pantomimes can be rather silly - they employ a certain amount of slapstick and there is usually some singing and dancing.  The stories adapted come from various sources - "The Thousand and One Nights", folk tales, Perrault and even based on real people.  "Dick Whittington and his Cat" I think refers to a real person who became a Lord Mayor of London though how much the story in the pantomime is similar to the real Dick Whittington's cat I tremble to think (and I've heard that the "cat" could refer not to a feline but to a catamaran as real Dick could have travelled down the east coast of England on such a boat.  "Puss in Boots", "Cinderella", "Jack and the Beanstalk, Mother Goose" and "Aladdin".  Sometimes characters that were not in the original (or certainly had their names changed) feature in the pantomime adaptation.  For example Aladdin's mother is often a washer-woman called Widow Twanky who has an assistant called Wishy-Washy.  I talked about this with someone who came from Iraq originally and he thought the pantomime version had changed a lot from the Thousand and One nights version.  "Cinderella" often has a servant called Buttons who is her friend - I also thought that Dandini who helps the prince in Cinderella was a pantomime only persona but there is actually a Dandini in Rossini's "La Cerenentola".
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptySun 29 Dec 2019, 23:05

LiR, as I read about the "pantomimes" I remembered our "rederijkerskamers" (origin: Arras: chambres de rhétorique), which had such a fundamental role in the Low Countries.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pantomime

I see that Nielsen uses the word: "pantomine" and that is the word that we still use in our dialects (I can only speak for West and East Flemish, but I suppose it is the same in Brabants/Antwerps  and Limburgs). I checked it and the word is still used in all kind of older Dutch language books. And we use it in the sense of "bedoening". "Dat was daar 'n ganse pantomine" (that was there a whole fuss? affair?)...but the right word in Dutch as in other languages is "pantomime".

But back to the pantomime. And as I read from the wikipedia it found its origin in the Italian 16th century commedia dell'arte.

Our "rederijkerkamers/chambres de réthorique" had a whole other origin and were not paid for as I think the English pantomimes? Only later in Holland Amsterdam 17th century the performers got paid (as it became business of the rich merchants) and also the English from the pantomime came in. Read it all this evening in some articles on line.

About the history:
As the English wiki says nearly nothing
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamber_of_rhetoric

I found:
http://users.telenet.be/gaston.d.haese/rederijkers.html
https://www.persee.fr/doc/crai_0065-0536_1970_num_114_2_12497

Start in Arras (in that time in the County of Flanders) in the 13th century with so-called "puys", later called "Chambres de rhétorique" for poetry and theatre.
That were the examples for Flanders and Brabant.
The oldest one "Alpha en Omega" from Ypres.
The zenith in Holland during the Golden Age mostly started by the emigrated Flemings and Brabanders (during the 80 years war) from the South.
With the fall of Antwerp and the Earl of Alva's repression (the "bloedraad (blood council?) the glory of the South was passed.
The Calvinists in Holland seem to have been more tolerant, although nobody could or dared to criticize the Calvinists.
In the Southern Netherlands the repression against the Chambers became a bit less under Albrecht and Isabella, who reigned overhere instead of the Spanish King. But still each play had to have the preliminary consent of the local church and representant of government.

I have an interesting conclusion of the role of the "rederijkerskamers" in this troubled times, but as it takes time to translate that will be for tomorrow.

As I struggle to compose a coherent thread about this subject in English and as I see how MM makes such splendid and coherent narrations on every subject overhere...perhaps if he has a bit of spare time for this subject in a new thread in his usual easy readable English...I think I can even more find in French...to have a broader list of sources...I will certainly help in "my" English.

Kind regards to both from Paul.
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Caro
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptySun 17 May 2020, 05:32

Again not for family honour, but I am reading Endeavour by Peter Aughton and he mentions Bougainville's visit to Tahiti "and he carried an astronomer and a botanist on board his ship. The botanist was a woman, Jeanne Beret, who had fooled the Frenchmen into thinking she was a man but who didn't fool the Tahitian woman for one moment." 

A bit like Dr James Barry whose sex was apparently only discovered when she died. I thought I had mentioned her before but a search didn't bring her up.
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptySun 17 May 2020, 11:51

Caro, I searched also for her on this forum, as I was sure I made a thread about her.

It is "Jeanne Baret", but even with that name I didn't found the thread in "Google advanced" in connection with Res Historica (there is also a Polish Res Historica)
And looking to the fora overhere as "Civilisation and community" I came again to the thread:
https://reshistorica.forumotion.com/t1448-first-french-circumnavigation-of-the-world

Kind regards from Paul.
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptySun 17 May 2020, 13:37

I know that I made an error at one time and posted about 'bacha poch' on another thread but of course Caro had pre-empted me.  I've a feeling I may have mentioned this somewhere but I can't remember where (sometimes the search function - including the version explained by nordmann - brings up an old post, sometimes it doesn't).  But it seems that the dogs in the Lassie films have always or nearly always been male dogs.  (If a child actor grows rapidly during the filming process the child's growth is deemed to be less noticeable if the child is standing close to a male dog - the males are usually larger than the femailes).
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptyMon 25 May 2020, 12:00

It's getting round to the time when I cobble together an 'article' (well scribbling of mine) for the group of ladies who are shorthand fan who pass round 'features' written in shorthand (all our own efforts and not professionally printed or anything - though when my printer works [which it doesn't at present] I sometimes provide a printed longhand version of my effort in case it's hard for others to read my shorthand outlines).  I haven't been out and about in the world these last couple of months and I'm not convinced that by attendances at Zoom meetings would be particularly enthralling content, so softy that I am for a sword, sandal and sorcery tale I thought I'd look around for real-life parallels to one of the characters from A Song of Ice and Fire, Arya Stark, who for some of her story dresses as a boy for safety reasons.  I was thinking of mentioning the theme on another forum (not a history forum) too.  There was a case of a Hungarian (female) cross-dressing serial killer, Bela Kiss.  The case is explored by a  YouTuber called Obsolete Oddity .  I'll leave a link to the video which folk can either click or leave well alone according to their choice 
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LadyinRetirement
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptyMon 25 May 2020, 12:06

Some years ago I saw a film (not sure if it was a made for TV film or not) called The Battle of Little Jo about a real-life woman called Jo Monaghan who dressed as a man for safety (she had been attacked when on her own as a woman having been disowned by her family for having a child while unmarried).  Her sister had taken to looking after the child.  The film had some violent scenes - Ian McKellan (in his pre-X men days) played a violent woman-hating character).  Jo forged a life for herself while passing herself off as a man in a western American town and it seems her secret wasn't discovered until after she had died of pneumonia.
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PaulRyckier
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PostSubject: Re: Girls dressing as boys for family honour   Girls dressing as boys for family honour EmptyMon 25 May 2020, 19:45

Yes LiR, that unmarried woman with a child had not an easy life, even overhere in Belgium. Especially where there was still a lot of Catholisism in the Thirties. Here the problem was mostly solved by the family and the lady in question by seeking for a husband to marry and that husband took then that child on his "book"...

But many weren't that lucky, by the "very Catholic" nuns nearly obliging them for abortus, many times with the help of her family...you see the shame...
If I recall it well there was recently a discovery of a mass grave of children in an Irish Catholic care home for orphans and unmarried mothers...
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/mar/03/mass-grave-of-babies-and-children-found-at-tuam-orphanage-in-ireland
by the Sisters of "Bon secours" (good help (sic))

But there were women, who could "hun mannetje staan"(man up themselves?) (litterary Wink) as Jeanne Baret, here recently mentioned by Caro. What a woman...
And she was the first woman to circumnavigate the world, disguished as a man (that were such times in the past...) although her "secret" was unveiled and she had to stay on land, but at the end returned to France where she had started her journey.
https://www.npr.org/2010/12/26/132265308/a-female-explorer-discovered-on-the-high-seas?t=1590430052677

Kind regards, Paul.
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