That was all it took. I was SO ticked at his remarks that I was determined to show him he was wrong. Without hesitation, I tore into that daunting material and didn't stop until I'd found a REAL woman -- which I then brought to my professor's attention with a certain "So there!" relish.
It was a woman called Kyniska (aka Cynisca), sister to a Spartan king, who was crazy about horses. Rode them, trained them, bred them. She persuaded her brother to let her enter the horse-chariot race at the Olympic Games -- and went on to win three successive Olympiads.
Because of her three victories, Kyniska was allowed to put up a lifesized statue of herself and her chariot team with an exultant inscription -- the base with the inscription still can be seen in the museum at Olympia.
This was the first of many Greek women -- and girls -- I discovered that year.
As those long-ago females revealed themselves to me, they jumpstarted my writing career as well. Thus in 1975, I wrote and sold articles on Kyniska to the first magazine on women's sports -- and also one to Sports Illustrated. Proud moment: I still have a copy of my check from Sports Illustrated!
In terms of "boldly going where no man had gone," etc., I simply went where many men (centuries of historians and writers, in fact) had already gone but had not deemed the information -- or the women -- significant enough to mention. Much less write about!
Statue of Zeus at Olympia holding the Goddess of Victory
(Image by Collage by Meryl Ann Butler from Public Domain image via Karen's Whimsey) Permission Details DMCA
MAB: What a great beginning, Vicki! I know you've researched hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of stories about powerful and unique women, and there are over 200 in your newest book, 4000 Years of Uppity Women. Were there any particular stories that impacted you personally?
VL: A prize-winning author I am not, but I do seem to have a gift for sniffing out the hidden, the unsung, and the deliberately forgotten women of long ago.
One of my most joyful and poignant discoveries had its beginning in 1978, while I was madly scribbling my first book, called The Moneywise Guide to California. On one hand, I was in heaven, having signed my first book contract for a huge travel guide, a co-production between British and American publishers. Nevertheless, I was terrified -- you see, I'd promised to deliver it on what sounded like an impossible deadline.
The music that did the trick? Antonio Vivaldi's "Four Seasons." With it playing, I plunged in, and a river of words flowed out of me. Six months and 700 pages later, Vivaldi and I turned in a finished book.
Engraving of Antonio Vivaldi by François Morellon la Cave, 1725.
(Image by Public domain via wiki) Permission Details DMCA
Fast forward twenty years: it's now 1998, and I'm doing research for my third Uppity Women book on the Renaissance period. Busy, hunting for women in the arts, in a reference on Ren composers, I run across an enigmatic sentence or two about Vivaldi and some female pupils of his.
As I dig deeper, I get more astonished; Vivaldi spent 30 years in Venice, composing, conducting and teaching. Nothing unusual there -- but! many of the works he composed -- including "The Four Seasons" -- were written for young girls.