Cut Content: Micaela's Graphic Death
Records say the Spanish cut out her tongue and then tried to use a garrote on her. Her neck proved too slender, however, so they used rope and then kicked her until dead. Tupac got off worse - after watching the executions of his family and having his tongue cut out, each of his hands and legs were tied to a different horse and he was literally pulled apart. In a shocking turn of events, the brutal slaughter of folk heroes did not achieve the desired goal of winning over the average Andean.
Mariya Smirnova was a peasant from a village school who became a squadron commander. She was a nervous wreck before each of her 935 missions, and slept only two to four hours a day for the entirety of the war. When sent to a recreation facility to calm her nerves, she ran away to rejoin the Night Witches, because she couldn't stand others risking their lives while she did nothing.
Yevdokiya (Dusya) Nosal joined the unit after the maternity ward where she'd just given birth was bombed and her newborn son was buried in the rubble. She was shot and died mid-flight.
Irina Kashirina had to steer her plane home when her pilot, the aforementioned Dusya Nosal, was killed mid-flight. With Nosal slumped into her controls, Kashirina, with one hand, grabbed her by the collar and lifted her off the controls. She used the other hand to steer.
Nina Raspopova was born into famine and destitution. Barely able to enter technical school for engineering (she sat on the stairs for two months before being allowed in), she thereafter joined the Night Witches. One of her most harrowing experiences saw the entire floor of her cockpit blown away by a shell and her navigator shot in the neck. They landed the plane and the two had to walk back to the Soviet lines through mud and impassable roads -- in their socks. When they returned, the men at the infirmary allowed them ahead in line, possibly at the costs of their own lives. Another time, with the Germans closing in, she had to take off in an airplane which was missing half of one of the propellors. To balance it out, she knocked half of the other one off and narrowly held the plane together as she escaped.
Nadezhda Popova joined after the Germans killed her brother and converted her house into a Gestapo police station. She was one of the first recruits into the Night Witches, surviving some of the most dangerous missions -- she at one point returned from a sortie with 42 bullet holes in her plane, map, and helmet - but miraculously alive. She met her future husband in the war, and lived to the age of 91. Of the experience, she would later say: "I sometimes stare into the blackness and close my eyes. I can still imagine myself as a young girl, up there in my little bomber. And I ask myself, 'Nadia, how did you do it?'"
Cut Content: The Courtesans Who Helped Topple the Qing
Included as an aside in a handful of writeups on the fall of the Qing dynasty is a mention of the Chinese Women's Espionage Training Institute - an organization of Shanghai courtesans who trained spies to aid in bringing down the Qing dynasty. As they formed in the twilight days of the revolution, it's unclear how much effect they had, but they're worth recognizing regardless.
The last sentence of their manifesto: "What difference does occupation make when it is a question of duty?"
The Mahabharata has an inconsistent attitude towards transfolk, possibly owing to its many versions, and likely due to it being long as hell and old as dirt. While Shiva, Sikhandi, Sikhandi's parents, and Sthuna (the yaksha [forest spirit] that Amba/Sikhandi swaps genitals with) are all totally cool with Amba/Sikhandi's gender fluidity, Sthuna's boss goes on a rant once he finds out what Sthuna's done. He says, "oh, worst of Yakshas, you have done what has never been done by anyone -- an unnatural, abnormal, simpleminded, underhanded act that deserves all the punishment I can think up, so no one else will ever do it." He then "curses" Sthuna to remain a woman. Complicating the Mahabharata's stance on gender yet further is the fact that the main character of the Mahabharata, Arjuna, spends a year of his life undercover as a woman in a harem, and is praised in extreme details for his cleverness in doing so. So, take what you will from all that?
In the Summer 2008 newsletter for the International Institute for Asian Studies, Elsa Clave-Celik argues that much of what we know about Keumalahayati - and many other Indonesian heroines like Cut Nyak Dhien and Cut Meutia - is a romantic fabrication. Going back to some of the Dutch sources for these tales, she points out that there's little evidence Keumalahayati fought the Houtmans directly.
Clave-Celik puts forward that much of the stories about said heroines are distant echoes of one of the heroines of Indonesian/Hindu mythology: Amba/Sikhandi, written about elsewhere in the Rejected Princesses book. She points out that the template of warrior widow-martyrs of noble birth fits comfortably into a narrative that Indonesian and even Dutch societies were comfortable with - she specifically points to Dutch novelist and children's book author Marie van Zeggelen as the source of much of Keumalahayati's mythologization.
Women who do not fit this mold, she shows, do not get the same heroic treatment. Indonesian commoners and foot soldiers like Pocut Meurah Intan and Pocut Baren, who fought but also received medical aid from the Dutch -- Baren was an amputee! -- do not receive the same warmth from the history books. Something to keep in mind while reading through the rest of the Rejected Princesses book - what stories are advancing what agendas? What's been vilified and for what reason? What's been left out?
Stay tuned to Rejected Princesses Volume 2 for the answer![1. Just kidding. There is no Volume 2. Yet.]
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