Hidden Women

Jacqui

Hidden Women was about the last thing I expected to find when I began writing books almost 2 decades ago.  My goal was to drill down into my favorite places to gain a deeper understanding of them, and then to share my findings.  While learning more about subjects I loved, I could live the ideal life as perpetual student. That was my reasoning, but what we’ve found has gone galaxies beyond my imaginings.

At first glance, my books on Lake Michigan’s southern shores, Slovenia, Paris parks and France’s Champagne region all seem light years apart.  In fact, at the Frankfurt Book Fair a publisher told me to come back in 42 years after I’d filled in the gaps.

The oddest thing has happened, though.  My strands have come together.

Underlying all my book themes is the common ribbon of family and environment that leads straight back to Celtic ideals.  It started with my very first one, The Glaciers’ Treasure Trove. My Mother’s deep love of her Lake Michigan was Celtic in nature.  As part of her legacy to me, Lake Michigan became a vital part of my life too. By writing my Finding Slovenia book, I appreciated how closely my grandparents’ homelands hold ancient Celtic passions for aesthetics, outdoors and camaraderie.  Even my third book Parks and Gardens in Greater Paris embodies Celtic ideals of sharing natural beauty and stewardship of the land.

In researching the fourth book, Champagne Regained, I discovered many elegant, talented, innovative women who essentially shaped the drink and trade.  Deep shadows still obscure their stature in history, though. That realization only stoked my infuriation with mass expulsions, massacres, wars, death tolls and “witches” burned at the stake.  What caused such atrocity and darkness – and brutal unfairness to women? Frustration led me to look further and further back in time for clues that remained untouched, undistorted, underground.

The biggest surprise in peering into someone’s burial chamber from 2500 years ago was the sheer beauty of it.  Not just small crypts, but large rooms with tables, chairs and beds contained carefully wrapped bodies and items, but also finely crafted golden wares.  Celtic Iron Age discoveries started shedding light in other areas too. I began to see threads of continuity that reach all the way to my recent family history.  

My grandparents had left ancestral lands in spectacular surroundings.  What drove them on such extreme journeys to arrive penniless in a strange land?  Initially, I had thought language must hold a key, so I studied French, German and Slovenian languages, and spent a year each at universities in Germany and Slovenia, and also at a summer program in Greece.  The importance of education itself has lurked as a perineal puzzle. Why was educating their daughters so important to parents who could only complete 8th grade?  With their backing, I completed a B.A at the University of Colorado, an M.A at the University of Michigan and a J.D. at Stanford Law School.  From immigrant coal miners to lawyers in two generations – how does that work?

Along the way my story had taken another pan-European twist.  I met a young U.S. Naval officer and we ended up married, practicing law and raising two terrific kids.  Initially, I had taken our backgrounds to be at opposite ends of the scale. Who would suspect that Scotland and Slovenia had been forged together in iron long ago! Predictably, the scientific, technological and military aspects of this cross-continental quest fascinate my partner.

Now, by using the 2500-year wide lens, we continue our studies in a whole new Europe.  Our common heritage comes not from loathsome, barbaric invaders, but from caring, accomplished people who preserved Europe’s magic for their progeny.  It is for and from them that we must trace to the present and carry on their work. 

 

 Jacqueline Widmar Stewart

The author is a graduate of the University of Colorado and the University of Michigan where she received degrees in the French and German languages.  She earned a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from Stanford Law School.  European studies include a classics program in Athens, Greece, German language at the University of Bonn in Germany and Slovenian language at the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia. 

 
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Q&A with the Author

Why is this book important?

HIDDEN WOMEN challenges old notions about women in history.  Through scientific advancements and the greater involvement of women, particularly in the field of archeology, it is becoming ever clearer that women played a greater and more natural role in society 2500 years ago.  The book addresses the roots of sex discrimination and ways to restore equilibrium.


Why did you write this book?

This is part of my on-going quest to understand the Europe of our ancestors and why they left.  I’ve approached this from many angles of experience and education. As a scholar of early French, German and Slovenian literature, I learned to question historical accounts, and as a lawyer, I weigh evidence and test credibility.  

I’m highly motivated to understand patterns and practices of oppression because my own family repeatedly has been subjected to divisionary tactics.  In Europe they were cut off from each other by language, ethnicity and nationality within one generation without ever leaving home – and that’s just one instance.  These incidents do not just happen by chance, and it’s nothing new.

Also, I have had the advantage of European friends and relatives who have shared a wealth of knowledge, from Paris parks to Slovenian hot springs.  Some facility in French, German and Slovenian languages has helped too, but it may be equally important physically to see places our ancestors have seen and appreciate how locations fit together.  Talking to archaeologists on site in Germany, Luxembourg and Slovenia, visiting new museums like the Coudenberg in Brussels, Bibrachte and Glauberg, seeing the advancements in imaging at the site of the Roman siege at Alesia, finding books locally about Iron Age settlements and the ancient Celtic language – such on-site observations and interactions have proven invaluable.

Mere words can’t do justice to the beauty of the worlds that our pre-Christian forbearers created and preserved.  In that regard, working with photographs in my other books has helped me to present the optic evidence in HIDDEN WOMEN.   


Celts in Europe? Weren’t they in Ireland?

Celts are in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England but they were all over Europe too.  Finds from the Iron Age demonstrate the vast territories inhabited by Celtic people because they carried the technology of making iron and steel across Europe: Austria, Switzerland, Hungary, Slovenia, France, Belgium, Italy, Spain, Germany and Turkey.


Sexism has become so ingrained that it seems normal, but it was not always this way.  It doesn’t have to be this way now either.

Discrimination against women must no longer be tolerated, even in longstanding institutions.  Religions have been allowed to operate outside the law. Sexist institutions thrive because they are, in effect, subsidized by all of us and paid to keep women down.  Unless we hold religions accountable under discrimination laws, this problem will not be corrected. Specifically:

• Tax-exempt status for organizations must be available only to entities that do not discriminate against women and must be revoked from those that discriminate now.  

• Those who discriminate on the basis of sex must not be allowed to hold public office.  

• Sexual harassment, domestic violence and income inequality must be eliminated from a free, democratic society where over half the population is female.  

• Religious institutions must not be allowed to take over iconic properties of great natural beauty and historic significance, and then exclude women.  

True liberty requires freedom from religion too.  These are human issues that directly affect the entire population, especially the children.

Resisting injustice and oppression requires banding together.  For strength and efficiency, we need to stand as one. With constant vigilance, we must defend our freedoms with the vigor of ancestral warriors, male and female.

It’s a pervasive problem. What can we do?

Other Books by Jacqueline Widmar Stewart