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I bought a brilliant book last month ‘The Story of Art Without Men’ by Katy Hessel.

To my surprise my first reaction to this book was anger! Now why was that?

Here we have over 450 pages dedicated to great art by female artists but most were never even referenced - let alone studied - in my 4 years as an art student half a lifetime ago!

As I read about women like Fede Galizia (1578-1630), Rosalba Carriera (1673-1757) and Rosa Bonheur (1822 -1899) I thought HOW and WHY have I never even heard these names?

Moreover, why had I not made more of an effort to unearth this information for myself 30 years ago?

So yes – that was why I was angry – I had missed out on SO much inspiring work!

I came into art education as a ‘mature’ student after years of nursing. I knew a little about a handful of female artists but I must have simply accepted the glaring imbalance of male artists to female artists as the norm.

As was standard practice, we all began our studies against the backdrop of E.H.Gombrich’s ‘Story of Art’ – but as Katy Hessel points out even now, in the 16th edition, the book includes only ONE female artist!

A few women did get a look-in during my degree course: Berthe Morisot, Suzanne Valadon, Eva Hesse, Barbara Hepworth, Frida Kahlo – often mentioned almost in passing or referred to as the ‘wife of/mother of’. I cannot blame the colleges I attended for my own lack of self-motivated research but there was scant encouragement to dig deeper. A little guidance – perhaps to read Linda Nochlin’s essay ‘Why have there been no great women artists?’ would have been a great ignition point. Oh, for a book like this back then!

Looking back, our official art education did perpetuate the myth that the best painters and sculptors (in fact creators of any kind) were all white males. It may be nearer the truth to say that, great as their merit may be, they came to dominate the artworld simply because all other groups of contributors were effectively excluded and denied opportunities.

I’m really not trying to give white males an even harder time than they seem to be having at this point in history anyway but it is remarkable that the status quo is still having to be challenged when in reality we are merely trying to even up the playing field…aren’t we?

I am not naïve. I understand that art is also a commodity with commercial value but it appears that art made by one small slice of human society has been valued above all else. I do not argue for artists to become genderless, ageless or colourless – on the contrary I think we should all be given the opportunity to celebrate and learn from the entire spectrum of artists and those that rise to the top are there primarily because of the quality of their work.

My winding life path has taken an age to circle round to this knowledge but exposure to this accessible book has been SO positive and I am excited to revisit and revise some art history – via a more inclusive and more colourful lens.

I would also encourage you all to seek out Katy’s podcast – ‘The Great Women Artists’ and find her Instagram account @thegreatwomenartists

Thank-you Katy Hessel.

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There is a renewed interest in ‘Hold Your Head Up Woman’.

It’s a great time of year for this song - coming up, as we are, to International Women’s Day (8th March). The lyrics are supportive of women and speak to our resilience and strength. It became the soundtrack to the ‘Know Your Crazy’ book and project. It is a great anthem… and a great mantra!

‘Hold Your Head Up’ written by Rod Argent / Chris White was, of course, originally a hit for the band Argent in the 1970’s. It was a perfectly natural fit for the all-female, transatlantic ‘Know Your Crazy Choir’ and we sang it, in our separate isolations, during Covid lockdown.

Our A Cappella version became ‘Hold Your Head Up Woman’.

You can see the video on YouTube or visit

I listened to it very loudly on headphones recently. Leaving aside lyrical content for now, I found myself wondering about the effects of musical sound and frequencies on our minds and bodies.

Einstein said “Everything in life is vibration”. Very simply, the vibration of an object causes the atoms around it to oscillate, creating a soundwave which is measured in Hertz (Hz). The faster the oscillations the higher the frequency and pitch.

We all know that frequencies can affect the human body, the brain and our emotional state, and have the potential to be either beneficial or harmful. Even if the frequency is too high or too low to be heard, we will still perceive it in some way. Our bodies have their own frequency – as does the Universe!

The topic of frequency is fascinating…and enormous! For now, I narrowed the subject down to the relationship between frequencies and human health, but it’s still a vast and ever-increasing field of research and knowledge and it’s very easy to go down a rabbit hole learning about it!

Here are just a few interesting things about frequency –

*The ‘Solfeggio Frequencies’ are a sequence of specific tones that are believed to affect our conscious and subconscious minds. The theory is that listening to particular Hz will have a positive effect on the health of various aspects of our bodies, minds and spirits.

*It is possible to have a ‘sound bath’ whereby you relax to the sounds of gongs, crystal bowls, kalimbas and singing bowls, this can help with releasing deep trauma.

*The Earth has a frequency of about 8 Hz.

*Different parts of the body vibrate at different frequencies, but the natural frequency of a standing body is about 7.5 Hz and a sitting body is about 4 - 6 Hz.

*Frequencies can and have been used as weapons. High (ultrasound) or low (infrasound) frequencies beyond our range of hearing can be harmful. There is ongoing research into adverse effects of radiofrequency waves, from our mobile phones, our microwave ovens, our computer screens – all of our electronics really!

*The commonly accepted range of human hearing is around 20 – 20,000 Hz, we lose the higher frequencies first as we mature.

Frequencies are a constant presence and will always be a part of our environment, but meanwhile, whatever the frequencies are that shine through our track – they feel like ‘good vibrations’ to me!

Do have a listen. Have a musical and frequency-aware March.

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In the same month that ‘Hold Your Head Up Woman’ was released into the world, I have some insights into the female experience to impart.

This last week in particular it seemed I was such a magnet for information and stories from SO many different angles and sources that I felt it was important to write about it.

Here are just a few examples of what I have learned just in this last week:

I read an interesting newspaper article about ‘why smart women need to stop dumbing down to please men’. It focussed on an incident with Kate Beckinsale being interviewed by shock jock Howard Stern. She was basically lambasted by critics after the show for being brainy! Part of her response was ‘Are we really still requiring women to dumb themselves down in order not to offend?’

She referred to one of several recent studies whereby heterosexual men have claimed interest and desire in women more intelligent than themselves – but it turns out this is largely true only in theory, not in reality. (Examples of similar studies: Professor Lora Park, Dept. of Psychology, University at Buffalo). Obviously this is a tiny superficial summary – but you get the point.

Let’s step back one generation. I got to see my mum this week. She is a retired doctor. She trained at a prestigious London hospital from 1949-1955 - only their 3rd intake of women to medical school after female admission to this particular hospital was banned in 1924(!)

As a medical student she was outnumbered by men six to one. She told me “The men in my year treated me ok, and women were not treated differently in class, but when we got onto the teaching rounds in the hospital, the consultants (who were all men) delighted in humiliating the women more than the men.”

The students in her year were “much more likely to be going out socially with the nurses.”

She also told me “At that time I felt I needed to behave differently with men in general, sort of pander to them and ‘show some respect’, that was my upbringing, so it was quite a change to be treated as an equal by the men students at medical school.”

What did I conclude from this chat with mum?

That she was bright and courageous (I knew that anyway!)

That the older and upper echelons of the medical profession were more steeped in patriarchy and perhaps a little more wary of female potential so used humiliation freely?

I might be wrong here - but the fact that the doctors went out more socially with the nurses suggests that maybe they felt less threatened by nurses? Nursing is a less academic world than medicine, and perhaps this harks back to the studies I mentioned earlier in this blog?

By the way, I am not devaluing nursing here. As an ex-nurse myself I know that, though a less academic world, nursing is as significant a vocation as medicine. In an ideal world it would be recognised that these two professions are symbiotic – each performing overlapping and separate roles in the care of human health. (I’ll get off my soapbox now!)

Also – I was reminded that it was more common for the women of my mum’s generation to be taught and to believe they had a subservient role to men in life.

I was surprised to learn something about my own generation too. In conversation with two very intelligent female friends of mine, I found that both of them had been brought up instilled with the idea that they should not outshine their brothers.

Even now, social psychologist Amy Cuddy educates us about body poses. Not surprisingly women feel chronically less powerful than men and display more non-verbal ‘low-power’ poses. She presents a fantastic TED talk that everyone should watch.

I am not writing any of this to emasculate or diminish men, but whether we like it or not, the patriarchy persists and change is glacial – especially in parts of the world where women are denied rights, education or recognition.

As women, we all need to be aware of our personal roles in perpetuating the status quo, whilst at the same time, understanding that certain elements of nature will always demand differences between men and women (or however we identify ourselves), and SURELY these differences should be celebrated!

Let’s not just blend in and be accepted, let’s be our authentic whole selves.

Like Marianne Williamson says “…Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you…”

So that was just this week!

Until next month…Hold Your Head Up Woman!

*Hold Your head Up Woman: find on YouTube or

*Hold Your Head Up: written by Rod Argent and Chris White

* Daily Mail, UK: ‘We smart women must stop playing dumb to please men’ Clare Foges, 28th Oct 21

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