5 Great Women Ignored By History For Absurdly Sexist Reasons


Artemisia Gentileschi Was A Master Painter Whose Work Was Attributed To Men, Because She Had The Audacity To Get Sexually Assaulted

Artemisia Gentileschi

There’s a lot of fancy historical art that doesn’t portray women in the most … independent light. Take this depiction of the biblical story, “Susanna And The Elders,” by Alessandro Allori:

Alessandro Allori

That seems more like the start of a porn scene than an assault. Which is fine, if the story was about a porn scene, which it was not, and not about an assault, which it absolutely was. Susanna was out taking a bath in her garden, only to be perved on by two old men who tried to sexually assault her. Cute, Allori.

Now, here’s another take on the same story:

Artemisia Gentileschi

The latter painting is the work of Artemisia Gentileschi, who made a point of eschewing the whole “she was asking for it” theme. Which was actually a pretty novel concept at the time. The image below is Artemisia’s depiction of Judith killing Holofernes. The story there goes like this: With the help of her maid, Abra, the titular Judith manipulated Holofernes into getting so drunk that he passed out. Once he was asleep, the women decapitated him, thus saving their town from Holofernes’ army.

Artemisia Gentileschi
“You’re lucky we don’t take both of your heads.”

Artemisia’s painting shows normal women, being strong, determined, and murderous. Compare this to another work telling the same story, by Caravaggio:

“Oops, knife slipped! So sorry!”

Now Judith looks like she’s holding a dirty diaper instead of a dude’s soon-to-be-severed head, and her maid is depicted as a witch-like figure, compelling the sweet, innocent Judith to murder this man, even though it goes against her feminine ways. Artemisia’s entire catalog of works is a realistic portrayal of women, which should stand out like a sore thumb in art galleries full of waify, submissive, and flirtatious female representation. And she was easily one of her generation’s finest painters.

So why have you never heard about her before?

It’s probably because her name’s hard to spell. That has to be it. Unlike, say Carvaggio.

How She Got Screwed Out Of History:

When Artemisia was 18, a friend of her father’s, Agostino Tassi, raped her — then tried to retroactively woo her with promises of marriage. A strategy as bold as it is idiotic as it is evil. Eventually, her father found out, and sued the man, which thrust Artemisia front and center in a highly publicized trial that turned her into the era’s equivalent of tabloid fodder. The case saw Tassi questioning Artemisia’s talent as an artist and virtue as a woman in equal measures, summoning “witnesses” who swore Artemisia was an insatiable succubus. As a result, she was subjected to embarrassing gynecological experiments and even outright torture as means of verifying her honesty, and although the Gentileschis eventually won the case, Artemisia’s reputation was left in tatters.

Artemisia Gentileschi
Like the Mona Lisa, except it’s her eye roll that follows you.

Although Artemisia kept painting, and produced a number of masterpieces, art history quietly attempted to sweep her under the rug by attributing her works to a number of male contemporaries. That’ll teach her to … get sexually assaulted, stand up for herself, and then continue to produce masterworks that enrich culture? The nerve.


Rosalind Franklin Pioneered DNA Research, But Men Assumed She Was A Research Assistant And Stole It

Vittorio Luzzati

Rosalind Franklin was a chemist and pioneer of biology who revolutionized the field. In fact, she discovered the structure of DNA.

Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Archives
That’s probably important!

But it didn’t come easy: Rosalind was constantly belittled and underestimated because of her gender, though that didn’t stop her from taking a sort of picture of the very structure of DNA — at the tender young age of 33 — and chronicling her discovery for the annals of science. She changed the world! Now, if only this entry would stop right about … here …

How She Got Screwed Out Of History:

Back in 1951, Rosalind Franklin worked at King’s College in London, where fellow DNA researcher Maurice Wilkins mistook her for a technical assistant. Because she was a woman, you see, and they lack testicles, which are necessary for science. You set your balls on one side of a scale and use them to weigh things. Science things. You literally cannot science without a sack.

Franklin soon had a breakthrough in her research, and managed to take the aforementioned X-ray pictures of DNA. Wilkins stumbled upon her evidence, known as Picture 51, and figured “hey, free science!” He showed the picture to his Cambridge University colleagues, James Watson and Francis Crick, who just so happened to be big fans of DNA …

Rosalind Franklin and Raymond Gosling/King’s College London
And dudes. We’re sure that had nothing to do with it.

Picture 51 was a revelation for Watson and Crick, because it was a photo of the very thing they were researching. They cobbled up a paper and published it with great gusto in the April 1953 issue of Nature. But don’t worry — Franklin also got to publish her findings in Nature. In that very same issue!

… as a supporting article to the heroes of the day, who would go on to rake in the esteem and, more importantly, the Nobel prizes. And even more more importantly, the sweet, sweet pop culture references.


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