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Category: Women in history

Mijn wasmachinevrije leven: geen slaaf meer van de was en een #zerowaste route

This is the story (in Dutch) of the liberating feeling I experienced after I ditched my laundry machine last summer.


Ik heb dus geen wasmachine meer. Wacht even, ik ga dat nog even herhalen zodat het kan doordringen. Ik. Heb. Geen. Wasmachine. Meer.

Even naar het begin. Een paar jaar geleden kocht ik voor de 3de keer op 10 jaar tijd een nieuwe droogkast. Twee jaar later bleek het ding kapot. Gelukkig verzekering, dus kwam de hersteller langs. De droogkast werkte opnieuw. Een paar maanden later was hij weer kapot. Voortaan ging ik gewoon mijn was op een droogrek ophangen bij slecht weer, bij goed weer vloog de was buiten.

Gevolg? Elke dag een machine was. Veel strijk. Altijd een droogrek in de living. Bij mooi weer werd er “geprofiteerd” om meerdere machines was te doen.

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Travel Tip: Processions in Belgium

Hanswijk procession in Mechlin

The procession in honour of Our-Lady-of-Hanswijk in Mechlin


Going to see processions might be an unlikely travel tip. However, if you want to get to know the ‘real’ culture of Belgium, it’s not enough to eat chocolate and drink beer. No matter how secularised Belgian society might seem today, religion still plays an important, albeit somewhat hidden, role. Alright, I’ll be completely honest, at the ‘kermesse’ following these processions we do drink a lot of beer, and eat fries, and drink some more, and eat some chocolate…

A few weeks ago on 10 May I went to see the Hanswijk procession in the city of Mechlin (Mechelen in Dutch or Malines in French). The Hanswijk procession, or Procession in the honour of Our-Lady-of-Hanswijk, is reported to be the eldest procession in Belgium, dating from the 13th century.

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Of strong women then and now

The Archduchess Isabella of Spain ruled the (Southern) Netherlands from 1598 until her death in 1633. Atelier of Frans Pourbus II, ca 1600 All rights: www.rijksmuseum.nl

The Archduchess Isabella of Spain ruled the (Southern) Netherlands from 1598 until her death in 1633.
Atelier of Frans Pourbus II, ca 1600
All rights: www.rijksmuseum.nl


Most people still have a somewhat – as we often say in academia – 19th century view on women’s roles in past societies.

No doubt these views are also more than a little influenced by what cinema’s and TV show us. From the tragic life of Georgiana Spencer in The Duchess to the unlikely love story between the lady Sybil and her chauffeur in Downton Abbey, we seem to be hovering between the idea of women being forced into doomed marriages or women constantly challenging accepted gender norms. Victims or heroines in other words.

Rarely are we presented with women who managed to work with these roles and who carved out a position in society without having to completely revolutionize the way people – mostly men – seemed to think about them.

When I first applied for a position at a university in the Netherlands, I had to defend my research proposal in front of a jury consisting mostly of men, mostly of non-historians, and who were mostly completely oblivious to the wondrous worlds of both gender and court history. When asked what the point was about researching noble women’s lives, I stated that women did more than needlework in castle tower chambers.

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