Originally posted on United States Hypocrisy: Armed with assault rifles, confederate flags and white supremacist slogans, a group of the extreme fascist right-wing calling itself ‘white lives matter’ stood on the grounds of the Houston Chapter of the historic civil rights organization – the N.A.A.C.P. – to sing the praises of police officers who’ve killed unarmed…
by Yona Williams, Unexplainable.net
While men carved great niches in science, math, and medicine, throughout ancient African history, women were able to make their mark as well. Even when conquering cultures tried to suppress the women’s role in science and medicine, some regions still allowed women to make advancements in the sciences. In this article, you will encounter women who worked on geometry to those who learned the healing ways of plants for medicinal purposes.
From this time period, prominent females in the African culture, such as Hypatia, a woman from Alexandria, Egypt emerge. Hypatia became known as a significant teacher and researcher that lived during the Roman period. She was known for working towards proving theories regarding the geometry of cones. She also studied things like what happened when a plane intersected a cone. Sadly, Christians, who were furious with Hypatia’s refusal to become a part of their religion, killed her in 415 AD.
During later times, ancient African civilizations started to see the women take a move involved position in science and technology matters, giving the female contribution in Greece, Rome, and West Asia a run for their money. The pottery industry got an early start in Africa thanks to the women. They also led the way in iron smelting. The women also contributed to the evolution of cloth manufacturing. The men and women both participated in the advancements of early African medicine.
Unfortunately, the role of a woman drastically changed in ancient African civilizations when the Phoenicians (and later the Romans) took over Northern Africa. They did not want the women to take part in science. This trend would continue into the 700’s AD, when the Islamic Empire conquered North Africa and trade with East Africa started to take place. The attitude of not having women participate in science or medicine did not change.
This did not stop the men in North and East Africa from excelling in science and medicine. Between 700 and 1500 AD, these regions (along with the area surrounding Timbuktu) saw many scientists and doctors. They also shared a common religion in Islam, which aided the men in communicating with one another using Arabic. New treatments and fresh ideas easily spread from one man to the next. These ideas also touched people in West Asia, India, and at times, China when such thinkers traveled throughout Africa and beyond.
Life in South Africa and Central Africa was much different for the female population, as they encouraged their women to pursue new ideas and thoughts regarding science and medicine. For example, the women of the San culture learned the identification and uses of hundreds of plants that possessed medicinal worth.
When someone thinks of a black wet nurse, they don’t think of the ideal of a nurturing maternal figure. Rather, the modern black woman thinks of the idea of being a nurse or even of the notion of breastfeeding in general as evoking a visceral reaction akin to swallowing spoiled milk. Yet, the white ideal of breastfeeding evokes nostalgia, especially when it concerns black nursemaids—so much so that a “mammy” figure is used to sell syrup bottles in the twenty-first century. For the black woman, being subjected to the cruel, inhumane job of being a nursemaid still causes posttraumatic stress disorder so much so that it affects their quality of life.
Black nursemaids weren’t the first nursemaids. It was not a new phenomenon. As far back as biblical times, breastfeeding by another woman was common. Moses was breastfed. Wealthy ancient Greek women saw nursemaids as a status symbol. Bottle-feeding was theoretically possible in the 18th century, but these bottles were hard to clean, food preservation hadn’t advanced enough to prevent bacterial infection, and formula wasn’t seen as universally safe. Some women used animal’s milk, but it was agreed upon that human milk was ideal.
According the the NIHL, a wet maid is a “woman who breastfeeds another’s child.” What that simplistic definition fails to mention is the kinds of conditions these nurse maids in the American south were subjected to even after slavery had officially ended.
In “Documenting the American South” a negro nurse told her story. She was free, technically, and paid a wage of about 10 dollars a month. However, she was basically enslaved. She saw her own children once every 2 weeks, meaning she couldn’t use her own body to provide nourishment for her own children. To feed white children when you are racially oppressed by the white race was traumatizing to say the least. This negro nurse worked 14-16 hour days. She had to be at the child’s beck and call to feed and bathe this baby and take care of the three older children in the household. It was dehumanizing and robbed her of her dignity. To make matters worse, these young children did not even call her “Miss.” In those days, a negro working for a white person was called “Tom,” Betty Sue,” “Mammy,” “Cook” or “Boy,”—even if the man being referred to as “boy” was older than the white speaker.
This nurse, unlike a mother, was not permitted to rest when the child slept. Rather, she was forced to do other household chores like mopping the porch outside, sweeping sidewalks and hallways, watering the lawn and mending clothes. Her problem wasn’t just that she got paid a meager wage but that she had no rights. The white man could do whatever he wanted with a nursemaid, even one he did not employ. She was forced to kiss her madam’s husband, and when she refused and her own husband spoke to the white man about it, he was thrown in jail and forced to pay a fine while the white man was free.
Such stories strike a nerve with the modern black person. In this day in age, for example, a policeman or “well-intentioned” neighborhood watch man can do whatever he wants including kill a black man and will usually get away with it unless it’s on video. Sometimes, even if it is video taped, the chance of justice is limited.
Many black women don’t want to nurse their own children today. Perhaps, it’s because some women’s grandmothers still feel traumatized remembering the treatment of wet nurses. Perhaps, it’s because the black woman wants to finally feel she owns her own body and isn’t prostituting herself out to be food for someone else. Maybe it’s because traditionally, over the past few centuries, black women haven’t gotten to have that role for their own children and they don’t consider it normal.
This is a conversation we need to have, however. Because modern research almost universally supports the benefits of breastfeeding for healthy brain development. Our children need that nourishment to compete in today’s world—a world in which a child isn’t just competing with his neighbor or even people in America for the best jobs but a world in which a child halfway across the world is gunning for his or her job.