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Move over, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella! Rejected Princesses likely to find place in Disney Movies

Rejected Princesses is incredibly popular, with nearly 200,000 followers.

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Hatshepsut, the second female pharaoh of ancient Egypt, as drawn by animator Jason Porath for his book, Rejected Princesses. VOA

Move over, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White and Cinderella!

Movie animator Jason Porath got tired of seeing the same fairy tale-princess type of character over and over on the big screen– beautiful, kind and lucky. His quest to find notable women outside that traditional mold led to a blog he calls Rejected Princesses. It is incredibly popular, with nearly 200,000 followers. Now, he’s collected stories about dozens of those extraordinary women who defined for themselves what it means to be a strong woman in a new book.

The Wrestling Princess

Once upon a time—more precisely in 1260 — a girl was born in Mongolia. She was the great granddaughter of the Mongol emperor Genghis Khan. Her name was Khutulun, and she became known as the Wrestling Princess.

Khutulun grew up with fourteen brothers and seemingly learned from an early age how to confront and beat them.

Khutulun grew up with fourteen brothers and seemingly learned from an early age how to confront and beat them.

“Khutulun had a single rule,” Porath explains. “This rule was simple and clear: if you wanted to marry her, you had to beat her in wrestling, but if you lost, you had to give her a hundred horses. She ended up unmarried with 10 thousand horses.”

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Khutulun is one of the women Porath includes in his book, Rejected Princesses: Tales of History’s Boldest Heroines, Hellions, and Heretics. He notes that her story has been told and re-told — and changed — throughout the years. “[Puccini’s] opera Turandot is loosely based on her, but instead of wrestling, she’s outwitting people in games of wit and chance. She shows up in the Netflix series Marco Polo, but she’s immediately roped into this Romeo and Juliet-style thing where she immediately falls in love, which is completely against her character and her history. She was a big, hefty wrestler woman in real life, but in the Marco Polo series, she’s thin.”

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Real Women

Khutulun exemplifies Porath’s vision for his blog and his book. From the very beginning, he says he wanted to meet these women where they were, without trying to make them look cuter or wiser or kinder.

“I’m trying to portray people in a more well-rounded manner, where they have actual character flaws as opposed to what you see in animated movies where the biggest flaw you could put on someone is maybe that they’re clumsy.”

Rejected Princesses, by Jason Porath, grew from his blog about amazing women in history.

Rejected Princesses, by Jason Porath, grew from his blog about amazing women in history.

Ada Lovelace, the 19th century English mathematician, had actual character flaws. “You only hear she was an amazing woman who invented computers before they existed, which is definitely true,” he notes. “She’s a first-class intellect super genius. But she also had a lot of downsides. She had a gambling problem. Same with Josephine Baker. She was the world’s biggest mega star, but she also kind of ended up hurting a lot of people. She had an enormously tough childhood. All these people were very complex, fleshed-out human beings. They are not presented as such in history books.”

The women in Porath’s book come from different times and different cultures. While some are mythological, most are historical figures: the 12th century spy queen of the Yoruba, Moremi Ajasoro, who married the leader of the tribe to help her village… deaf American scientist Annie Jump Cannon, who revolutionized astronomy in the 19th century… Phoolan Devi, India’s resilient “Bandit Queen,” who later was elected to the lower house of Parliament.

Women Warriors

Many of these women became icons because of the role they played in defending their countries. Josefina Guerrero became a spy for the Philippines resistance against the Japanese occupation during World War II. In the 17th century, Nzinga Mbande defended Ndono, now Angola, against the Portuguese occupation.

In a meeting with the Portuguese governor, when he had a chair and she did not, Nzinga Mbande had one of her assistants serve as a chair for her, to establish her equality with the Portuguese crown.

In a meeting with the Portuguese governor, when he had a chair and she did not, Nzinga Mbande had one of her assistants serve as a chair for her, to establish her equality with the Portuguese crown.

“She went off into the jungle for forty years where she conquered a tribe of cannibals and became the utterly ruthless ruthless warrior and disturbed the lines of trades and killed Portuguese people for about four decades until the Portuguese were like,’You can have it! We’re leaving your country, it’s yours!'” Porath says of Nzinga. “She’s celebrated all over Angola to this day. Tracking down what’s factual about that story is really difficult. There was a lot of propaganda that was put forward by the Europeans. Some of those (stories) actually were put forward by Nzinga herself because she wanted to be feared.”

Women Rule

The book covers also introduces women who ruled empires, like Empress Myeongseong of Korea in the 19th century, and Wu Zetian, China’s only female emperor who lived and ruled in the 8th century. Centuries before that, around 1478 BCE, Hatshepsut came to the throne of Egypt, the second woman to become Pharoah.

“She reigned for basically 22 years by herself and it was a golden age, with a boom in architecture and art. She engaged in a trip to a land called Punt, which historians believe is Ethiopia. To Egyptians of that time, that was like going to the moon. It was a tremendous achievement. After she died, the following pharaohs systematically tried to remove her name from pretty much everything. But she had made such an enormous quantity of stuff that despite of generations-long attempts to erase her from history, almost every single major museum in the world has a number of artifacts from her reign.”

Jason Porath continues to search for exceptional women for his blog and says there’s no problem finding them. (VOA)

Next Story

Washington Becomes First State to Approve Composting of Human Remains

Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree

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Katrina Spade, who promotes using composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains, poses in a cemetery in Seattle as she displays a sample of compost material left from the decomposition of a cow using wood chips, alfalfa and straw, April 19, 2019. VOA

Ashes to ashes, guts to dirt.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed legislation Tuesday making Washington the first state to approve composting as an alternative to burying or cremating human remains.

It allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into about two wheelbarrows’ worth of soil in a span of several weeks.

Loved ones are allowed to keep the soil to spread, just as they might spread the ashes of someone who has been cremated — or even use it to plant vegetables or a tree.

“It gives meaning and use to what happens to our bodies after death,” said Nora Menkin, executive director of the Seattle-based People’s Memorial Association, which helps people plan for funerals.

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signs a bill into law at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., May 21, 2019, that allows licensed facilities to offer “natural organic reduction,” which turns a body, mixed with substances such as wood chips and straw, into soil in a span of several weeks. VOA

Supporters say the method is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation, which releases carbon dioxide and particulates into the air, and conventional burial, in which people are drained of their blood, pumped full of formaldehyde and other chemicals that can pollute groundwater, and placed in a nearly indestructible coffin, taking up land.

“That’s a serious weight on the Earth and the environment as your final farewell,” said Sen. Jamie Pedersen, the Seattle Democrat who sponsored the measure.

Origins of human composting

He said the legislation was inspired by his neighbor Katrina Spade, who was an architecture graduate student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, when she began researching the funeral industry. She came up with the idea for human composting, modeling it on a practice farmers have long used to dispose of livestock.

She tweaked the process and found that wood chips, alfalfa and straw created a mixture of nitrogen and carbon that accelerates natural decomposition when a body is placed in a temperature- and moisture-controlled vessel and rotated.

A pilot project at Washington State University tested the idea last year on six bodies, all donors who Spade said wanted to be part of the study. In 2017, Spade founded Recompose, a company working to bring the concept to the public. It’s working on raising nearly $7 million to establish a facility in Seattle and begin to expand elsewhere, she said.

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A pilot project at Washington State University tested the idea last year on six bodies, all donors who Spade said wanted to be part of the study. Pixabay

State law previously dictated that remains be disposed of by burial or cremation. The law, which takes effect in May 2020, added composting as well as alkaline hydrolysis, a process already legal in 19 other states. The latter uses heat, pressure, water and chemicals like lye to reduce remains.

Angry emails

Cemeteries across the country are allowed to offer natural or “green” burials, by which people are buried in biodegradable shrouds or caskets without being embalmed. Composting could be a good option in cities where cemetery land is scarce, Pedersen said. Spade described it as “the urban equivalent to natural burial.”

The state senator said he has received angry emails from people who object to the idea, calling it undignified or disgusting. “The image they have is that you’re going to toss Uncle Henry out in the backyard and cover him with food scraps,” Pedersen said. To the contrary, he said, the process will be respectful.

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Recompose’s website envisions an atrium-like space where bodies are composted in compartments stacked in a honeycomb design. Families will be able to visit, providing an emotional connection typically missing at crematoriums, the company says.

“It’s an interesting concept,” said Edward Bixby, president of the Placerville, California-based Green Burial Council. “I’m curious to see how well it’s received.” (VOA)