In part 2 of my "unlikely" feminist role models series, let's tackle a woman who is near and dear to my heart: Anne Boleyn.
Anne was the second wife of Henry VIII, and arguably the most memorable. (I'm looking at you Jane Seymour, you are basic).
Feminist purists may bemoan the fact that I even attached the word "feminist" to Anne's name, considering that she had no articulated opinion on women's rights. In her defense, in Tudor England, there wasn't even an inkling that equality between the sexes was possible-I'd be hard pressed to find women's issues being a concept during that time period. If anyone has any resources to the contrary, please let me know!
No one can deny that Anne was a self-made woman. Her rise from Henry VIII attempting to make her his mistress, to making her his wife, was mercurial, but unprecedented.
Anne broke more barriers for her time- she wasn't the demure wife, like Catherine of Aragon. Instead, Anne was coquettish, Anne was tempestuous, Anne let her opinion be heard.
From "The Creation of Anne Boleyn," by Susan Bordo:
"Blushing bride, boisterous husband; it was just the way it was supposed to be. But Anne was not a blusher. Spontaneous and intense in an era when women were supposed to silently provide a pleasing backdrop for men's adventures, Anne had never 'stayed in her place'...."
To quote Alison Weir's "The Lady In The Tower: The Fall of Anne Boleyn":
"At her trial, insisting that she was 'clear of all the offences which you have laid to my charge,' she went on to acknowledge, not only her 'jealous fancies' but her failure to show the King 'that humility which his goodness to me, and the honours to which he raised me, merited.'"
Anne also was not only the catalyst to the reformation of England, but an active participant herself. A voracious reader of radical religious literature, Anne became the driving force of the new religion that would usurp the Catholic dominance over England. Anne's constant involvement perturbed her enemies, and was one of many reasons that they brought her down.
Anne also (supposedly) had sexual prowess, which apparently alienated Henry VIII after her constant refusals to be intimate with him, or be his mistress, while he pursued her. A woman in control of her body is very feminist, indeed.
Because Anne pushed boundaries, and made a male dominated society uncomfortable, I'm proud to include her in my list of "unlikely" feminist icons.