Off With Her Head: Three Thousand Years of Demonizing Women in Power by Eleanor Herman

c.2022, William Morrow     
374 pages

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
The Truth Contributor

Sometimes, you think you’re losing your mind.

Stress will do that to you, and chaos, and a total loss of control. Having a full schedule doesn’t help, either, especially when time is in short supply. Misogyny, disrespect, rumor-mongering, slander, and denied support round out the list of crazy-makers and in Off With Her Head by Eleanor Herman, you might be surprised at how those things affected history.

In reading through a hundred books to research the writing of one, Eleanor Herman was a little shocked at what she noticed.

The subject she read about was “unlikable,” power-grabbing, phony, she dressed poorly, and her voice was shrill. No, it wasn’t Hillary Clinton, but Cleopatra, which sent Herman down a trail. When it comes to women and power, is it true that everything old is new again? Was there a sort of “Misogynist’s Handbook” for the patriarchy, one attempting to victimize all women aspiring to higher places?

Did it start with Eve?

“It’s all her fault,” says Herman, even though “Adam could have said, ‘No, Eve.'” And Eve was followed by Pandora and Helen of Troy, and it continued as women were torn down by the Patriarchy, powerful queens in Europe were beset by mobs “howling with rage,” and there we are, often on the sidelines.

Princess Hatshepsut became pharaoh of Egypt in 1479 BCE; she wanted to be pharaoh very much, but she had to pretend she didn’t. Catherine de Medici gained power when “she initially cloaked [her ambitions] in acceptably submissive female terms.” Marie Antoinette was harshly criticized when she dressed fashionably, and also when she dressed for “play.” People looked with suspicion at Elizabeth I because she was unmarried and childless. Women in power have been called witches and monsters, they’ve been compared to animals, and accused of having relations with animals. Heaven forbid, they should ever cry.

“Will things change?” Herman asks. “Can they change?

If they can, now is the time.”

The evidence was there all along. Women, especially those who aspire to positions of power, have always endured ceilings of stone, wood, and glass. Author Eleanor Herman lays it all out so that it’s hard not to know it anymore, making Off With Her Head a jaw-dropper.

It’s shocking, to be sure, to see in plain sight that we haven’t come as far as we’d like to think; in fact, Herman takes examples from centuries ago and applies them tit-for-tat to our last two U.S. election cycles. This serves as a not-so-gentle chiding of the patriarchy, but Herman doesn’t entirely blame men. She says – and she shows – that women have done their share of snarking and these days, men are often “savaged” for things irrelevant to their positions. It’s an equal opportunity nobody wants and seeing it in print is the first step to making it stop.

This is a book for current-events watchers, women’s historians, or for anyone who’s tired of a 24/7 cycle of nastiness. If that’s you, find Off With Her Head. You’ll lose your mind over it.

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Here’s another book for historians and romantics alike: The Tudors in Love by Sarah Gristwood. Read about the love life of Henry VIII and his six wives, find out why Elizabeth I was popular with the gentlemen, and how wooing was done in the 1500s. Weddings, beheadings, and beddings, it’s all here and you can’t miss it.