There are many reasons why someone enters the annals of history, their actions remembered forevermore. It might be a result of nefarious crimes, a scandal or just behavior that creates infamy but I often ask myself if it’s bad people we remember more than those who have done good or tried to make a difference to the world. Here’s a few of the most notorious women in history.
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If Queen Cleopatra VII acted today how she did back in 44BC she’d be all over the front of the gossip rags. She used her powers to seduce all the ancient world’s most powerful men and was instrumental in Julius Caesar’s downfall thanks to her affair with Marc Anthony. She also claimed she was the re-incarnation of the goddess Isis, bathed in ass’s milk and committed suicide by placing a poisonous snake next to her breast. Pass the drug test kit, please.
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Lady Godiva championed the cause of the oppressed people of Coventry (central England) who were suffering every time her husband The Baron raised taxes. He promised he would not enforce the next increase if she rode the streets naked. Now, back in the early years of the 11th century this was something to behold. The Baron never imagined she would do it but she did. This story also spawned our term Peeping Tom. The Baron ordered everyone to bar their doors and windows so no-one could see his naked wife but a man called Tom disobeyed and he peeped on the site of the world’s first known streaker. He was made blind in punishment.
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She was the illegitimate daughter of a man who later became Pope Alexander VI (a position he practically bought), was suspected of papal and filial incest, bigamy, numerous affairs, had at least one illegitimate son through an adulterous affair and was accused of murder, poisonings and political intrigue. Maybe she was just a victim of circumstance having been born into one of the most notorious families in history ever or maybe she was one of the rottenest fruit on the family tree.
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Visionary 15th century warrior woman. Claiming she heard voices from God she led the French to victories over the English including breaking the siege of Orleans. She may have secured Charles VII’s coronation but they didn’t manage to get the English out of France and an English Ecclesiastical Court found her guilty of heresy and burnt her at the stake. Twenty-five years later, this conviction was overturned by Pope Callixtus III but it wasn’t until 1920, nearly 500 years later, that Joan of Arc was canonized as a Patron Saint of France
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If you were a pre-pubescent or teenager confused about sex in 1998, the Lewinsky scandal wouldn’t have helped as it brought new meaning to the term sexual intercourse. She was a 22-year old when she had her first illicit incident with Bill Clinton and their affair contributed to his impeachment in 1998.
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Tough, sexy, sassy gun-touting moll of Clyde Barrow killed at least 11 people and injured many others during a 3-year crime spree that ended when she and Barrow were gunned down by Louisiana law enforcement officials in 1934. Despite their horrific rampage of robbing rural banks and stores, Depression-era America made them into almost romantic heroes thanks to Parker’s natural sex appeal.
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The wife of Ferdinand Marcos the former President of the Philippines who was toppled in a coup known as the People Power Revolution led by Cory Aquino. The Marcoses were forced to flee as they were at the centre of the reasons for the coup having headed up a corrupt and despotic regime enforced by Martial Law since 1965. Imelda is notorious for her 2700 pairs of shoes and jewellery which are a symbol of the extravagance of the Marcos era. Today, the shoes and jewels are in a museum.
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Wife of Mao Tse Tong. As a Deputy Leader of the Chinese Communist Party she led the Cultural Revolution. In a ten-year period, much Chinese heritage was destroyed including antiques, artefacts, buildings, books and paintings. Modern style economic activity was practically halted as was education. Intellectuals and professional were persecuted, tortured, murdered or sent to prison camps and human rights and civil liberties were basically reduced to the draconian laws of Mao’s little red book. Historians believe that about 3 million deaths are directly attributable to the Cultural Revolution plus another 36 persecuted.
So bringers down of presidents, murderers, oppressors, saints and sinners, notorious women span the whole range of why somebody would be remembered long after they have shuffled off their mortal coil. Who springs to your mind?
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