“Why women’s history at all? Surely men and women have always shared a world, and suffered together all its rights and wrongs?”
This book was recommended to me by my two best friends long time ago. They described it as “eye-opening” ,“witty” and “thought provoking”. Although it has been on my reading list ever since, I only finished reading it a few days ago, a decision I did not regret. Despite some issues I found with it, I do believe that this is the book anybody interested in women’s history should read.
In Who Cooked the Last Supper (US edition of The Women’s History of The World), English author Rosalind Miles explores the overlooked and neglected history of women. With a sharp pen and vast knowledge, Rosalind digs deep in history and overturns the long standing quasi-scientific, religious and cultural myths that promote male superiority, that have plagued women-kind for centuries. By dispelling these myths, she is able to bring to light the lives and achievements of women whose stories did not become part of written history, merely because the protagonists of these tales were female. These stories, often marked by gross injustices and prejudices against women, serve as a testament that women everywhere have fought against the system that tried to convince them of their own inferiority.
This book is filled with celebrations of extraordinary women around the world, an average reader has probably never heard of, but I cannot get over the hypocrisy of downplaying famous women who chose to align themselves with men. Claims that “Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Diana, Princess of Wales, were famous only through the men they married, and not for any talent of their own” feels dangerous, as the author overlooks all the important achievements these women have accomplished outside of their marriages. Men in this book are not always presented as the oppressors of women, as Miles gives multiple examples of men who were allies in women’s fight for rights and equal treatment.
Miles writes about women all over the world, introducing her readers to various cultures and their treatment of women. I do appreciate this wide scope and loved learning about different communities I would have never learned about. From a book that claims to be about the history of the world, I expected more than simplification and generalization of non-western societies. This in combination with the last chapters, in which there is no talk of racial issues of the late twentieth century leaves an otherwise great overview of women’s history with a bit of a bitter taste. However, I believe that the year of the book’s original publication (1988) must be taken into account and that this book in a way is a product of its time, which is still, rightly so, criticized for the generalization of women into only one category.
Still, with all said (or written), I did thoroughly enjoy reading Who Cooked the Last Supper. This is a book that truly and honestly celebrates women and their achievements, across the board. One book is not merely enough to count all the women whose achievements have been wiped away by male centered history. However, I truly believe that Who Cooked the Last Supper serves an important role of filling a least a part of the hole in history left by the erasure of women. Personally, I would love to see the new edition of this book, with updated information and continued discussion about the position of women in modern society.