Suppressed Histories Archives Newsletter: 35 Years

From: Max Dashu <>

35th Anniversary of the Suppressed Histories Archives

This January marks the 35th year of the Suppressed Histories Archives, an independent research project that educates people about global women's history.

It encompasses a broad range of subjects, including not only women of power, mother-right traditions, shamanic arts, and Goddess veneration, but also indigenous studies and the dynamics of patriarchy, conquest, slavery and empire.

The collection now contains well over 14,000 slides, as well as photocopied texts, images, maps and books. Nearly a hundred slide presentations have grown out of the Archives. A third of the titles look at issues of women's power, oppression, and heritages from an international perspective, and the rest go chronologically, by country or region. (You can access the catalog from .)

For three decades and counting, the Suppressed Histories Series has brought internationalist women's studies to all kinds of audiences, from feminist bookstores and community centers to universities, public schools, libraries, museums, prisons, galleries, festivals, and conferences.

In January 1970, I entered on the path of an independent scholar, with the aims of recovering the obliterated history of women and understanding how patriarchy and other systems of domination came into being. Several things soon became clear.

Neolithic iconography overwhelmingly emphasized women, in a qualitatively different way than modern media. Women in indigenous societies usually held greater power than in feudal and colonial systems, and all matrilineages that survive today are indigenous societies.

I found that domination of women correlated with domination by class, ethnicity, and other socio-political hierarchies.

In other words, the upper classes have historically been more invested in patrilineage, multiple wives, and constraining women's bodies and behavior than commoners and indigenous peoples.

That is why the Romans called the ruling classes patricians; why veiling began with the Indo-European elite, and footbinding with Chinese aristocrats, long before they spread to other classes.

My research also showed that public female spheres of power tended to concentrate in the area of spiritual leadership and, conversely, that banning the priestess was a keystone to deepening the cultural colonization of women through religion.

A more profound level of domination was possible, than could be achieved through violence and coercion, if women could be induced:
to believe that their oppression was divinely ordained, and
to subscribe to an idolatry of the masculine.

Witch persecutions have been another method of attack against female power, solidarity, protest and resistance. In much the same way, colonizers hoping to break the spirit of the country they were invading persecuted the medicine people and prophets.

I found that women shamans, diviners, and medicine women have often been at the forefront of liberation movements.

See "Priestesses and Political Power":

Global Women's History, Freelance

I am a grassroots historian and educator. I began with slideshows in women's bookstores (which I still do) and branched out to community centers, women's festivals, schools, libraries, prisons, galleries and conferences. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I present shows at Change Makers for Women, Belladonna, California Institute of Integral Studies, and other local venues.

Since 1980, I've given slide talks at universities around the U.S., including the Women's Centers at Northwestern, Stanford, University of California-Berkeley, Princeton, and M.I.T.

I've done a couple shows in Canada, a series in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and most recently, presented at a symposium in Bulgaria.

New Visual Presentations

Several new slideshows have come into being in the past two years, on very important subjects. The newest is Icons of the Matrix, about sacred signs that recur globally in ancient cultures: "female figurines," ancestral megaliths, vulva stones, and ceremonial pots in the form of women and breasts.

This art opens a window into pre-patriarchal spiritual values and the deep cultural continuities that can be seen around theworld, from the oldest archaeological record up to more recent indigenous societies.

Mother-Right and Gender Justice is an international look at egalitarian matrilineal/matrilocal societies. Information on these matrix cultures is scattered and buried (it took three decades to find the images and history in this slideshow) yet they offer living examples of how people can live with harmony and mutual respect.

Women's decisions carry real weight in these societies. Their existence proves that patriarchal domination is not "natural" and inevitable, and also shows that the peoples that standard histories skip over, in places like Sumatra and Yunnan and Niger and Colombia, have developed the most advanced social systems, which respect the personal freedom of all members while fostering the common good.

Another new group of presentations began with an international, trans-historical overview of Patriarchies. I had been teaching about this all along, but it is difficult to find images to illustrate the pervasive injustices that happen behind closed doors, and which society papers over withdenial.

I really felt the need for an overview that looked at the common structures and behaviors, because most people don't grasp the enormity and scope of patriarchy, historically or in the present.

Finally I said, "This is too important: just work with what you've got," and threw all theslides I had been saving on the light table. Even with all the gaps, there were hundreds of them.

I pulled more slides from the regional shows and made duplicates to fill in missing geographic areas and subjects like "honor-killings" and the all-male judiciary.

The presentation that emerged is visceral and haunting, but essential information for anyone who cares about injustice. From the fission of this collection came two more presentations on how patriarchy affects women.

Male-Dominated Religion will take some time to develop fully.

Taming the Female Body is almost ready, but needs visuals to illustrate the massive surgical interventions "Western" women are subjected to: unnecessary hysterectomies, Caesarians, silicon implants, and plastic surgeries (from faces to vulvas). Hardest to find are images reflecting the life-threatening boom in liposuction, stomach-stapling and intestinal bypass, all motivated by this society's hateful treatment of fat women. Your suggestions, photos, or web references are invited.

The same goes for another show in development, on GlobalWomen's Movements. This looks at the explosion of liberatory actions, alliances, and ideas around the world in the past three decades.

To date, the most-requested slideshows are:
Women's Power;
Female Rebels and Mavericks;
Woman Shaman;
Goddess Cosmologies;
Witches and Pagans;
The Canaanite and Hebrew Goddess;
Ancient China;
Mother-Right and Gender Justice; and
Racism, History and Lies.

A new edition of the Suppressed Histories website is online and will be expanding every month.
People in Thailand and Saudi Arabia and Zimbabweand Honduras and Malaysia are reading it.

Email queries come in from researchers in Mexico and professors in Scotland, from feminists, pagans, anti-racist activists, and other allies. A website in Trinidad has sent on many visitors by posting a link to my article on "Racism, History andLies" (See ).

So far only the tip of the iceberg is up on the site, but that's about to change. More content will be uploaded soon, including tastes of selected slide presentations and book excerpts.

Interviews, book reviews, and bibliographies will be added in the future.

Several new articles and book excerpts are already up:

"Icons of the Matrix""

Herbs, Knots, and Contraception"

Expanded versions of chapters on Roman patria potestas, the Women's Mysteries of Bona Dea, and the first mass hunt recorded in history are linked at

A new, annotated version of Knocking Down Straw Dolls: A Critique of The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory is at

Some images from the Women's Power show are linked at the end of the introductory article at:

New Publications

Two articles are about to appear in scholarly publications. "Knocking Down Straw Dolls" is being published in the January issue of FeministTheology (Sheffield Academic Press, Britain).

"Icons of the Matrix" will appear in the forthcoming anthology Female Mysteries of the Substratum, edited by Joan Marler and Miriam Robbins Dexter.

Also, the upcoming issue of Goddessing Regenerated features an interviewthat Willow LaMonte did with me five years ago (well, these things take time).

History, Politics and Religion

(I deleted comments on the last election, go to the Surpressed History website to read them;...Greenconsciousness...)

....Corporate media is a serious problem, but clearly old-time religion is going to have a bigger impact than it has for a century.

The separation of church and state is under serious threat and is already in the process of being breached.

For this reason, it is important for us to address the historical roots of fundamentalism, what I call the prehistory of the religious right.

Probing the political underpinnings of religion in Western Civilization has been a large part of my work for three decades:
the history of State Christianity with its gender and race ideologies, and
its demonization of cultural Others,
whether they are women/witches, pagans, Jews, Muslims, Africans, Romany or American Indians.

The cultural script of the Crusades still haunts the world, and is threatening an even greater global conflict. (For more on this, see .)

The Racism, History and Lies presentation discusses these dynamics, but the times are demanding creation of a show that focuses on Christian relations with Muslims and Jews, including the Crusades, pogroms and the blood libel (accusations of ritual murder levelled against Jews), as well as the modern era of colonialism and genocide.

People need to be educated about what underlies the modern scripts for religious war.

The Secret History of the Witches

My forthcoming book deals with these issues, drawing links between Christian state repression of women, pagans, Jews, and indigenouspeoples.

Both witches and Jews were accused of poisoning and baby-killing and blamed for all social ills. The accusation of devil-worship that was first leveled at European pagans and witches was later used to attack American Indian and other indigenous religions.

Witch hunters persecuted European women, attacking their speech, freedom of movement, and professions, and subjected them to torture-trials in which theywere literally and figuratively raped.

The diabolist ideology that governed all "confessions" extracted in this way
degraded women's status, sexualized torture, and also drove a demonized image of Africans deep into European consciousness.

These obsessions motivated Euro-Americans to wreak havoc on African Americans.

Meanwhile, modern culture remains deeply stained by the behavioral legacies of woman-hating.

These poisoned wells must be cleansed so that cultural healing and social transformation can happen.

I am completing the first volume of The Secret History, on ancient European religion, its goddesses, oracles and priestesses; the status of women in the Basque, Celtic, Germanic, Italic, Baltic and Slavic cultures; the origins of Christianity and how the alliance of the institutional Church and feudal states impacted women, pagans, and Jews.

The book is an attempt to reconstruct the riches of pagan folk tradition in the early middle ages. Historians' prejudices against pagan Europe have been longstanding, yet recent attempts to rectify that bias are all too often inaccurate.

My aim is to bring togetherthe key sources, many of them not available in English, or known only to academic specialists. You can read the book outline at:

What's next? It has been difficult to bridge the gaps (and sometimes chasms) between grassroots and scholarly, spiritual and political. Some of these divisions are starting to break down. But most of academia still looks down its nose at the idea that egalitarian societies ever existed, or that goddess veneration does have socio-political implications.

Even Women's Studies scholars are wary of these heretical and stigmatized areas of study. Neolithic history has not been a subject covered in those syllabi, with exceptions. But I think this can change, as women inside and outside academia overturn the old doctrinal barriers. Ancient history is very relevant! especially given where the world is headed politically andecologically.

My top priority now is to publish The Secret History of the Witches. I hope to have the first volume out by the end of the year, but funds areneeded to make that happen.

Second editions are planned for Streams of Wisdom and Knocking Down Straw Dolls. An expanded version of Icons of the Matrix is also on the drawing board. Wherever I can, I will continue teaching women's history and spiritual traditions in a global context, exposing people to images they aren't likely to have seen before, and stimulating discussion about where women stand now and how we got there.

It is crucial for us to undo the cultural spells about who women are, that have seduced so many into settling for false, subordinated identities peddled by the consumerist spectacle.

Denial is a luxury none of us can afford. The times demand courage, truth-telling and vision, as we reaffirm the animist vision of all beings assparks of the Divine.

How You Can Support the Suppressed Histories Archives

Your contributions are needed to get this work out there. Earnings from presentations do not pay for basic expenses like website fees,slide trays, or duplication for new shows, much less computer support. (For lack of which, a big chunk of work, and some of the mailing list, was lost in November.)

Please believe that even small donations help. But larger donations are very much needed. All donations are received with thanks.

This is the make-or-break year for the Archives. I will never give up on this work, which is my life offering, but I simply don't have the funds to take the next steps.

How and when they will happen is now up to the community. This is your opportunity to vote for the preservation of this body of knowledge, and its signature fusion of spiritual and political, feminism and anti-racism, by making donations.

If you need your contribution to be tax-deductible, we can arrange for it to go through a 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor.* Please make a DONATION: Make out checks or money orders to Max Dashuand: mail to
The Suppressed Histories Archives
P.O. Box 3511,
Oakland CA 94609(USA)*

If you aren't able to contribute money, you can help in other ways. One is to facilitate bookings for the Suppressed Histories Series, so it will be seen by people in more places. Interested contacts are needed in institutions who might sponsor showings: teachers, women's clubs, youth groups, temples, churches, or whatever you can think of. (I will do free shows for at-risk youth, prisoners, and survivors of battering or trafficking, but must be paid for the others.)

Or you could hold a fundraising event.*

The easiest way to help is simply to visit and explore

The more hits a website gets, the higher its ranking in search engines, which makes it show up earlier in the search results. (It's called Google-bombing: I don't endorse the violent metaphor, but the idea works).

This will increase the visibility of the Archives.*

You may also be able to help with publicity: articles and interviews in print, radio, TV, or on the web. Suggestions of journalists, magazine contacts, suitable blogs, etc., are welcome. Let your community know about this resource and ask them to help spread the word.*

Please forward this notice to friends and allies. It will also be available online at

If you'd like to sign up for the Suppressed Histories Email List for events in your area:
Send your email request to: and please specify your region, unless you would like notices about all presentations.

Max Dashu Suppressed Histories Archives Global Women's History


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