Today’s random reading from the newsfeed led me to an article on the wreck of the Batavia in 1629 off the Western Australian coast. I had not known anything much more on the subject other than it was a ‘famous shipwreck’. So I read the article. What caught my eye was this small paragraph, and I decided to research further.
His men drowned many others.
He also murdered women and children, the ill and infirm. He kept a number of women alive to subject to repeated rapes.
A search led me to a more comprehensive article on the Western Australian Museum’s website. Of the estimated 316 on-board the Batavia, around 30 were women and children (approximately 10% of the compliment). Only one woman was named in the article, 27 year old Lucretia van den Mylen, who was enroute to meet with her husband in Jakarta, and accompanied by her maid on the voyage.
The potent mix of many men and few women without the firm hand of control then lead to a very ugly incident. The 27 year old Lucretia van den Mylen was on her way to her husband in Batavia. Her social standing meant that she had her own alcove and was accompanied by her maid. Captain Jacobsz resented her, since she had spurned his advances.
In mid-ocean Lady van den Mylen was assaulted by masked men who proceeded to, “hang overboard by her feet the Lady van den Mylen and indecently maltreat her body”. She later claimed to have recognised the voice of Jan Evertsz, a man devoted to the captain.
Not exactly a pleasant voyage for a woman of social standing, and one wonders how the other women were treated on the voyage. An extract, with my emphasis:
Firstly, he sent a party of cabin boys, men and women, about 45 in number, to Seals Island (Long Island) on the claim that there was water there (which there was not). He was not expecting them to survive.
Then he instructed a group of soldiers under the command of Wiebbe Hayes to explore the ‘high islands’ that could be seen on the horizon. Before they left, he confiscated their arms. He did not expect them to return. After all, that was the direction to which Pelsaert had gone and he had not returned.
Next he drowned a good many by sending them out in boats on useless errands, where his accomplices would push them overboard. Having thus eliminated much potential opposition, Cornelisz set about organising the rest to be murdered, including the women and children, starting with the ill and infirm. A few of the women were kept alive, for obvious reasons. This included, not surprisingly, Lucretia van der Mylen whom he took for himself.
Noticing that the group he sent off to Seal Island lived longer than expected (they could see them wandering on the beach) he dispatched his henchmen to get rid of them, which they duly did.
“for obvious reasons”? This phrase appears on the educational state government website. That some women are kept alive for repeated raping, sexual and possibly reproductive slavery, is an “obvious reason” to the author/s of this article.
As a member of the class born female, it is most certainly not obvious to us, that this is our only function and worth. It is bad enough to be written out of history for the most part, to be relegated to the occasional footnote, to have our rape and torture and murders glossed over in a matter-of-fact manner—but the final insult, particularly in a modern-written piece, is the agreement between you academic males and your raping historical brothers, that we have an “obvious reason” for being kept alive. Insulting really does not touch upon how hideous this phrase is, within an academic article. These male academics are writing for other males, with a ‘wink, wink, obvious reasons’.
The sentence’s integrity could have been rescued by:
A few of the women were kept alive, to be repeatedly raped and tormented by the mutineers.
That, dear Sirs, is academic integrity, not “obvious reasons”.
Herstory is peppered with rape, torture, and murder, although infrequently mentioned in ‘history’, and generally as footnotes or minimised.
Related reading, Herstory (a few things that crossed my newsfeed just in the last week or so):
It is important that feminists keep uncovering and writing about Herstory, so that it is not lost, forgotten, or merely footnoted.
If anyone wishes to complain about the misogyny on the Western Australian Museum’s website, feel free to drop a link to this post.