On the way into the picturesque towns of Rye and Winchelsea on England’s south coast, there’s a twisting, turning, hair-pin-bend ridden, narrow country road called Dumb Woman’s Lane. It’s a favorite site for tourists and travellers in the area who enjoy taking pictures of themselves with the sign! .
It’s also curious.
Why, in an area known for some of England’s most fabulous women – writers such as Virginia Woolf, Catherine Cookson, Angela Carter even Beatrix Potter spent time here, artists and actors – Dame Ellen Terry, Dame Anna Massey – the list is extraordinary – is there a road with such a demeaning, insulting name?
Or is it?
It’s part of our knee-jerk culture to immediately suppose that the Dumb Woman of the eponymous lane was stupid, ignorant or a fool.
But there are at least two different versions of how the street got its name: one that it used to be a main thoroughfare for smugglers bringing lace, brandy and tobacco from France into England in the 14th through 19th centuries and that one poor, hapless soul saw contraband being hauled up the lane, and her tongue was cut out so she couldn’t tell anyone, or that a woman who was mute used to dispense herbal remedies in the area, and the street became known as “Dumb Woman’s Lane.”
So why choose Dumb Womans Lane as the name for my blog? I am surely a woman, and I am not, nor have I ever been, dumb – in any sense of the word. Yet sadly in many countries women are still considered “dumb” or “chattels” or even worse, domestic slaves, and so for them – and for all women who have no voice – here’s a place where I can spout. I can say the unsayable, write the unrepeatable and generally ROAR as I said in my opening post.
Like Peter Finch said in the movie “Network” so many years back – “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” So watch out politicians, injustices, anyone whom I think deserves calling out for any reason – dumbwomanslane will not go quietly into this good night. This woman is not dumb. No way!