The Secret History of Weeds is an outstanding look into the untold history of women dating back to our early history. Author Julia Hughes Jones was inspired to research and write “Weeds” by the misogynist ideas of Martin Luther, who in 1533 wrote that “Girls begin to talk and to stand on their feet sooner than boys because weeds always grow up more quickly than good crops.”
Jones who served five terms as Arkansas State Auditor was the first woman elected to statewide office and since 1982 has been a professional public speaker focused on politics, leadership, and issues concerning women. In The Secret History of Weeds, Jones tells the stories of women throughout history that have made great achievements but were left out or marginalized by historians.
In one example Jones credits the influx of women journalists during the 1970s for altering the definition of acceptable behavior for politicians who began to be “scrutinized through an integrity lens.” They helped remove the unspoken rules that allowed men to carouse at night with an expectation that it would not be reported.
In another chapter Jones tells the stories of Louise Arner Boyd, Annie Smith Peck, and Ida Pfeiffer who made discoveries and left legacies that often go untold. Catalina de Erauso for example, escaped a convent, trained a swordsman, and enlisted in the Spanish Army which led her on adventures through South America. Jones notes that considering Spanish “laws inflicted a death penalty on anyone who dressed as the opposite sex” there is no telling how many other women took similar risks that contributed to history.
Jones’ detailing of the historical importance of women in medicine is of great relevance today. Today the medical industry spends countless dollars dismissing the holistic and natural medicine community, often through excessive regulation. Jones draws comparisons to the collaboration between the early church and all male academic institutions for demonizing wise women who had been regarded for millennia as healers.
The book tells so many great stories and Jones does a wonderful job of keeping the reader engaged.