Jan Gordon on Albania, in The New Witness, January 1916

The Sunderland Daily Echo and Shipping Gazette, Tyne and Wear, England, reported the following on Saturday 8th January 1916:

"Day is day in Albania, and the night is night. Sunrise is the time to commence work, and sunset the time to drop tools and eat, so in the summer, four hours only for sleep, and in the winter, fourteen, says Mr Jan Gordon in "The New Witness."

Every village has its own costume, and in every village each religion is marked by its particular colours, married and single women dress differently from one another, and a maiden may, if she will, swear eternal virginity and enjoy the same privileges as a man, wear his costume, and even eat at his table instead of living upon the scraps which he has left, but - if she fell from virtue her punishment is death."

He wrote about this phenomenon of the sworn virgin in the much later (1927) book "Two Vagabonds in Albania." In that book, the Gordons observed that at one point in the mountains beyond Boga ".. a lad had occupied a stool near the fire and at once fell into conversation with the women", which was surprising given that they "had seen no man who considered it worth his while to exchange any unnecessary words with the womenfolk." .. Nikola explained, "That girl .. has vowed never to marry, so she dresses like a man and does man's work." Young & Twigg (2009) write, "In traditional patriarchal society in the southern Balkans, there has long been an option to provide male heirs where none exist: a girl or woman may herself, or her parents - even at birth - declare that she has become male. In these cases the female thenceforth dresses as a boy/man, performs male tasks and mixes socially as a male. With the change she swears virginity and may never revert to her birth gender."

"Lounging round the hot, leaping fire" at Sadri Luka's, in "Two Vagabonds in Albania."


Popular posts from this blog

Jan and Cora Gordon and the Balkan Hat: Getting Published in World War I

Jan Gordon's WW1 Dazzle design for H.M.S. Southampton

Jan and Cora Gordon in Albania