Divine Women: Episode three – War of the Worlds (BBC2; 25 April; 9pm)

Award-winning historian Bettany Hughes discovers how the period known as the Dark Ages was in fact a golden age for a few remarkable women. She finds that education and the written word became vital tools for these women.

First, she looks at Theodora, a prostitute who became an empress, who allied herself with Mary the Mother of God to rule over a great Christian empire. Then she looks at the legacy of the wives of the prophet Muhammad, including Khadija, the first convert to Islam and Aisha, whose words are still read by over two billion men and women today. Bettany also discovers the story of Wu Zetien – a courtesan who harnessed the power of a philosophy, Buddhism, to become the only woman to rule China as emperor.

Finally, Bettany explores the history of St. Hilda, a great educator and wise woman, who presided over the crucial conference, the Synod of Whitby, which decided when Christians in Britain celebrated Easter, and cemented the islands’ links with Rome and Europe.

Bettany Hughes concludes that these extraordinary women across the globe used their courage, charisma and sheer brainpower to put the female of the species back in the heart of religion. Their incredible achievements still shape our lives today.

Find out more about the series and other episodes in our OpenLearn main series page.

If you want to comment, visit our Discussion Hub.

Available on iPlayer:
Episode One: When God was a girl
Episode Two: Handmaids of the Gods

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