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The Women of Aegina

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Did mythology create Aegina, or did Aegina create the myths?

Either way, myth has it that the island was originally called Oenone. However, enamoured Zeus in the form of an eagle brought the nymph Aegina from afar, holding her in this beak and set her down gently in the glimmering and hospitable place that then took her name. Her arrival was symbolic. She gave birth to King Aiakos and his renowned descendants.

And if the mythological Aegina woman gave birth to demigods and heroes, in modern history every Aeginetan woman has represented a goddess of sorts for the island. As a wife, she anxiously awaited the arrival of her husband from the sea - whether he was a fisherman, traveller or sponge diver - as she served as both mother and father having to raise her children on her own.  Though essentially a sea wife, she became a farmer and a seamstress to support her family. Her education was limited. The few things she learned were from religious books, from which she drew any help and advice she needed to carry on. She was a housekeeper like few others. Her home would smell of basil and whitewash. She worshiped the Virgin Mary and kept a votive candle lit for her. The women in Paleochora, up in the village of Xantos, were extremely devout. When they moved back to the coastal town after 1821 with their children, they helped build the Kapodistrian Orphanage. At this time, young women began to learn the art of embroidery, weaving and bobbin lace-making. Later, the women also worked arduously in sponge processing. Finally, when girls began to get an education, they became teachers and midwives. As the years passed, the women of Aegina continued to pursue their dreams. They were proud of the beauty of Chrysoula Rodi, who was chosen Miss Hellas in 1931, as well as of the fact that famous poet Elytis wrote about Zenovia, the first woman driver on the island. The Aeginetan woman worked and continues to work everywhere. They have become clerks in banks and ministries, doctors, educators in schools and universities, writers, poets, police officers, sea captains and even union organisers in the municipality and elsewhere. With the formation of women's associations and the participation of other cultural groups, the women have sought to continue the traditions learned from their mothers and grandmothers and to share the love of their homeland.

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