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Divine Women

Bettany reveals the hidden history of women in religion, from dominatrix goddesses to feisty political operators and warrior empresses.

In this provocative series, Bettany tells the stories of the extraordinary women whose legends and lives cast new light on some of the hottest arguments about the role of women in religion today.

Drawing on cutting edge scholarship and archaeological evidence, she reveals what her favourite women in religion tell us about the lives of the real flesh and blood women of their day.

The series tells the story of the relationship between women and religion from 9000 BC onwards. The female of the species has always formed 50% of the population but has never occupied 50% of human history.

Yet the connection between women and the divine has been so strong in all societies that when we follow the stories of 'divine women' we uncover new evidence for the character of humanity and a fuller, truer history of the world.


1. When God Was A Girl

Programme One looks at the evolution of the goddess in Turkey, Greece, Rome and India.

2. The Handmaids of God

Programme Two investigates the story of the priestess; from the poet Sappho on the island of Lesbos to Vestal Virgins in Rome and the elevated role of women in the early Christian church.

3. The War of the Word

Programme Three explores a missed 'golden age' for women, when historical characters such as the Empress Theodora in Byzantium, Wu Zetien in China (the Empress who called herself Emperor), the early women of Islam and Anglo-Saxon Hilda of Whitby, used the power of ancient traditions and new ideas about religion and philosophy to wield influence in a man's world - notably through the power of reform, education and the word. We look at evidence through the Byzantine Empire, early Islam, in China, Northumbria and Oxford.


5x15 Discussions - Video of Bettany talking about Divine Women

Bettany Hughes Charts Role Of Women In Early Church - Interview with Bettany in the Huffington Post

The Wisdom of Women Written Out of History - Bettany's article in The Guardian

Women and Religion - Article about Divine Women from

Part 1 Review - The Guardian

Jewish Book Week - Bettany speaks to abbi Laura Janner-Klausner about Divine Women in Judaism and the Ancient World


There was widespread media interest and worldwide discussion in the run-up to the broadcast of Divine Women, including news stories and lead comment features in The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Financial Times, The Independent on Sunday, The Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Mail on Sunday, The Irish Independent, The Irish Times, The Times of India, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Brisbane Times, The Bengali Times, The Evening Standard, The Age, andFox News.

Divine Women was the top UK media story for theHuffington Post, and was featured on the US political/talk show The Big Idea, the UK's Woman's Hour the World Service Weekend World, and BBC One's The Big Questions.

Letters were also published in The Times, The Telegraph, The Financial Times, The Sunday Telegraph, and The Radio Times.


Pick of the Day and Week The Times, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph, The Mail, The Mail on Sunday, The Observer, The Independent, The Independent on Sunday, The Guardian, The Express, The Scotsman, The Irish Times, The Irish Independent, The Herald, The Radio Times, The Evening Standard, The Metro


The Telegraph

"Brilliant, cool and likeable - that's a rarity for television"

Katy Guest - The Independant on Sunday

"Really interesting and germane...thoughtful, rigorous, combative."

A. A. Gill

Fascinating series ends too has shone a light on the previously dark but rich history"

John Dugdale - The Sunday TImes

"Turn on the box - you might learn something..."

The Mail on Sunday

"Fascinating, documentary as epic"

The Guardian


fascinating and compelling #divinewomen

@Bettany_Hughes so enjoyed #divinewomen series. Looking forward to your event at the Words in the Park festival

catch up on #Divinewomen facinating!

More marvellous programming from the #bbc #divinewomen with Bettany Hughes. #whatwepaylicencefeefor

Caught up with the fantastic series #divinewomen.

@Bettany_Hughes Loving #divinewomen

@Bettany_Hughes #divinewomen Thank you. Intelligent, accessible-revealing hidden history & power of words in shaping humanity. Tell us more!

Weekly dose of #DivineWomen ! :D

I love this program so much! #divinewomen

@Bettany_Hughes #divinewomen was brilliant, I watched ep 1 and 2 back to back, women's role in religion is such an interesting topic!

Have really enjoyed The BBC series #DivineWomen with@Bettany_Hughes what great new insights into role of women

Another evening, another top quality history doc from the #BBC, this time #Divinewomen, by Bettany Hughes. Marvelous.

#DivineWomen #WuZetian a-m-a-z-i-n-g

episode 3 of #divinewomen - really really interesting. How can people say #history is boring?!

@Bettany_Hughes #DivineWomen totally stirring stuff, very empowering, well done to you and the team who made it! 10/10

#divinewomen on the BBC with @Bettany_Hughes was brilliant - wish the series was longer

Loved #divinewomen in BBC2 looking at role of women in the history of our major world faiths @Bettany_Hughes has made it v accessible.

#DivineWomen #bbc2 was v.interesting indeed - tres bien!

#divinewomen is awesome

Only watched @Bettany_Hughes and BBC2's last episode of#divinewomen - loved it. Will watch again and the others on iPlayer

Just watched an inspirational doc #DivineWomen @ BBC . The focus made on #WomenofIslam and also #Christianity was fascinating.

Just watched #DivineWomen on @BBC1 an amazing and inspirational show! You must watch it - do it on iplayer if u missed it

#divinewomen more please #bbc2

Women brought life, spirituality, and light in the Dark Ages - wonderful series but more episodes needed to explore the#DivineWomen

#divinewomen Loved it :)

Absolutely loved #divinewomen. More please BBC2, and keep on giving us fab female presenters like Bettany Hughes and Mary Beard

#divinewomen so sad it's over. Bettany Hughes for pope!

Really enjoyed #DivineWomen on #BBC2

I heart Bettany Hughes. Such a good historian & great presenter of sometimes intricate topics #DivineWomen

@Bettany_Hughes #DivineWomen - great 3 episodes on BBC2 - pride in achievements of women from history, including Hilda of Whitby.

I could listen to Bettany Hughes talk about history all day.#DivineWomen #Divinewomen is so intresting!!!

Loving #divinewomen on #bbc2 very sad there are only 3 episodes & this is the last one. #divinewomen what an excellent program, really caught me by surprise :-)

Am loving this #divinewomen on beeb2 Thank you to @Bettany_Hughes for bringing these amazing women from history to life in #DivineWomen BBC2

#divinewomen bbc 2 forget the meatballs on bbc1, incredible!

Great that #divinewomen is covering more that the monotheistic faiths

Screw #TheApprentice , I'm watching #DivineWomen on BBC2! Boo Yar!

Yay for #divinewomen Love this series #Divinewomen

Love the locations @Bettany_Hughes takes us to in her documentaries. #DivineWomen #history Love this series

#divinewomen celebrating the female.

3rd & final part of #DivineWomen with Bettany Hughes now on #BBC2- really enjoy it and have learned a lot. Watching the brilliant #divinewomen on #BBC2 now.

Now watching the best series on tv #divinewomen #imho #bbc2 #DivineWomen with @Bettany_Hughes is on now on#BBC2.I think its wrong I'm so excited

Seriously enjoying @Bettany_Hughes' #DivineWomen on BBC I-Player. There are reasons to study religion after all..

Watched first two episodes of @Bettany_Hughes #DivineWomentwice, looking forward to Pt 3 'War of the Words' -will watch whole series again

Can't wait for #DivineWomen tonight! More marvellous @Bettany_Hughes tonight, 9pm, BBC2.#DivineWomen


yo this #divinewomen series is amazing

Gosh, The Voice is noisy. Think i'm gonna watch Bethany Hughes be awesome about the priestesses of antiquity instead.#DivineWomen

Just watched ep.2 of #divinewomen about Priestesses - amazing stuff!

Has anybody seen the #divinewomen program on iplayer yet? Fascinating origins of religion.

ust caught up with #DivineWomen with @Bettany_Hughes. Makes me miss studying. I could be convinced to go for an MA now #ancient#history

Is anyone else loving BBC2 #DivineWomen

#Divinewomen will be a weekly must of mine from now on. Loving the contrasting positions on the historiography, though I'm a feminist so...

After @wmarybeard time to catch up with #DivineWomen by@Bettany_Hughes. Two presenters who personify why the BBC is so brilliant

Just caught up with #divinewomen epp.2 with @Bettany_Hughesfantastic, a must see thank you #bbc2 quality history programme on the #BBC

Another excellent episode of #divinewomen on #bbc2 w@Bettany_Hughes. Last wk she used the word 'fecund', this wk 'concupiscence' #winner

Brilliant programme #divinewomen. Something worth watching at last.

...Just watched #DivineWomen really interesting stuff! The inner nerd in me was really coming out!

#divinewomen fascinating, enlightening, excellent doc. Feel like I nd to watch it again to absorb it all.

#DivineWomen on #bbc2 fabulous to see such a programme on primetime tv

Wish I could write about 5 different dissertations after watching#divinewomen Love it!!

#DivineWomen excellent programme. Bettany Hughes is always very engaging and clear

Thought #divinewomen was incredible.

#DivineWomen such a great and interesting programme - Bettany Hughes is so engaging!

#divinewomen #bbc2 is excellent.

#divinewomen Who needs Dan Brown when there's actual, fact based cover ups of women priests in 200AD? This is acecakes.

Loving Bettany Hughes' #DivineWomen on #BBC2.

Loving #divinewomen

If you aren't watching #divinewomen you're seriously missing out. Make a date with iplayer and learn how women got written out of history

Really interesting stuff about women in Christianity on#DivineWomen. Lots of love for this series

Watching #divinewomen, really interesting documentary

I find intelligent women like @Bettany_Hughes & @Lucy_Worsleyreally compulsive watching.

#divinewomen is bloody interesting. There's catacombs and everything.

#divinewomen cracking stuff

watching another amazing episode of #divinewomen

@Bettany_Hughes over the years has shared fascinating history- tonight's 'Handmaids of God' another enlightening


#divinewomen Bettany Hughes always so watchable. Great series.

The role of women in religion is interesting stuff #divinewomen

Thoroughly enjoying #divinewomen on #BBC2 such an interesting programme

Enjoying #divinewomen

should be studying but #divinewomen is just too good.

Digging #DivineWomen on #BBC2 - and learning.

#divinewomen ditto, I love it too

#divinewomen. Just divine

#divinewomen is going by far to quick. The beeb are rocking history. I love it

Watching my fav prog all week #divinewomen.

Watching #divinewomen it's about time we had a decent programme like this

Time for some more Classics-based television viewing - tonight#DivineWomen. BBC2 doing a great job this week!

Watching #DivineWomen on BBC 2 =3 It's very interesting, particularly when you write stories about goddesses like these

Watching #DivineWomen. I just #Love learning more about the history!

Sat ready to watch #DivineWomen - goddess worship and the role of women in religion. So interesting :-) BBC2 right now!

I've been excited about #divinewomen all day

Watching 1st episode of #DivineWomen again. Love that religion has given birth to society.

caught up with #divinewomen today, also thought it fascinating and looking forward to pt 2 tonight

#divinewomen on tonight BBC2 at 9. Hope it's as good as last week's!

@Bettany_Hughes I've been looking forward to it all week!#DivineWomen

Don't miss @BBC4's #DivineWomen. First episode was fascinating.


Loving Bethany Hughes's #DivineWomen. Really interesting and thought provoking.

...Brilliant, fascinating, timely, powerful documentary!

The @BBC show #DivineWomen was beautifully shot & filled w/ great info.

Watching #divinewomen absolutely fascinating insight into women deities across the globe

Whatever your views on religion, "When Gods Were Girls" with@Bettany_Hughes is fascinating

stuff #divinewomen

Everyone should watch @bbc's #DivineWomen w/@Bettany_Hughes. Fabulous show that fills my pagan, warrior-queen heart with pride! :)

I'm watching #divinewomen on #iplayer and loving it

It was a cracking programme, I thought. Expertly presented by @Bettany_Hughes #divinewomen

Caught up with #divinewomen tonight. Loved hearing about sites/places I've been to and read about and new theories behind them. Fascinating.

Loved 1st part of @Bettany_Hughes new series #DivineWomen. Anyone who uses the word 'fecund' is a winner for me.

Caught up with #DivineWomen fascinating & revealing. Also, welcome news that its a series not just a one off!

Great to see #Catalhoyuk and Shahina on #DivineWomen on the#BBC last night. Really interesting programme: 'When women were Gods'..

#DivineWomen Really enjoyed this last night Bethany Hughes is a really good presenter-intelligent, and unobtrusive, when need be.

If you missed #divinewomen on BBC2 yesterday watch it on iplayer. Fascinating history of goddess worship

Loved #DivineWomen last night with @Bettany_Hughes.

If anyone didn't see #divinewomen on BBC2 watch it on iplayer! Fascinating and illuminating history of goddess worship.@bettany_hughes

If you missed #DivineWomen last night, read the @HuffPostUKinterview with

Yes! Bettany Hughes #DivineWomen

I really enjoyed @Bettany_Hughes presenting #DivineWomen, a bit of a chocolate box of ancient goddess worship. Feminist theology, please!?

#DivineWomen was too good! I swear all i watch nowadays are Documentaries and Eastenders...

That was ace, I love Bettany Hughes! #divinewomen

@Bettany_Hughes proves that the archaeology and history of religion is such dangerous territory. #divinewomen

@Bettany_Hughes loved #divinewomen Looking forward to next episode.

Loving #divinewomen on BBC. I want to be Bettany Hughes.

Yet another fascinating programme from @Bettany_Hughes tonight#DivineWomen - Really enjoyed it!

#DivineWomen @bettany_Hughes Excellent programme. Seriously impressed with your translating Ancient Greek direct to camera. Sphynx next?

@bettany_hughes Great stuff with #DivineWomen - really enjoyed it. Thx

#DivineWomen Fascinating programme! Why didn't we have programmes like that when we were at college? Well worth a watch

Enjoyed Bettany Hughes's prog on BBC2. Like the thought of Cybele beneath St Peter's Basilica, waiting to rise up suddenly.#divinewomen

Excellent piece from @Bettany_Hughes on how women have been written out of history

Loved #divinewomen #bbc2 - great alternative view to the traditional passive ideal of woman.

@Bettany_Hughes It was great - fascinating and exhilirating! Looking forward to the rest of it. #divinewomen

#divinewomen by @Bettany_Hughes was brilliant! Her documentaries are always so fascinating :)

"Real women have always danced with life and death" #divinewomen#bbctwo was rather good!

Watched #DivineWomen ... the presenter is #divine

@Bettany_Hughes just watched your #DivineWomen programme - absolutely fabulous - roll on next episode

Really well put together. Quite impressed with the narrator's enthusiasm for her subject. #DivineWomen

#divinewomen on BBC 2 now is fascinating and exhilirating. Bettany Hughes traces the history of women in religion.#whengodwasagirl

#divinewomen is fantastic Telly, where on earth has that almost hour gone?? Kali is one kinda kick ass lady

Kali and Derga - the epitome of female multi-tasking. Too awesome for words #divinewomen

So interested by #divinewomen on BBC2

Are you really all watching #TheApprentice? For goodness sake, you're missing the excellent #DivineWomen on BBC2. *shakes head sadly*

Divine doc on #divinewomen with @Bettany_Hughes #bbc2 #women#godesses

Bettany Hughes is to history programs what Nigella was to celebrity cooking #divinewomen

Really fascinating - #DivineWomen on BBC2 with @Bettany_Hughes

Cracking program on @bbc2 #divinewomen.

I seem to be the only person in my Twitter feed who isn't watching#theapprentice. #divinewomen on BBC3 is bloomin' brilliant, people!

Watching Bettany Hughes' documentary on #DivineWomen - very insightful (#totalgeek )

Self castration, Roman drag queens, Mother Goddesses... Why would you watch The Apprentice instead? #divinewomen

Loving #divinewomen

#divinewomen enjoying it immensely. Best thing on all week.

Oh! Bettany Hughes! I like her, she's good #divinewomen #bbc

Going to find some people who are opting for the best piece of tv tonight - no I don't mean #apprentice its #divinewomen

Loving Bettany Hughes on #divinewomen on BBC2 @ the moment. All Hail the Mother Goddess! Or something.

Depictions of women at centre of 1st temples - amazing or what!#divinewomen

Almost delicious irony to have #DivineWomen on #BBC2 at the same time as #apprentice on #BBC1 - Sublime feminist history v. macho posturing

Bettany Hughes imparts fascinating knowledge in #DivineWomen on#BBC2 now.

Good old Bethany Hughes. #DivineWomen

Glad to see more professional female TV trailblazers. Along with Dr Alice Roberts we have Bettany Hughes#DivineWomen. Great role models.

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