A fresh, opinionated history of all the brilliant women you should have learned about in school but didn’t.
In this freewheeling, feminist history of modern Britain, Channel 4 journalist Cathy Newman explores the motivations of the women who played a crucial role in the dramatic transformations that took place in British women’s lives from the mid-nineteenth century onward.
While a few of them are now household names, many more have faded into oblivion. We know of Emmeline Pankhurst, Vera Brittain, Marie Stopes and Beatrice Webb, but who, outside of academic circles, remembers engineer and chain-smoking motorbike racer Beatrice Shilling, whose device for the Spitfires’ Rolls-Royce Merlin engines made the RAF’s planes as performant as the Luftwaffe’s? Or Dorothy Lawrence, the journalist who achieved her ambition to become a First World War correspondent by pretending to be a man? And the developmental biologist Anne McLaren, whose work in genetics paved the way for in vitro fertilisation?
Bloody Brilliant Women is an engaging, chatty book that seeks to restore these pioneering women to their place in British history. Blending meticulous research with information gleaned from memoirs, diaries, letters, novels and other secondary sources, it tells the story of the first and second waves of feminism, a story shaped by the vagaries of class, money and the century’s momentous events, and which could not have happened without the stepping stones laid by the Mary Wollstonecrafts, Mary Carpenters and Octavia Hills of previous centuries.
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