In my post about my resolutions for 2018, I talked about my aim to read more non-fiction books this year. That is why I chose to make A History of Britain in 21 Women my first read of the year!
Jenni Murray is a journalist, probably best known for her work on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. As a feminist, she has been inspired by a number of historical women along the way and wished to inspire more women by making their stories better known. The book spans a large amount of time from Boudicca to Nicola Sturgeon and covers queens, scientists, writers, politicians and more. It includes biographical accounts of the women, as well anecdotes from Murray herself – such as the times she has met Margaret Thatcher, and the fascination she had about Queen Elizabeth I when she was a child.
I will admit that before reading this book, I had not heard of some of the women who have made such important impacts on today’s society. I realised I was more aware of the militant suffragettes than the suffragists who preferred lobbying and debate (although both are arguably just as important in getting the rights for women that we have today). Even with the women I did know about, like Mary Wollstonecraft (author of a Vindication of the Rights of Woman), I was still unaware of their back story and how that shaped them and their legacies. As someone who is interested in history and feminism, this was the perfect book to expand my knowledge of where these two fields join.
This book has inspired me to want to learn even more about some of these women and the issues that surrounded them. For example, after reading about MP Constance Markievicz who was imprisoned for campaigning for Irish independence, I realised I would like to know more about that as a political event. Being English makes it easy to miss the important history of the other nations in the UK, or its past.
Overall, I think this book is a wonderful mix of historical accounts and Murray’s passion, and is perfect for anyone wanting to learn more about the women who have shaped the country we live in today.