Bloody Brilliant Women
The pioneers, Revolutionaries & Geniuses Your History Teacher Forgot to Mention
by Cathy Newman
Pub Date 04 Oct 2018
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A fresh, opinionated history of all the brilliant women you should have learned about in school but didn’t.
In this freewheeling history of modern Britain, Cathy Newman writes about the pioneering women who defied the odds to make careers for themselves and alter the course of modern history; women who achieved what they achieved while dismantling hostile, entrenched views about their place in society.
Their role in transforming Britain is fundamental, far greater than has generally been acknowledged, and not just in the arts or education but in fields like medicine, politics, law, engineering and the military.
While a few of the women in this book are now household names, many have faded into oblivion, their personal and collective achievements mere footnotes in history. We know of Emmeline Pankhurst, Vera Brittain, Marie Stopes and Beatrice Webb. But who remembers engineer and motorbike racer Beatrice Shilling, whose ingenious device for the Spitfires’ Rolls-Royce Merlin fixed an often-fatal flaw, allowing the RAF’s planes to beat the German in the Battle of Britain? Or Dorothy Lawrence, the journalist who achieved her ambition to become a WW1 correspondent by pretending to be a man? And developmental biologist Anne McLaren, whose work in genetics paved the way for in vitro fertilisation?
Were it not for women, significant features of modern Britain like council housing, municipal swimming pools and humane laws relating to property ownership, child custody and divorce wouldn’t exist in quite the same way. Women’s drive and talent for utopian thinking created new social and legislative agendas. The women in these pages blazed a trail from the 1918 Representation of the People Act – which allowed some women to vote – through to Margaret Thatcher’s ousting from Downing Street.
Blending meticulous research with information gleaned from memoirs, diaries, letters, novels and other secondary sources, Bloody Brilliant Women uses the stories of some extraordinary lives to tell the tale of 20th and 21st century Britain. It is a history for women and men. A history for our times.
‘A litany of fresh heroes to make the embattled heart sing’
Caitlin Moran, journalist at The Times and author of How to Build a Girl
‘In this exhilarating book, women in their hundreds emerge from obscurity, reinforcing what we always suspected: women have been active, resourceful, inventive and inspiring throughout history. This is a golden book, setting out the record of women’s achievements so they can never be challenged again.’
Joan Bakewell, author of The Centre of the Bed
‘For far too long, women’s achievements have been airbrushed out of history. In this groundbreaking book, the first of its kind, Cathy Newman has done a bloody brilliant job of painting them back in bright, vivid colours. She has repaid the debt due by all of us to women pioneers of the past and created a treasure trove of inspiration for women of today and tomorrow. I just wish this book had been written when I was growing up.’
Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland
‘Powerful, poignant and often provoking – this book shines a light on the contribution of women of all ages, ethnicities, faiths and backgrounds who have helped to make our city and country so great. Cathy Newman narrates the stories of women who have helped shape the world in which we live today, by challenging gender stereotypes, smashing glass ceilings and blazing a trail for the next generation to follow. Eloquently written and hugely enjoyable to read.’
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
‘Brilliant, enlightening, and a powerful reminder of the extraordinary and sustained courage of the women who fought against overwhelming odds for equality of opportunity, for rights and respect. This book is so important. No library, no school or university, should be without a copy.’
Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse
‘Bloody Brilliant Women is right up there on the reading list for my granddaughter – it’s all the women I never knew about when I was growing up! Cathy Newman (herself a bloody brilliant woman broadcaster) reveals the pioneering women in every walk of life that history overlooked.’
Harriet Harman, Labour MP
‘Cathy has done a great service to women and girls by telling so many amazing stories and by doing so has shown what a bloody brilliant woman she is.’
Martha Lane Fox
‘Thank you Cathy Newman for inspiring a new generation of heroines, by shining a spotlight on their heritage.’
‘Every man should want more bloody brilliant women in their lives, especially after reading this bloody brilliant book about so many wonderfully courageous, innovative, determined and inspiring examples of the genre. I'm in awe of them all.’