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Mark recently bought Freya the children’s book, Fantastically Great Women Who Made History, written by Kate Pankhurst.
After reading it with her I remember thinking two things ‘yay for Mark’ and ‘I wish there was something like this for adults’.
BEHOLD, Bloody Brilliant Women.
Journalist and presenter Cathy Newman has plugged a gap in the market and I, for one, am incredibly grateful.
I can’t remember learning about any women in my humanities lessons, although I’m sure there were some – it was 30ish years ago and my memory isn’t what it was.
This book goes further, though, not just highlighting already well known women in Britain but “…the pioneers, revolutionaries and geniuses your history teacher forgot to mention”.
It’s a lively book that isn’t just readable but relatable. It’s also funny in places and definitely makes you think. Suggesting the Bayeux Tapestry could be a precursor to the Daily Mail’s ‘side bar of shame’ is just one example.
It reminds me of a book version of the fantastic programmes by Lucy Worsley or Kate Williams which are as engrossing as they are engaging. In fact, I hope it can somehow be made into a tele series. We need it.
Here’s the blurb:
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.
Maybe, because I had been reading Freya’s book, I assumed it would take a similar format; an extended look at one woman at a time. That’s not the case. The eight chapters are on broad themes such as education, women between the wars and a final one bringing things up to the present.
Once I had worked out that I wasn’t just reading a really long introduction, it was fine, possibly even better because it features many, many more bloody brilliant women – although it did require a higher level of concentration than the hour before bed afforded.
As I was reading this book, I felt the might of their power behind me and, as a result, I felt empowered. I definitely think this should be required reading for high school students, of both sexes.
I will be getting a paper copy for Freya’s book shelf because, even if history lessons have improved since my day, I think it will be essential reading when she’s older.
My rating: Four and a half stars.
With thanks to Harper Collins UK/William Collins for the ARC (via NetGalley) in return for an honest review.
After being sent home from school poorly yesterday, I made Freya a snuggly bed on the sofa, gave her the iPad and expected her to rest.
And she did.
For five minutes.
“I think we should go outside and play football, the fresh air will do me good,” she said.
It was a nice try, she’s definitely learning how to push my buttons but, on this occasion, it was a no. I wanted her to be aware that being sent home from school was a serious thing, not just an excuse to play all afternoon.
She definitely wasn’t herself, had a slight temperature and was losing her voice but there was no way she was going to just lie on the sofa, which is what I’d like to do if I was ill, so I went for the middle ground – and got the craft stuff out.
October is Freya’s second favourite month because it has Halloween in it, which she loves even more than Christmas. She suggested we could decorate the house this year but is frightened of all the decorations in the shops (plus I refuse to buy them anyway). Luckily I had some ideas and Pinterest helped with the rest.
Spooky/Autumnal Jam Jars.
You will need:
If you’ve been reading for a while, you will know I have a ‘thing’ for jam jars. I’ve managed to give a few away but keep a stockpile, just in case.
Obviously, as they are glass, this craft might not be suitable for younger children. Freya quite often paints vases and I thought they would make a cool spooky fake candle holder along with a more autumnal one. The plan was to make two but then Freya came up with the idea of making a fox. I was a bit worried it looked more like a pumpkin but either worked.
I asked Freya to write a list of things she associates with Halloween. I then did my best to draw some of them on to masking tape.
While Freya is a dab hand with scissors now, it’s a bit fiddly with sticky tape so I cut the shapes out and handed them to her to stick on.
Paint the jars. Yes, she is wearing a witches hat and using two brushes. Whatever floats your boat, right?
After they have dried, carefully (or not in Freya’s case) peel off the tape. This can be the end but I used a marker pen to define them. I think it works well. If I was feeling really fancy I might put some ribbon around the top to make it look a bit more appealing. It’s quite hard to take photos in the dark but you get the idea.
Top tip: If you use washable paint you can clean the jam jars after a suitable period and reuse them for more painting fun.
Toilet Roll Halloween Decorations.
You will need:
Card and paper.
Double sided tape.
One of the things I ponder quite regularly is how we as a family of three go through so many toilet rolls – I’m seriously thinking of rationing paper.
On the plus side it means I did have a supply in the recycling bin to use for this craft.
Freya is a huge fan of the Hotel Transylvania films and was keen to make the entire cast. We settled on Drac with the promise to make more at a later date. I’m sure you can work out how to do this yourself but just in case…
Roll the toilet roll in card or crepe paper.
Decorate as desired. There a huge selection of things to make on Pinterest (I’ve made a board). I had a look at what craft stuff we had (a severe shortage of black card) and, along with Drac, the cat and pumpkin fit best.
Hang them up. It’s a bit too early for that at the moment but my plan is to hang them around the living room nearer Halloween.
So there you go, that’s how we spent some of Freya’s afternoon off school. Hopefully she will be heading back today, if she’s well enough – otherwise it might be time to start on the Christmas decorations!
A bit random this week but I’ve been loving the autumnal light and couldn’t resist having a bit of a play with the leaves and things Freya and I have collected on our walks to and from school.
To me it seems like the leaves have started changing colour earlier this year, not that I’m complaining.
We are going to plant the acorn and see if it grows.
Hope you’ve had a good week. Don’t forget to click on the camera below to see what other people have submitted for My Sunday Photo.