No woman ever changed the world by being nice. When we look back at history, it’s the women who were outspoken, disobedient and downright difficult whom we have to thank for the feminist victories that have been won.
But according to Helen Lewis, too many pioneers of women’s rights have been whitewashed or forgotten because society likes its heroines to be cuddly and safe. She believes it’s time to reclaim the history of feminism as a history of difficult women fighting. Many of these fights, she will explain, were won by complex figures such as the working-class suffragette Annie Kenney, who was written out of the suffragette story by its louder, more privileged members; or Erin Pizzey, the pioneer of the women’s refuge movement, who fell out with the feminist movement and ended up an activist for men’s rights; or Princess Marie Bonaparte, who conducted pioneering research into the female anatomy in order to understand why so many women were having bad sex.
Taking the story up to the present with the twenty-first-century campaign for abortion services, Helen Lewis reveals the unvarnished – and unfinished – history of women’s rights. Drawing on archival research and interviews,Helen Lewis offers a funny, fearless and sometimes shocking narrative history, which shows why the feminist movement has succeeded – and what it should do next. These veterans of the struggle achieved so much but there is still much more to be done.