A History of Britain in 21 Women: A Personal Selection

Written by Jenni Murray
Review by Sarah Cuthbertson

Dame Jenni Murray, writer and doyenne of BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, here offers brief but highly illuminating biographies of 21 determined, pioneering women whose enthralling lives and courageous struggles inspired her as a girl growing up in a man’s world. Besides the more famous Boadicea, Elizabeth I, Jane Austen, Emmeline Pankhurst, Margaret Thatcher and Mary Quant, we also learn about Mary Seacole, a black nurse contemporaneous with Florence Nightingale, Constance Markievicz, campaigner for Irish freedom, and about scientists, mathematicians and physicians (Caroline Herschel, Mary Somerville, Ada Lovelace, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson), writers (Aphra Behn, Fanny Burney), campaigners for women’s rights (Mary Wollstonecraft, Millicent Garrett Fawcett), artists and composers (Gwen John, Ethel Smyth) and politicians (Nancy Astor, Barbara Castle, Nicola Sturgeon).

If I won the lottery, I’d give a copy of this inspirational book to every teenager in the country, including boys, because they need to know, too.