Sunday 4 October 2020

A History of the World in 21 Women


This was a really interesting read. Written by Jenni Murray, former presenter of Woman's Hour, which she left this year

The history of the world is the history of great women.

Marie Curie discovered radium and revolutionised medical science. Empress Cixi transformed China. Frida Kahlo turned an unflinching eye on life and death. Anna Politkovskaya dared to speak truth to power, no matter the cost. Their names should be shouted from the rooftops.

And that is exactly what Jenni Murray is here to do. 

She also wrote A History of Britain in 21 Women.

It was a really interesting read and went by so fast it felt like there should have been a lot more. Everyone from Madonna to Benazir Bhutto. 

I especially enjoyed the people I hadn't heard about before, such as composer Clara Schumann and artist Artemisia Gentileschi, who was recently reviewed by Will Gompertz. She laments that hundreds of talented women were pressured into believing that composing was simply not a job for a woman, even though Hildegard of Bingen is one of the earliest composers we know of. It made me think about Enheduanna and Murasaki Shikibu, possibly the earliets author and novelist respectively, even though 'author' derived from the word 'father' and eventually women were shunted out of the way and expected to publish under male names if they wanted to get anywhere. Even today, you're apparently more likely to get a book deal as a man.

Interesting stuff, and I like that Murray chooses a few women who perhaps had some questionable morals and dubious interests, quoting Margaret Atwood that 'women don't have to be gooder.'

An all-round excellent read.

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