I was ten years old when I came across Boadicea, and she became the first woman to make me realise that the designated future of a girl born in 1950 - to be sweet, domesticated, undemanding and super feminine - was not necessarily the case. Boadicea battled the Romans. Nancy Astor fought in Parliament. Emmeline Pankhurst campaigned for female suffrage. Elizabeth Garrett Anderson became a pioneering physician in a man's profession. Mary Quant revolutionised the fashion industry. Britain has traditionally been defined by its conflicts, its conquests, its men and its monarchs. It's high time that it was defined by its women. In this unique history, Jenni Murray tells the stories of twenty-one women who refused to succumb to the established laws of society, whose lives embodied hope and change. Famous queens, forgotten visionaries, great artists and trailblazing politicians - all pushed back boundaries and revolutionised our world. In Murray's hands their stories are enthralling and beguiling; they have the power to inspire us once again.
'Murray chooses twenty-one women who changed the world, and tells their remarkable stories with her own extraordinary wit, passion and piercing insight. She is the perfect guide.' -- Helen Castor 'I can't think of any more seductive way of learning about the past than meeting its principals as if they were friends in a room. That's the gift that Jenni Murray gives us; a rare gift because these principals are women. If someone in every country were to write a book like this, scholars might finally admit there are two things - history and the past - and they are not the same.' -- Gloria Steinem 'I was fascinated by this well-researched, informative and entertaining book. I knew the names of many of the women among its pages, but not their stories and it was wonderful to read about them via Jenni Murray's warm and well-written prose. Entertaining, enjoyable and scholarly.' -- Elizabeth Chadwick, bestselling author of the Eleanor of Aquitaine trilogy 'Jenni Murray has invited us to her feast of extraordinary women: queens, artists, writers, musicians, scientists and activists. All are entertaining, all bring their talents to the table where confident Nancy Astor sits beside retiring Gwen John, and Fanny Burney describes her harrowing mastectomy to the pioneering doctor Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. As incomparable host, Jenni lets her guests display themselves lavishly, telling their own noble or quirky stories while she delicately inserts anecdotes from her own distinguished life - her teenage yearning for the 'gender-quaking' look of Mary Quant, her terror at the idea of interviewing the redoubtable Margaret Thatcher. This is no closed event. The book invites us all to come in. It's a feast you won't want to miss!' -- Janet Todd, professor emerita, University of Aberdeen, and author of Death and the Maidens 'A fresh and very timely way of looking at British history, illuminated by Murray's own incomparable experience in the world of women's stories. Her twenty-one vignettes - of well-known and little-known alike - benefit from the blend of warmth and scepticism that has long marked her own contribution to national life.' -- Sarah Gristwood 'A History of Britain in 21 Women is impossible to put down or ignore. The legendary Jenni Murray opens up the lives of great figures living and long dead. The veteran interviewer's voice is present throughout; probing, challenging but never drowning out her well-chosen subjects. The book is dedicated to the young but offers so much to women and men of all ages.' -- Shami Chakrabarti
Jenni Murray is a journalist and broadcaster who has presented BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour since 1987. She is the author of several books, including Memoirs of a Not So Dutiful Daughter. She lives in London and the Peak District.