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A History of Britain in 21 Women

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  1,279 ratings  ·  184 reviews
Britain has been defined by its conflicts, its conquests, its men, and its monarchs. To say that it’s high time that it was defined by its women falls some way short of an understatement.

Jenni Murray draws together the lives 21 women to shed light upon a variety of social, political, religious and cultural aspects of British history. In lively prose Murray reinvigorates th
Hardcover, 277 pages
Published November 8th 2016 by Oneworld Publications
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I seem to be reading a lot of feminist texts at the moment, but they’ve all been so good and empowering and, most importantly, inspirational. This was no exception. Easy to dip in and out of, it charts a personal look at 21 great women in British history. The author states at the beginning that this is very much a selective and individual take on what it is to be an inspiring woman in British history. There are some rather controversial picks (Margaret Thatcher stands out as probably the most po ...more
Katheryn Thompson
“The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” Or so Thomas Carlyle claimed.

Jenni Murray, a journalist and broadcaster who has presented BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour since 1987, provides an alternative history, in A History of Britain in 21 Women, through short, fascinating, and humorous biographies on twenty-one women who have made Britain what it is today: Great.

While the selection of women was never going to please everyone, Murray makes it clear from the start that her choices w
BAM The Bibliomaniac
What a topical book! This is a must-have for high school girls in doubt, women interested in women's history, feminists. I wish I had a hard copy so I could go through the women with you, but there is mention of nurses and doctors, a composer, legislators, a designer, suffragettes, a warrior and a queen. This is not your typical discussion.
DNF AT 45%

I just don’t care anymore :/

Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
A really great book that looks at 21 women who have changed history for the female sex. There are a wide range of women from ones we all know, such as Elizabeth I, Margaret Thatcher and Emmeline Pankhurst, to ones I've ashamedly never heard of but I have come to wholeheartedly respect such as Fanny Burney (author and firsr woman to document a successful mastectomy without pain relief), Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (first female doctor) and Aphra Behn (who I knew as a playwright but not as a spy!). ...more
Mar 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Not only very interesting short biographies of the 21 women, but also a good reminder to appreciate the freedoms women now enjoy which shouldn't be taken for granted.
Rachel Ruddick
Mar 02, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: politics, biography
I had read Mary beards SPQR recently and was hoping for a history book that was equally rich and satisfying. This book is not that kind of book. It reads like a cross between a set of Wikipedia pages and a set of personal remarks that are mostly just fandom and admiration. Its only contribution is the authors own encounters with some of these people, such as Thatcher. It's feminist intention is admirable. However this is not a real history book.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it did not like it
some thoughts:

(1) shame the author's a terf huh...

(2) it was interesting in a way, because about half of these women are ones i've never heard of so that was cool, but then later on it went with some really boring choices (important women, yes, but boring choices) and yeah

(3) it's really interesting how murray didn't include marie stopes because of her interest in eugenics but included both millicent fawcett who was a staunch imperialist and classist, and maggie thatcher who was homophobic so!

This book is very hard for me to rate. I started by enjoying it immensely. I did not (do not) mind what some of the reviewers see as the arbitrariness of the author's choice of historical figures. Her book, her choice. I certainly never heard of some of the women before I found this book, and I am glad I finally have. As I said in one of my status' updates - we do owe a lot to the 19th/early 20th century feminists. A lot we nowadays take for granted. However, what has spoilt the whole experience ...more
Jan 02, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It is worth pointing out, author Jenni Murray is clear, that this is a very personal selection. I think if you asked any group of people who would make their list they would all look very different. I fully admit I raised an eye brow at the inclusion of one or two and wondered at the exclusion of others. In reality, the book is twenty-one chapters of short biographies, there is very little from one chapter that feeds into another. Still, it does provide some fascinating information, the stories ...more
Mary Arkless
This was a very personal choice of which women to include by the author. Every single one was a very strong person, every one promoted women in some way. Personally, I wouldn't have included Nicola Sturgeon, but I can't stand the woman. I am sure many wouldn't put in Margaret Thatcher. Murray admits that that woman's name wouldn't even be mentioned in the circles where Murray grew up (her family were miners). There is a lot to be learnt in this book. Some of these women were authors, and I will ...more
J.A. Ironside
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Ok so this was history lite, but then it was never intended to be anything else and it's delivered in a very enjoyable and engaging way. A while back I read Cailyn Moran's 'How to be a Woman'. While shd is very funny and astute as well as savvy with gender politics, she made a comment that struck me with unease: that there is no proper canon of women scientists, entrepreneurs, inventors, artists, musicians, leaders and politicians. For about 5 mins I was horribly afraid she was right. Women thro ...more
Lauren James
A feminist look at women from Boudiccia to the suffragettes, this is a nice little non-fiction collection of biographies. There's a few women I hadn't heard of that I want to learn more about.
David Swanson
This is the sort of Audible book I really enjoy because it delves into the stories of individuals in history who made a difference. Unfortunately, the delivery of these stories is dull so I regard the content as 4* but the delivery as 2* resulting in a blended 3*
Feb 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism, non-fiction
A very informative and interesting read! I find myself attracted to these kinds of books when I'm in the mood for some not too heavy non fiction (like Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History), and I enjoyed this one.

I guess this is essentially a collection of 10ish page long biographies, and is better suited to reading in short bursts. That said, it never gets boring, and the vast majority of these women were fascinating characters who I had never heard of be
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adulthood
Such a great concept!

It really felt like a journey through time, progressing from the story of a warrior to playwrights and artists and more, with much focus on the suffrage movement and politics later on.

I really enjoyed hearing the stories of these women, though my eyes glazed over more in the latter half of the book, as there were a lot of names being shared (spouses, acquaintances etc) that I probably instantly forgot.

I would have liked to hear more analysis about their influence and less o
An interesting listen, including some women I'd never heard of before. Delightfully narrated (you can hear the joy in Jenni Murray's voice when talking about the women who have most inspired her). I would have preferred more time spent on the women's achievements and accomplishments than background on their parents, siblings, husbands and children. I appreciate that context is important and in some cases the histories wouldn't make sense without them, but it became formulaic and I started diseng ...more
Henry Tegner
Jul 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found A History of Britain in 21 Women by Jenni Murray an interesting read and well written. At the outset I would say though that I feel a little uneasy writing about a feminist author writing about feminist issues from the perspective of a man and this is perhaps because, as a man, I am inevitable marginalised to a greater or lesser degree from its content. My copies of the book are in two forms – and electronic script version downloaded on to my Kindle, and similarly downloaded the Audible ...more
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: feminism
This is a book about 21 inspiring women in Britain who had a big effect on society and Jenni Murray.

There were quite a few women I had heard of but I found out new information about them and learned about some others too. Jenni Murray gives you enough background about each of them without turning it in to a history book and also share some quirky facts and how they influenced her.

A book everyone should read. It makes you feel how powerful we all are.
Dec 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It was such a good book ! I learn so much about the evolution of the status of women in UK throughout history. It's crazy how long it takes for us to do things that can change the world. I can not recommend that book enough to every women.
Jun 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Even though I was the right audience and pre destined to like this book, it was different from what I expected. More knowledgeable, more comprehensive, more feminist, and more relevant.
Tabatha Rose
Sep 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Wonderful to see a book which doesn't concentrate on the obvious. Best has to be the focus on Mary Seacole instead of the hugely overrated Florence Nightingale. Easy to read and very interesting
Oct 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Everyone should read this book, and everyone needs to!!!
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
cried reading the epilogue, so beautiful
K Dickenson
Feb 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Every woman (and man) needs to read this book
Mar 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Highly entertaining look at 21 of the most influential women in British history.

Wonderful way to make myself acquainted with the women of my newly adopted country.

I enjoyed it so much that I purposefully would only read one woman at a time - give or take a few - so that I could stretch out my enjoyment of it.
Nicoleta Fedorca
I like her selection of women and the explanation for some of her choices. She chose from all the tiers of the society. I would recommend the book it's easy to read and entertaining.
Jan 24, 2018 rated it really liked it
very educational and interesting, the things the author chose to include at some parts were a bit questionable and all in all i really enjoyed learning more about these extraordinary women
Dec 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Each chapter covered the brief biography of one of Britain's influential women. Some such as Ada Lovelace are well known and others are being rehabilitated and rediscovered now. It is a good primer and an easy read. Would recommend for young adults.
May 07, 2018 rated it liked it
Interesting, but at times it felt like a checklist of facts - when they were born, who they married, the year they died. A fantastic collection of women but not the most exciting read.
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