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On This Day She… puts women back into history, one day at a time.
This book comprises short pieces about 365 women who have made history but are not necessarily in the history books. It is an inspiring collection that shines a light on incredible women who were never given the acknowledgement they deserved. Ailsa, Jo and Tania will read from the book and discuss how it came about and why it is needed.
I am fairly absent on Twitter (I originally got the account to communicate at an Eddie Izzard gig), and so I had missed the movement of this project completely, in fact the first I heard of the book was a couple of weeks ago when I dipped into Facebook and saw a link to extra tickets. It’s great that they needed extra places to be allocated. It shows the commitment and interest into women in history. Follow @onthisdayshe on Twitter.
I knew this hour would be a real treat and I was not disappointed. Each author chose a selection of women to read to us. Tania Hershman started the conversation, talked about positive priming and gave us an overview of the book layout. A woman a day (as suggested by the blurb citing 365 women), the entries are linked to a specific date/ or time that was important to the featured woman. There are short introductory articles at the beginning of each month and the hope that you will research further any woman you are particularly drawn to.
What surprised (and delighted me) was the serial killer and the conversation around including all sorts of women – not just the inspirational ones, ‘women not as muse. We are human, complete with flaws’. They believe it is important to represent women, including the bad ones (it isn’t just bad men in history). Being a Science Journalist (in a former life) Tania shared some of the Scientists.
Ailsa Holland talked about a Joanna Russ book ‘How to suppress Women’s Writing’, which she first read at University. This led to a whole chat conversation and one on screen between Holland, Hershman and Bell about the writing of History.
Women being left out of Literary History and history itself. History traditionally written by the victors, reflecting on people like themselves and was written by those with the time (and finances) to research and write it. Not those ‘too busy staying alive’. We often read history and take it as fact, but it is a story created and constructed like any other. ‘Defined as much by what is left out than what is put in’. History shapes our knowledge of the past and expectations of the future.
Jo Bell (an archaeologist in her former life,) went on to talk to us about more inspirational women from the book. Some of the women started their journeys to greatness when they were older (65) and I particularly enjoyed hearing about the first female cellist. And the first woman she picked, Poly Styrene (Marianne Joan Elliott-Said), celebrating the foul mouthed and unruly haired women!
Also the spy in the 1640s, her mission to save the King failed despite smuggling gold into Oxford in barrels of soap. The failing was due to His Majesty not measuring the window properly! It is important to celebrate the failures too, the unsuccessful activists of history. So much about life is down to luck, or measuring twice!
I also enjoyed hearing about Margaret Harrison and her act of anti-nuclear protest. Which led to a conversation about acts of protest, organising peaceful opposition. These are often movements led by women, the unsung heroes.
“It’s so important for busting the myth that women didn’t do anything for centuries – women have always been doing!” – Attendee.
The Q & A was great, a real insight to how the project became a book and how many astronomers they had to cut from the manuscript! It started as a Twitter account, as a social media project. They talked of how many extensions this project could offer, for them as well as the reader of their work. Aisla had received a calendar of people in history and there was a severe lack of women which was the impetus for the Twitter account.
They all appeared in their Venus of Willendorf t-shirts (RedBubble), shown off several times during the launch and Jo Bell declared people who bought this book (or perhaps more than one copy) were to be known as Willendorfs. And aware of tired zoomers they packed it all into and hour thus avoiding zoom fatigue. AND there was a quiz! I am rarely lucky with raffles and prizes and this evening proved no different but it was fun (made funnier by people offering male artist names as answers on a quiz about a book of women) and I was delighted I knew 2 of the 3 answers. The prize was a copy of this book – which you can get here:
Listen to an Audio sample https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8ElhjunADo there will be an Audio Book available soon.
On This Day She : Putting Women Back Into History, One Day At A Time
Publisher: John Blake Publishing Ltd
Published: February 18, 2021
Country of Publication: UK
The tried and tested ‘On This Day in History’ format has elevated the stories of many people and their impact on the wider world. However, of those considered noteworthy by the Establishment, just a fraction are women. But this is not the whole story – not by half. Our past is full of influential women, many of whom have been unfairly confined to the margins of history. Politicians, troublemakers, explorers, artists, writers, scientists and even the odd murderer; these women have shaped society around the globe. From Beyonce to Doria Shafik, Queen Elizabeth I to Lillian Bilocca, On This Day She sets out to redress this imbalance and give voice to both those already deemed female icons, alongside others whom the history books have failed to include: the good, the bad and everything in between – this is a record of human existence at its most authentic.