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My Month in Books July 2021

My reading highlights this month are a look back at Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp in Greenham Common:Women at the Wire , and fantastic adventures in thirteenth-century China in Jin Yong's A Hero Born .  Gr eenham Common: Women at the Wire , Barbara Harford and Sarah Hopkins, eds (London: The Women’s Press, 1984) “This book is dedicated to all our oppressors. Your time is up!” This year is the fortieth anniversary of the setting up of Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, so this month I read Greenham Common: Women at the Wire . The camp was started in September 1981 by Women for Life on Earth, a Welsh group who had walked to Greenham from Cardiff to protest about the siting of Cruise missiles on the airbase. Thirty six women, four men and a few children set off, and by the time they arrived four more people had joined them. A few days and protests later they decided to make their presence at the base permanent.  In February 1982 the peace camp became a women-only sp
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No Surrender: Constance Maud and the Suffragette Novel

Constance Maud’s 1911 suffragette novel No Surrender tells the story of a group of suffragettes, particularly Jenny Clegg, Lancashire mill girl, and aristocratic Mary O’Neill. It’s unashamedly a propaganda novel, but that’s not to say it isn’t a fascinating read. Maud has a wonderful ability to move between varied scenes: cotton mills, the gardens of a country house, a London dinner party, a prison cell. If you’re looking for an insight to what it was like to be a suffragette as well as an enjoyable read, this is it. Indeed, it is the book’s ability to tell it like it was that makes it so compelling. It is, as the blurb notes, “faithful to real events”. But is it? Or should it, like any propaganda, be approached with caution? Mrs Humphrey Ward, president of the Women's Anti-Suffrage League, also wrote novels about the suffragettes.  Are Maud’s “noble” and “unswerving” suffragettes as much products of the idealist’s imagination as Mrs Ward’s unhinged militant, Gertrude Marvell, i

A long and loving association and friendship: Esther Knowles and Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence (A Long Read)

This article is "a long read". If you prefer to download it to read it is available to download from my website (PDF document). Quotations from Esther Knowles’s letter to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence dated 25 February 1950 are given with the permission of Barbara Sessions. In December 2019 I was contacted by Barbara Sessions of Christchurch, New Zealand. Barbara is the great niece of Esther Knowles and wondered if I would be interested in seeing a copy of a letter Esther had sent to Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence in 1950. Emmeline (1867–1954) and her husband Frederick Pethick-Lawrence (1871–1961) had been leaders of the militant Women’s Social & Political Union which was campaigning for votes for women.  Esther Knowles (Photograph: Barbara Sessions May not be reproduced without permission.) The answer to Barbara’s question was, of course, a resounding ‘yes’. The letter is dated 25 February 1950, two days after the British General Election. In it, Esther wrote about her respo