During the wonderful and inspiring Manchester Literature Festival in October of this year, I attended a series of wonderful talks and events. On a rainy Sunday morning my closest friend and I embarked upon the Manchester Women’s Walking Tour. A tour dedicated to the City’s Literary Women we started in St Peter’s Square and our first point of call was the recently erected statute of ‘Our Emmeline’; heroine of not only the town but of British Women throughout the Isles.
So when Kelly from Love Books Tours offered me the chance to join the blog tour for First in the Fight By Helen Antrobus and Andrew Simcock I jumped at the chance.
This book tells the story of the Women who shaped the city of Manchester and how Emmeline’s iconic statute came into being.
This beautiful book tells the story of 20 inspirational women, all with links to Manchester and all the orginal 20 longlisted women considered for the Womanchester Statue Campaign. This campaign was established by Labour Councillor Andrew Simcock when the realisation that the only Women’s Statue in Manchester was that of Queen Victoria. The longlisted was reduced to a short list of 6 women, all identifed as having a signicant impact on the development of Manchester. When the list was put to the public vote Emmeline Pankhurst was the outright winner.
So began the three year process of fundraising, commissioning and creating, culminating in the public unveiling of ‘Our Emmeline’ on 14th December 2018, exactly 100 years after women had first voted in a General election. It is a story which forms the heart of this book.
So, a week after another crucial election, it feels right on all levels to review this now.
Alongside the story of Emmeline’s statue, Helen Antrobus, social history curator and historian, weaves the stories of all 20 women, paying tribute to each unique and inspiring personality.
Some I knew; Elizabeth Gaskell, Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters, Christabel and Sylvia and Marie Stopes, but many I did not.
Each story is beautifully told, each a tale to take heart and inspiration from. Take for example Mary Quaile, feminist and trade union activist, fighting for improved Women’s Working Rights. Or Enriqueta Rylands, a Cuban born women who made Manchester her home, married a wealthy industrialist and philanthropist, and spent time and money raising ‘The John Rylands Library’ in her husband’s honour for the good of the city. Or maybe spend time with Olive Shapley, BBC announcer, Women’s Hour Presenter and creator of a safe house for abused women.
Accompanying each story is an equally unique piece of art. The cover is created by Jane Bowyer and each story is illustrated by women who make up the Women in Print Project, more details of which can be found here www.womeninprint.uk
For anyone with love of the great city of Manchester this book is a must, just as it is a unique take on the women who have shaped our world, sometimes against incredible odds. It’s an inspiring and informative collection of personalities, all seeking to remind us of how far we have come, how far we have to go and who we need to be thankful to.
And there is more…
For more reviews of First in Fight check out the Blog Tour schedule below…