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A History of the World in 21 Women

by Jenni Murray

Biography / Autobiography

LoveReading View on A History of the World in 21 Women

This fascinating follow-up to the author’s bestselling A History of Britain in 21 Women immediately invites a big question: how to select only 21 women from around the globe, through all time? The source material is huge (if underrepresented), and the author sets out her criteria thusly: “What unites my chosen twenty-one is that each has faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve her ambition regardless of her colour or class.” Murray also notes her decision to “include as wide a range of clever, talented and determined woman as possible’” from all walks of life (“politicians, writers, artists, musicians, scientists and athletes”) and ethnic backgrounds.

Many of the women are high profile figures - among them, Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Coco Chanel, Frida Kahlo, Toni Morrison, Margaret Atwood, Hilary Clinton, Angela Merkel and Madonna and Murray adds fresh personal perspective to her coverage of these. For example, in the account of her interviewing Atwood for the first time in 1988 she describes being “overwhelmingly impressed by her vast knowledge of history, culture and the human condition.” 

Other featured women are lesser-known trailblazers, such as the ingeniously inventivePharaoh Hatshepsut (c. 1500 BCE c. 1458 BCE). This remarkable woman cleverly crafted her own creation myth (that she was born of the god Amon) to secure and validate her appointment as Pharaoh, a role in which she “was very successful artistically and politically.” 

As Murray writes in her introduction, these women “should be known, remembered, cheered and emulated by we who follow them.” This edifying anthology will certainly imbibe its readers with a sense of celebratory awe.

Joanne Owen

A History of the World in 21 Women Synopsis

From the bestselling author of A History of Britain in 21 Women.

The history of the world is the history of great women.

Marie Curie discovered radium and revolutionised medical science. Empress Cixi transformed China. Frida Kahlo turned an unflinching eye on life and death. Anna Politkovskaya dared to speak truth to power, no matter the cost. Their names should be shouted from the rooftops.

And that is exactly what Jenni Murray is here to do.

A History of the World in 21 Women Press Reviews

`Charming...[Murray's] selection is pleasingly varied... but the strength of the collection lies in Murray's relaxed and intimate style... a testament to the achievements and the complicated legacies, of extraordinary women.' - BBC History Magazine

`In this interesting twist on collective biography...has chosen 21 women to document history... Whether browsing for fun or reading cover to cover, readers will find this equally satisfying.' - Booklist

`Ambitious, engaging and accessible. Who better than Jenni Murray to curate this whistle-stop tour of the globe and introduce twenty-one women who in different times and different places dared to be different?' -- Dr Anna Whitelock, author of Mary Tudor: England's First Queen `A valuable resource for all readers. Jenni Murray's collection of distinguished women is illuminating and inspiring.' -- Charlotte Gordon, author of Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley -

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All versions of this book

ISBN: 9781786076281
Publication date: 05/09/2019
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Format: Paperback

Book Information

ISBN: 9781786076281
Publication date: 5th September 2019
Author: Jenni Murray
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 304 pages
Genres: Biography / Autobiography,
Categories: Biography: historical, political & military, Collected biographies, Feminism & feminist theory,

About Jenni Murray

Jenni Murray started her career in local radio in Bristol. She has presented Newsnight on BBC2 and Today on Radio 4 before inheriting the Woman's Hour Chair from Sue MacGregor in 1987. She was awarded an OBE in 1999 for services to broadcasting.

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