In 1919 Nancy Astor was elected as the Member of Parliament for Plymouth Sutton, becoming the first woman MP to take her seat in the House of Commons. Her achievement was all the more remarkable given that women (and even then only some women) had only been entitled to vote for just over a year. In the past 100 years, a total of 491 women have been elected to Parliament.
Yet it was not until 2016 that the total number of women ever elected surpassed the number of male MPs in a single parliament. The achievements of these political pioneers have been remarkable – Britain has now had two female Prime Ministers and women MPs have made significant strides in fighting for gender equality from the earliest suffrage campaigns to Barbara Castle’s fight for equal pay to Harriet Harman’s recent legislation on the gender pay gap. Yet the stories of so many women MPs have too often been overlooked in political histories.
In Women of Westminster, Rachel Reeves brings forgotten MPs out of the shadows and looks at the many battles fought by the Women of Westminster, from 1919 to 2019.
“These achievements [of female MPs] are all the more remarkable because of the challenges and hostilities they faced… Women of Westminster shows how far female MPs have come, but how challenging their work remains.” – The Guardian.
“A lively and fascinating book… Engaging and informative, Women of Westminster is essential reading for anyone interested in the workings of the British parliamentary system.” – BBC History Magazine.
“Now even more timely with the resignation of Theresa May from the post of Britain’s Prime Minister, Women of Westminster: The MPs who Changed Politics is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library British Political Science and 20th Century Women’s History collections.” – Midwest Book Review.
“It is [this] kind of rebellious spirit that Britain – and the Labour Party – so desperately needs today.” – Tides of History.
“From household names like Nancy Astor to lesser-known, but equally pioneering politicians such as Florence Horsbrugh and Mavis Tate, Women of Westminster tells the story of the female MPs who shaped Parliament and the country. These women broke into Parliament's boys' club, rewrote the membership rules and in the process set about transforming Britain. This is a glorious compendium of the manifold achievements they chalked up - and the sacrifices they made. Rachel Reeves is perfectly positioned to tell their story, having experienced the slings and arrows of Parliamentary prejudice first-hand. As she herself puts it, she "stands on the shoulders" of her pioneering forbears, and from that vantage point she can see not only all they achieved but also what more needs to be done.” – Cathy Newman, author of Bloody Brilliant Women.
Had enough? Feeling hopeless? Don’t give up – join the rebellion.
Five Rules for Rebellion is an inspiring handbook for future rebels and revolutionaries – women who are fed up and disempowered but uncertain of where to begin. Sophie Walker, a long-time activist and journalist turned political party leader and ‘modern-day suffragette’, offers us the alternative, with a five-step journey to incorporating activism into our lives.
Featuring stories of new and seasoned activists – including Amika George and Jack Monroe – campaigning on a range of issues from reproductive rights and poverty to the environment and access to education – the book shows us how to see activism not as a series of pitched battles but as a positive, lifelong learning experience.
Sophie Walker is a feminist activist, founding leader of the Women’s Equality Party, and recently-appointed chief executive of Young Women’s Trust, the charity representing and supporting women aged 18-30 who are living on no or low pay. She is passionate about rebuilding society for and with (extra)ordinary women. She stood for London Mayor in 2016, winning a quarter of a million votes, and in 2017 stood for election to Parliament on a manifesto of equal pay, investment in care and an end to violence against women. She has debated #MeToo with Germaine Greer, Trump’s presidency with Piers Morgan and gender roles with Jordan Peterson. She was named by Vogue in 2018 as one of the ‘New Suffragettes’ and is a regular contributor to broadcast and print media on the subject of women’s rights, representation and rebellion. She is a long-term campaigner for disability rights and worked for 20 years as an international reporter. In her spare time she is a keen runner.
“Sophie Walker will pick you up, dust you off and put the fire in your belly to change the world. Whether you’re a new activist or have been in the arena for a while, this book offers sustenance for everyone” – Nimko Ali, CEO and co-founder of The Five Foundation and author of What We’re Told Not To Talk About.
“As it becomes depressingly clear that those presently in power are not taking the urgent action required on climate change, poverty and inequality, we must ourselves take action wherever and whenever we can. This book ’ by one of the most visionary women I have ever met ’ will tell you how.” – Emma Thompson, actor, screenwriter and activist.
“Sophie is an extraordinary communicator. I’ve seen her inspire thousands to activism. This book will inspire many more” – Catherine Mayer, co-founder of the Women’s Equality Party and author of Attack of the 50 Ft. Women.
“Thoroughly engaging, empowering and inspiring ’ blows invigorating air into the weary world of politics and makes you want to get out there NOW and do something about it” – Ailbhe Smyth, co-director of Together For Yes and convenor of Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment.
Interested in learning more about Newham Bookshop and some of the people connected with it? We have four lessons for classroom or family use developed from On the Record’s oral history project centered around Newham Bookshop, Writing and Reading Newham. Click here for full details.
We are proud that Newham Bookshop is LoveReading’s Bookshop of the Month. The article features a Q&A with Vivian Archer, which you can read here.