I pre-ordered this book because I’ve been waiting for it for a very long time. Lonsdale has been researching women journalists and journalism in British fiction for much of her career as an academic at City University London, and before that was a journalist writing for a variety of papers and magazines. Rebel Women Between The Wars is about ‘fearless writers and adventurers’, and is a journey into the 1920s and the 1930s in the company of thirteen fascinating individuals.
Lonsdale covers more than thirteen women in her book, because her thesis is that women’s professional histories are inextricably intertwined with the networks they created and they support they gave each other, a practice still strongly in evidence today. But her thirteen pioneers create the framework for this new way of looking at early twentieth-century British working lives. In a way, this book can be read as a companion to Sheila Rowbotham’s Dreamers Of A New Day, which outlines the many radical and ground-breaking ways that British life and society were reshaped in the Edwardian era for the common good by farsighted individuals, men as well as women.
One of the most interesting findings from examining so many women’s lives from the same period is that not having a living father enabled them to progress their lives and careers as they wanted: their peers still living under their fathers’ control were trapped in conventional young ladyhood, while those with only mothers or no living parents at all could really make the progress they were capable of. Another fascinating point of commonality were how groups of older women acted as career gatekeepers, barring the way of younger women, on committees, or as funders.
These are Lonsdale’s Rebel Women:
Shiela Grant Duff, journalist, undercover courier, current affairs specialist
Margaret Lane, journalist, biographer, prize-winning novelist
Rose Macaulay, author and feminist, critic and scathing commentator
Leah Manning, teacher, trade unionist, relief worker, politician, Member of Parliament
Una Marson, poet, playwright, secretary of the League of Coloured Peoples, editor, BBC producer
Stella Martin, journalist, novelist
Claudia Parsons, engineer, chauffeur, traveller, novelist
Dorothy Pilley, mountaineer, leadership trainer and writer
Florence Roberts, sailor and journalist
Naomi Royde-Smith, journalist, editor, reviewer and critic.
Muriel Rukayser, journalist, poet, novelist, activist
Alison Settle, editor of Vogue during the Second World War, and a single mother
Edith Shackleton, journalist, first woman parliamentary correspondent for a British newspaper, and pioneering feminist networker
Kylie Tennant, journalist, traveller, novelist
Francesca Wilson, humanitarian, relief worker, teacher, organiser and foreign correspondent.
Go read about them. Highly recommended.