Around about this time last year I was getting excited about Mary Beard's 'Women and Power', this year I've got Jeanette Winterson's 'Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere' to add to my bookshelf. They make a nice pair. Both are short enough to read in an hour or so, both are adapted from lectures, and both manage to say a lot of important things, as well as thought provoking things.
Winterson probably has the edge on humour, and maybe an extra edge of anger, which makes me think this book would be a particularly good introduction for relatively young women to the subject at hand. (Where are teenage girls to give books to when you want them?) She shows both how far women have come in the last 100 years, and how far there still is to go in the search for equality in a gloriously accessible way.
Her enthusiasm for the unbelievably brave and determined working class women who called for the vote is particularly welcome. They're not overlooked precisely, but haven't always been given the recognition they deserve in broader overviews of the women's suffrage movement. That's changing, but it's always worth thinking about just how much they risked for their cause, with livelihoods on the line.
Not that this book just confines itself to the suffragettes and suffragists of the early 20th century. Winterson is brilliant on women in technology - how male dominated the field is, what the rise of sexbots might mean for women, and for men. She's good on women and money as well, and very good on defining exactly what she means by equality.
Perhaps the best thing though is the number of other women who get name checks. We all need a bit of inspiration sometimes, and there's plenty of it here, generations of women doing things that help all of us.
This has been my year for finally starting to read Winterson, and every book I've read has been a surprise and a delight. This one perhaps most of all, possibly because it's non fiction, and definitely in part because of the conversational tone. There's an interesting contrast in the sand part of the book which is made up of Emmeline Pankhurst's 'Freedom or Death' speech delivered in Hartford, Connecticut on the 13th November 1913.
I find Emmeline Pankhurst quite a troubling character so it's helpful to have a reminder of what she was like at her best, and interesting to read her words whilst trying to imagine the charisma and charm she must have possessed.
For a very short book it's big in so many ways. It's also very reasonably priced as an ebook and I can't recommend it highly enough.