Who Writes History?


Not very long ago I came across a book by Clive James, very aptly named - Cultural Amnesia. I've always enjoyed Clive's writing, his observations, humour, and apparent love of everything women.  So when this book came along with the blurb reading : "A lifetime in the making,  100 essays illuminating the careers of many of its greatest thinkers, humanists, musicians, artist and philosophers. The ultimate guide to the 21 Century" impressive I thought, and took it home.

That afternoon with a cup of tea in hand I sat to read the introduction. Witty, sumptuous, allegorical, everything I have come to love from his shiny sparkling brain.  "Whatever we say, it is bound to be dependent on what has been said before" he writes, and boy was he right.

 I don't often have moments of sizzling rage, like a severed electrical wire thwacking the pavement,  but this was one. I wondered how in the year 2007 (the year of its publishing ) this was still possible, acceptable, able to slip under the radar of all involved. How could Clive, the man, the author of great delight and sturdy rigour only included 8 women in his 100 most influential people on the 21st Century? 

 So we are back to his insight "Whatever we say, it is bound to be dependent on what has been said before" BINGO,  as the people who have written volumes of books, screenplays, history, parables, fairytales, have been the ones in power, usually,  middle aged white men. What is strangely baffling to me, is not only Clive's misstep in perspective, but the people in his immediate sphere. Friends, lovers, publishers, editors  - did they really not hear this cultural thud?

So to Peter Strauss, Picador's chief editor, and Robert Weil the Editor-in-Chief and Publishing Director of the publishing imprint w.w. Norton/Liveright.  Here is a New Book:  100 Women of great and quiet influence, who foster, care and dare to usher in a new world. 

In no particular order, here they are: :Marie Curie, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hildegard of Bingen, Eileen Gray, St Teresa of Avila, Emmeline Pankhurst, Margaret Sanger, Shirin Ebadi, Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Betty Friedan, Rosalind Franklin, Helena Rubinstein, Eva Peron, Indira Gandhi, Billie Holiday, Rosa Parks,  Dorothy Hodgkin, Simone de Beauvoir, Rachel Carson, Artemisia Gentileschi, Alice Guy-Blaché, Eleanor Roosevelt, Millicent Fawcett, Emily Dickinson , Virginia Wolfe, Susan B. Anthony, Mary Magdalene, Neri Oxman, Sappho,  Hilma Af Klint, Tamara de Lempicka, Artemisia, Wangari Maathai, Florence Nightingale, Dora Carrlington, Oprah WInfrey, Zaha Hadid, Elizabeth Blackwell, Jane Goodall, Benazir Bhutto, Rosalind Franklin, Angela Merkel, Clara Schumann, Malala Yousafzai, Jacinda Ardern, Elizabeth Gaskell, Emily Brontë, Sarojini Naidu, Agatha Christie, Doris May Lessing,  Maya Angelou, Jacinda Ardern, Harriet Tubman, Tegla Loroupe, Gertrude Ederle, Helen Keller, Josephine Baker, Anna Freud, Hattie McDaniel,  Jane Addams, Maria Montessori,  Georgia O’Keeffe, Hedy Lamarr, Naomi Parker Fraley, Irena Sendler, Judy Garland, Gwendolyn Brooks, Bettie Page, Queen Elizabeth II, Rose Heilbron QC,  Helen Bamber, Valentina Tereshkova, Gloria Steinem, Julie Bindel, Vigdis Finnbogadottir, Amelia Earhart, Gilda Radner, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Pink, Greta Thunberg, Michelle Obama, Katharine Graham, Margaret Mead, Barbara Strozzi, Fanny Mendelssohn, Catherine Freeman, Beryl Mills, Fanny Cochrane Smith, Edith Cowan, Margaret Fuller, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Piera Aiello, Ella Daish, Amy Karle, Danit Peleg, Astrid Lindgren, Sara Wesslin, Edith Eger, Veronique Thouvenot, Lyubov Sobol, Agnieszka Holland, Mary Pickford. Clair Denis, Nicole Garcia.


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