Bloody Brilliant Women: The Pioneers, Revolutionaries and Geniuses Your History Teacher Forgot to Mention

Bloody Brilliant Women: The Pioneers, Revolutionaries and Geniuses Your History Teacher Forgot to Mention


A fresh, opinionated history of all the brilliant women you should have learned about in school but didn’t.

In this freewheeling history of modern Britain, Cathy Newman writes about the pioneering women who defied the odds to make careers for themselves and alter the course of modern history; women who achieved what they achieved while dismantling hostile, entrenched views about their place in society. Their role in transforming Britain is fundamental, far greater than has generally been acknowledged, and not just in the arts or education but in fields like medicine, politics, law, engineering and the military.

While a few of the women in this book are now household names, many have faded into oblivion, their personal and collective achievements mere footnotes in history. We know of Emmeline Pankhurst, Vera Brittain, Marie Stopes and Beatrice Webb. But who remembers engineer and motorbike racer Beatrice Shilling, whose ingenious device for the Spitfires’ Rolls-Royce Merlin fixed an often-fatal flaw, allowing the RAF’s planes to beat the German in the Battle of Britain? Or Dorothy Lawrence, the journalist who achieved her ambition to become a WW1 correspondent by pretending to be a man? And developmental biologist Anne McLaren, whose work in genetics paved the way for in vitro fertilisation?

Were it not for women, significant features of modern Britain like council housing, municipal swimming pools and humane laws relating to property ownership, child custody and divorce wouldn’t exist in quite the same way. Women’s drive and talent for utopian thinking created new social and legislative agendas. The women in these pages blazed a trail from the 1918 Representation of the People Act – which allowed some women to vote – through to Margaret Thatcher’s ousting from Downing Street.

Blending meticulous research with information gleaned from memoirs, diaries, letters, novels and other secondary sources, Bloody Brilliant Women uses the stories of some extraordinary lives to tell the tale of 20th and 21st century Britain. It is a history for women and men. A history for our times.

Our Review

Bloody Brilliant Women: The Pioneers, Revolutionaries and Geniuses Your History Teacher Forgot to Mention by Cathy Newman is thoroughly researched and incredibly interesting.

This book is not just for feminists and is a useful tool for anyone who wants to learn more about some of the fantastic women our history books have largely overlooked.

I received a copy for review but due to some formatting issues on my kindle I had to only read certain bits but the bits I read were outstanding and I want to have a copy on my bookshelf in the near future.

The only women I can remember hearing about in my history lessons at school were definitely viewed in relation to their husbands, e.g Anne Boleyn. It came as no surprise to me when Cathy Newman said early on in her introduction that she had noticed one day that a book she was reading on the history of Britain had little mention of the role of women.

“The deeper I delved into the history of twentieth century Britain, the more it appeared that the shape and extent of female influence was far greater than generally acknowledged.”

She points out that we owe a lot more to historical women than you would think.

“Were it not for women, those significant features of modern Britain such as council housing, hospices and the humane laws relating to property, ownership, child custody and divorce might not exist in the same form.”

The book ends on an inspirational and uplifting note:

“I’m optimistic that today’s women are built for the long haul; that they have what it takes to smash through glass ceilings, be heard over massed ranks of haters and follow the footsteps of the women you have just been reading about.

So let’s raise a glass to strength, usefulness and not fading on the stalk – and the coming generations of bloody brilliant women.”

One of the major strengths of this book is the wide variety of interesting topics it covers via the women she features within.

A compulsive read.

Our Final Rating...

Our Rating

  • Currently 5/5

Read & Shared 59 Times.

I hope you enjoyed this book review, please consider sharing it with others.

Get In Touch

Please feel free to leave a comment to this book review below. Or even leave your own review if you like.
If you run a blog and/or have posted a review to this book, a Q & A or general author interview online you can always add a trackback to it here and following moderation we'll add a link to it below.