AD May is Local and Community History Month here in the UK – and local history is a great lens through which to look at various cultural and social aspects of history, including women’s history. I was therefore really chuffed when independent publishing company iNostalgia asked if I would like a copy of their First In The Fight book – a book dedicated to telling the stories of Manchester’s amazing women from history.
Manchester is a city packed with stories of strong and inspirational women – histories not always given the recognition they deserve – and histories I realised I knew too little about when I started reading the book.
First In The Fight Book
From the women who marched to St Peter’s Field in 1819 to the start of the Suffragette movement and the first entrepreneurs, First In The Fight is a wide-ranging book exploring the histories of 20 inspirational women who once lived or worked in the city of Manchester.
These stories are each accompanied by their own special illustration, with a different female artist behind each one. 20 women’s stories, 20 women artists. I REALLY liked this idea. So simple, but such a great showcase for the creative female talent of today.
I love my Welsh women’s history, but reading this book made me realise just how little I knew about women’s history outside my native homeland. Yes I knew about the famous Pankhursts, who hailed from Manchester, and of course I have heard of Elizabeth Gaskell and Emily Williamson – but this book really opened my eyes to a whole host of wonderful women from Manchester’s history who were pioneers in such diverse areas.
Womanchester Statue Project
But this isn’t just a book telling the stories of these remarkable women. First In The Fight also tells the story of the Womanchester Statue Project.
Until 2018, 16 out of the 17 statues in Manchester City City were of men. The exception was Queen Victoria. This book also tells the story of the campaign to erect a new statue of a female figure to help address this inequality.
The winner of the public vote was leading British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, and her statue was unveiled in St Peter’s Square, Manchester on Friday, 14th December 2018 – exactly one hundred years to the day from some women voting for the first time in a British General Election.
In recent years, the number of campaigns to erect statues of female figures has increased exponentially. Only a few days ago, the maquette of the forthcoming Mary Anning statue to be erected in Lyme Regis went on display, after a successful campaign that raised £100,000 through crowdfunding. And later on this year a statue of Wales’ first black headteacher Betty Campbell will be erected in Cardiff following a similar campaign in Wales two years ago. I can only hope that someone, somewhere is producing a lovely book to accompany that campaign – just like Manchester did!
I am truly honoured to have a copy of the First In The Fight book to add to my heaving bookshelves. Its so well put together – a true collector’s item that has opened my eyes to a lot of Manchester’s hidden women’s history.