Today is International Women’s Day.
International Women’s Day has been celebrated in many places around the world for over a century now. When I was young, though (admittedly long ago), it wasn’t a big thing, and I never celebrated it… and I am someone who was involved in the Women’s Movement of the late 80s and early 90s – I think it’s called second-wave feminism these days – pretty heavily.
So I, for one, am really happy to see that now people do know about it, and I think that we will all be particularly aware of it this year in the UK in the context of both the celebration of the UK centenary of women’s suffrage last month, and, more miserably, the outward ripples of the #MeToo campaign.
Nosy Crow’s thoughts about gender representation evolve all the time. We think harder now than we used to about the gender of animals in books. The (benign) dragon in The Knight Who Said No, for example, started off male but is now female. There are boys, albeit in the background, in our resolutely reading-for-pleasure mass-market series, Unicorn Academy.
Sometimes, though, we work on, and even commission books that have an explicitly feminist agenda.
This year, we published Make More Noise, an anthology that celebrates strong girls and women written by some of the best women writers in the UK: Emma Carroll, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Catherine Johnson, Ally Kennen, Patrice Lawrence, M.G. Leonard, Sally Nicholls, Ella Risbridger, Jeanne Willis and Katherine Woodfine. The title is taken from a speech by Emmeline Pankhurst, and we published it to coincide with the centenary of UK Women’s Suffrage in February. £1.00 from the sale of every book sold goes to Camfed, a charity dedicated to eradicating poverty in Africa through the education of females and the empowerment of young women. There’s a huge variety of stories in it, ranging from Sally Nicholls’ explicitly Suffragette-themed story, to Jeanne Willis’s real-life tale of a courageous woman explorer, and Kiran Milwood Hargrave’s fantastical, allegorical fairytale.
Here’s a look inside the book:
And last week, we published Herstory: 50 Women and Girls Who Shook The World, written by Katherine Halligan and illustrated by Sarah Walsh. Divided into five sections, Believe and Lead, Imagine and Create, Help and Heal, Think and Solve, and Hope and Overcome, it covers over two millennia of women’s achievement from around the world. Some, like Shirin Ebadi and Malala, are still alive and working. Others, like Joan of Arc, Sophie Scholl and Anne Frank, died too young, but not without making their mark on the world. Some, like Elizabeth 1, Empress Wu Zetian and Indira Gandhi, have complex stories of power and politics, and blood on their hands. We have chosen them not as perfect role models, but as examples of what women can be and girls can become. There are, of course, many anthologies of biographies of women – the zeitgeist is funny that way, and ours was a long time in the making. We think that, apart from the excellence of the design and the engaging age-appropriate quality of the writing (it’s for 9-12 year olds), another thing that sets our book apart is that, wherever possible, we have focussed on the childhoods of the women and girls we featured, because we think that that’s what our target readership would be most interested to know about: how those girls became those women.
Here’s a look inside the book:
And here’s a wonderful photo we received today, of Milly (age 10), a reluctant reader, who’s been enjoying Herstory:
As publishers, we have a huge, and increasingly complex and nuanced, responsibility to represent gender, and gender equality, not least to help the girls who read our books become women who will embody all that is fought for and celebrated on International Women’s Day.