Normal Women is a radical retelling of our nation’s story – not of the rise and fall of kings and the occasional queen – but of social and cultural change, powered by the determination, persistence and effectiveness of women– from 1066 to modern times.
Did women really do nothing to shape England’s culture and traditions in nine centuries of turmoil, plague, famine, religious reform and the rise of empire and industry? Philippa Gregory answers this question with accounts of female soldiers, guild widows, highwaywomen, pirates, miners and ship owners, international traders, theatre impresarios, runaway enslaved women, ‘female husbands’, social campaigners and rebels. These individuals, and the prejudice they faced, built our society to be as diverse and varied as the women themselves. This is not another book about three or four well-known heroines; it is a book about millions of women: those who left records and those who were ‘hidden from history.’
The ‘normal women’ you will meet in these pages rode in jousts, flew Spitfires, issued their own currency, and built ships, corn mills and houses as part of their everyday lives. They went to war, ploughed the fields, campaigned, wrote, and loved. They committed crimes, or treason, worshipped many gods, cooked and nursed, invented things and rioted. A lot.
A landmark work of scholarship and storytelling, this is a history, not a call to action. It looks back at the past lives of half the population – without the judgemental gaze of the present; telling of women who did not want the vote, as well as those that did, those that wanted to be idle at home as well as those who fought for freedom. It is not – it cannot be – a celebration of women’s ‘rise’; because women are still not yet equal. But by spotlighting women’s presence, in the shadows of men’s history, it puts women where they belong – centre stage.
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Over the past few years, historical fiction and non-fiction has experienced an incredible surge in popularity, captivating long-term readers of the genre and drawing in...