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  • Writer's pictureLaura Austin

A history of the world in 21 women by Jenni Murray

Updated: Nov 17, 2021

A history of the world in 21 women is a book that contains a selection of the most important women who have had a great influence not only in their own time, but still have an impact today. This book offers 21 short summaries of women who dared to speak truth to power, who fought for their voices to be heard, and who stood up for themselves and their talents.

The book offers a critical perspective. History is very subjective; therefore, the author advises you to keep this in mind when reading the book. You might not agree with all 21 women, neither does the author. However, when reading the book, bear in mind that all of these women lived in very different times, in very different cultures. It has been proven that women’s voices were not taken into account enough when history was written. We can see it when we look at all the great scholars even in our own social science, scholars who have mostly been male.

In these times (and still in present time), women were marginalized, but it didn’t stop these women from fighting for their voices to be heard. Therefore, this book offers an interesting perspective and a glimpse into not only the lives of these women, but also the times they lived in. The politics they had to deal with, that influenced their lives so greatly and the social structures that worked against them.

So, you might agree with Machiavelli that Isabelle of Castile was a powerful woman, yet when looking at her acts she was actually quite cruel. However, like Murray argues, these women must be judged by the standards of their own time and for these standards, Isabelle was indeed very powerful. You might be shocked that the portraits that Frida Kahlo painted, were actually self-portraits as depictions of her own difficult and damaged life. And that Carla Schumann’s music was written so beautifully out of a horrible pain when it was her father who claimed credit for her music.

From pharaoh’s to presidential candidates to scientists and to popstars. This book offers reports about the lives of all kinds of important women. A history of the world in 21 women written about influential women is an addition to everyone’s bookcase. However, I would especially recommend this book to young women interested in politics and history.

This book was written by Jenni Murray. A journalist and broadcaster who has presented BBC Radio 4’s Women’s Hour since 1987. She is the author of several more books including: The history of Britain in 21 women.

Title: The history of the world in 21 women

Author: Jenni Murray

Year: 2018

Publisher: Oneworld publications

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ (out of 5)

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