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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Women in Battle
by Marta Breen
Age Range: 12+
This accessible graphic novel covers 150 years of women’s history telling the story of women’s fight for their rights to receive an education, to work and earn money, to vote, the struggle against slavery and the right to bodily integrity. It brings vividly to life the monumental achievements of women around the world right up to the present day. Readers will be familiar with many of these pioneering women, but there will be some that are less well known who had a part to play in shaping women’s future.
In the USA there were some formidable women who were trailblazers in their fight for the rights of women such as Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), a Quaker human rights activist; Sojourner Truth (circa 1797-1883), a campaigner for the rights of black women to be heard within the suffrage movement; Harriet Tubman (circa 1822-1913), an abolitionist activist born into slavery and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), who started writing a declaration on equality which was based upon the American Declaration of Independence.
Many years earlier Olympe de Gouges (1748-1793), a French playwright and political activist who wrote on women’s rights and abolitionism, had written an alternative constitution to the Declaration of the Rights of the Man. She was executed by guillotine for attacking the regime of the Revolutionary government during the French Revolution. While in the UK Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) wrote her well-known work A Vindication of the Rights of Women. The fight for the right to vote began with Millicent Fawcett (1847-1929) who founded the first union of women’s suffrage societies and Emmeline Pankhurst (1858-1929) formed a new union who became known as the suffragettes.
Also featured is the first known martyr of the women’s movement, the Iranian poet Táhirih (born between 1814/17-1852); American Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), a birth control activist and present-day Malala from Afghanistan won the Nobel Peace Prize for her campaign for women’s education.
Women in Battle by Marta Breen and Jenny Jordahl, translated from Norwegian by Siân Mackies is an excellent brief history of feminism in graphic novel form. Jordahl’s striking cartoon-like artwork of strong block colours is full of expression. The book deals unflinchingly with its subject matter celebrating the strides made for equality during the last 150 years whilst also being able to be globally relevant today. It is a timely reminder that despite the significant changes that have been achieved in many countries there are still women all over the world who are fighting for their rights.