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Difficult Women


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The first book by the acclaimed journalist Helen Lewis - the imperfect and unfinished story of the battles for women's rights

About the Author

Helen Lewis is a staff writer at the Atlantic, and a former deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has written for the Guardian, Sunday Times, New York Times and Vogue. She is a regular host of BBC Radio 4's Week in Westminster, a regular panellist on the News Quiz and Saturday Review, and a paper reviewer on The Andrew Marr Show. She was the 2018/19 Women in the Humanities Honorary Writing Fellow at Oxford University. She tweets at @helenlewis


Whoever said feminists lack a sense of humour has not read enough Lewis... A funny, sparky, wide-ranging account... Her book isn't at all a conventional history. It's a collection of powerful personal essays on the gnarly issues that women continue to face... I read Difficult Women with gratitude. It's an authoritative benchmark of modern feminism, written by someone on top of her game... Hooray for a great book by a clever, clear-sighted, straight-talking, difficult young woman. -- Melanie Reid * The Times *
Difficult Women was a joy to read... I learned so many delicious facts about women whom I thought I knew. In fact, reading Difficult Women felt like sitting down with a friend and gossiping about other women in our circle... It has some howl-out-loud funny moments... Helen Lewis does more than just tell their stories - she allows them to be complicated, something that women are so rarely permitted to be. -- Jess Phillips * New Statesman *
Difficult Women is smart, thoughtful and rich in detail... Lewis proves an excellent storyteller who seamlessly blends scholarly inquiry and journalistic investigation with autobiographical titbits and flashes of caustic wit (her footnotes are a hoot). -- Fiona Sturges * Guardian *
A sparkling history of feminism in 11 fights... The book is full of Lewis' short, sharp political observations...almost always as funny as they are informative... It proves her point; that we all have something to learn from each other, if we can open our minds to the true, complicated nature of humanity. -- Nell Frizzell * Daily Telegraph *
Difficult Women is full of vivid detail, jam-packed with research and fizzing with provocation. -- Christina Patterson * Sunday Times *
Inspiriting and energetic...searching, and bracing...clever and compelling... This is a capacious book... I liked this roominess: it speaks of open-mindedness and warmth. But what I loved most of all is her clear respect for those who went before us. -- Rachel Cooke * Observer *
Difficult Women is a well-researched, lively overview of the history of modern feminism... An important resource on the ongoing fight for equal rights. -- Mia Levitin * Spectator *
Enthralling... Witty, thoroughly researched and intelligently argued, Lewis's book turns received thinking on feminism on its head: history, like women, is always more interesting when it's difficult. -- Jane Anderson * Radio Times *
This sensible, forthright personal history of the women who fought for the vote, for equal pay, for women to have control over their bodies, is a breath of fresh air in a feminist climate too often bogged down in petty spats over ideas of privilege and virtue signalling... Lewis's trenchant, witty voice steers the reader to focus on the details that matter. -- Claire Allfree * Metro *
This is the antidote to saccharine you-go-girl fluff. Effortlessly erudite and funny, Helen Lewis tackles the great unacknowledged truth of feminist history: no one ever changed the world by being nice. A landmark in modern feminist scholarship, it manages to be important, irreverent and a joy to read. -- Caroline Criado Perez
This is a really good history of feminism in Great Britain... Real progress comes from people who are not friendly, but who are difficult, nasty, and who pay a really high price for this progress. -- Rutger Bregman * Observer *
Brilliant, from one of the brightest journalists in Britain today. Compulsive, rigorous, unforgettable, hilarious and devastating. Everything but difficult, ironically enough. -- Hadley Freeman
All the history you need to understand why you're so furious, angry and still hopeful about being a woman now. A book that is part intellectual weapon in your handbag, part cocktail with a friend. -- Caitlin Moran
A great manifesto for all those women who have never been very good at being well-behaved. -- Mary Beard
Difficult Women has real bite and is brimming with the kind of sharp wit that renders it unsuitable reading on public transport lest you start cackling. -- Gillian Furmage * The Times *
Through her telling of the fascinating histories of Difficult Women, Lewis gifts us with a fresh, whip-smart and compassionate perspective on contemporary feminism. A brilliant and inspiring book. -- Cordelia Fine
Well-behaved women may not make history but brilliant women certainly write it. Helen Lewis's glorious history of feminists, feminism, and female causes is a rallying cry for women to take up intelligent action and fight - fight for those rights! -- Amanda Foreman
Helen Lewis is one of the very few journalists whose every word I will read. Her debut book...makes the very solid point that the acquisition of rights for women has not always come from those who one would necessarily like. -- Adam Rutherford * The Week *
Some names you will recognise, others will be new. All deserve your respect. In a world where equality still feels like an uphill struggle, it is wonderful to celebrate eleven epic and ultimately victorious battles. -- Anita Anand
A witty and wise corrective to the whitewashed heroines of the "rebel girls" and "awesome women" industry. -- Tom Gatti * New Statesman *

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