Unsung Heroines at the Baileys Book Bar

To round off a glorious week of Baileys Book Bar events at Tottenham Court Road, bestselling author and Women’s Prize for Fiction Founder Director Kate Mosse and a panel of brilliant female historians came together to discuss inspirational women from history, including those who have been unjustly written out of the narrative. Kate was joined by Women Prize for Fiction’s 2019 Chair of Judges, author and broadcaster Professor Kate Williams, specialist in European colonial and post-colonial History Professor Olivette Otele and author, broadcaster and Classicist Bettany Hughes.

The evening was kicked off by Professor Olivette Otele discussing the lack of female names present in colonial history when she was studying for her PhD: ‘Women were invisible and when they weren’t invisible they were somebody’s wife or daughter.’

Then the brilliant Bettany Hughes discussed her initial inspiration to get involved in history: ‘I knew women had potency and agency in the Bronze Age, and I just didn’t see this in anything I read’, and also her urge to bring history to a wider audience ‘I just wasn’t seeing any female historians on TV, they just weren’t there’.


2019 Women’s Prize chair of judges Professor Kate Williams then spoke of the inequality she experienced during her degree: “We were told ‘If you write too much on women’s history you will get marked down.’”

Bettany Hughes then spoke of equality from the Bronze Age onwards: ‘The last time I see genuine parity between men and women is about 3.5 thousand years ago. That’s a long time for prejudices and bad habits to build up.’

Professor Olivette Otele also made a point about the way history is told: ‘There is no doubt in the western tradition but it is that the pen holders are traditional male clerics and what they’re choosing to tell is a very denigrating version for women.’ Olivette also made an interesting point about the oral tradition of history telling being important too: ‘History is also told, transmitted and women are instrumental in that.’

Stay tuned to our Twitter @WomensPrize for a chance to win all three brilliant books! And be sure to join in the conversation #WomensPrize.


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