How have 'Cambridge Women' influenced the four waves of feminism over the last 150 years?
‘If there is no struggle, there is no progress’
Frederick Douglass, 1857
These words were spoken by the race and gender rights activist Frederick Douglass. They show clearly that the desire for a fairer society is always a struggle as there are groups of people for whom the current system works very well - and who will fight to protect it. What this means is that feminists have had to be brave, with many of them suffering for their work. These struggles have created some extraordinary stories and achievements of women (and men) for whom we owe many of the rights that we now take for granted.
Below is a list of books, films, Youtube links and talks that have all inspired this website. It is a list of references for the Cambridge Herstory project but I hope it can also work as a source of inspiration for all of you who want to go deeper into your studies of the struggle to achieve equal rights for half of the world’s population.
Some of the key books that have shaped feminism have been published as shortened versions. The series is called Vintage Feminism:
A current Cambridge shero Laura Bates has written up her 'Everyday Sexism' project as a powerful book. She has also written 'Girl Up' for younger readers, 'Misogynation' to show the state of sexism in the UK today and, most recently, 'Men who Hate Women'.
In a lovely example of Cambridge third wave feminists inspiring Cambridge fourth wave feminists, Natasha Walter wrote ‘Living Dolls - The Return of Sexism’ which inspired Laura Bates who described it as ‘a real feminist awakening for me.’
Other new books by our Cambridge 4th wave feminists are ‘Women & Power’ by Mary Beard, ‘Feminisms – a global history’ by Lucy Delap and ‘Feminism Interrupted’ by Lola Olufemi.
‘Invisible Women’ by Caroline Criado-Perez is perhaps the most important recent book on feminism. Her work exposes the evidence that modern society is still shaped by men for men. She looks at the ‘gender data gap’ which describes how most research data is generated from tests on men. She then shows all the ways that this advantages men in health, medicine, safety and other areas too.
Although most feminist writing is directed at adults, the following are really easy to read for any age group: ‘We Should all be Feminists’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, ‘Men Explain Things to me’ by Rebecca Solnit, ‘I am Malala’ by Malala Yousafzai, and for younger readers ‘Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls’ by Elena Favilli.
(Films: Check the age certificate before you watch)
Suffragette, Miss Representation, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, Knock Down the House, RBG, Seeing Allred, He named me Malala, Feminists Inshalla, Mary Shelley, Made in Dagenham,
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Ted Talk
Kimberlé Crenshaw on intersectionalty
Why you should read Virginia Woolf Ted Ed
How Suffragettes won British women the vote
Betty Friedan 10 minute documentary
In Cambridge, we are lucky to have a number of events each year in which many talks on the theme of women’s rights happen. Check out the Ideas Festival, Open Cambridge, the Science Festival (all free!) and the Cambridge Literary Festival.
Keep reading below to find out how talks at these festivals influenced Cambridge Herstory...
The seeds for Cambridge Herstory were sown while attending an event at the Cambridge Literary Festival in 2018. Feminist Alice Wroe was interviewing Helen Pankhurst (granddaughter of Emmeline) and pointed out that history has mainly been written by men, about men. She spoke about her own project, Herstory, which was set up to challenge this. As I was listening to Alice, I thought about how many men we learnt about in school – across most subjects - compared to women.
When I learnt about John Maynard Keynes, the economist, I found out he was from Cambridge and I was interested to find out more about him. I quickly found out how incredible his mum, Florence was. Some time later, Local Herstorian Antony Carpen gave a talk at Open Cambridge which was not only about Florence but also all the other incredible women we looked at in Lesson 2.
In recent years I have also attended inspiring talks by Rebecca Solnit, Afua Hirsch, Valerie Amos, Mary Portas, Reni Eddo-Lodge, Caroline Criado-Perez and Laura Bates. The Rising Tide Exhibition at the University Library was a great source of information and it really helped with this project. In Cambridge’s tradition of strong female activism, I wanted to play my part so I have set up this website to teach children important knowledge that they miss in the rest of the curriculum.
I would like to thank everybody that has inspired me and helped with the project, especially Alice and Antony who both encouraged me when I contacted them after I first had the idea for the site. I would also like to thank my incredible teachers at CVC especially all those in the History, Art and English departments.
Millie Dean, Feminist & Creator of Cambridge Herstory