In The Moment

Difficult women

Maureen Colquhoun. Jayaben Desai. Caroline Norton. Very probably, you have never heard these names. Yet all these women were famous in their own time (notorious might be a better word), and all played a vital part in establishing the way of life for women that we now think of as ‘normal’. Colquhoun became the first openly gay MP in the 1970s. Desai led the Grunwick strike, taking on not only her employer, but also the boys’ club of the old Trade Unions. In the mid-nineteenth century, Norton publicly battled the brutal divorce laws – at high price to her own reputation. So why don’t we know who they are?

Because they were all difficult, argues Helen Lewis in what she calls “a partial, imperfect, personal history of feminism.” They

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