I’m proud and excited to welcome you today to my stop on the blog tour for the inspirational Magnificent Women and their Revolutionary Machines by Henrietta Heald. A huge thanks to Anne Cater and Unbound Books for giving me the opportunity to read and review this fascinating and unforgettable book.
About the book:
‘Women have won their political independence. Now is the time for them to achieve their economic freedom too.’
This was the great rallying cry of the pioneers who, in 1919, created the Women’s Engineering Society. Spearheaded by Katharine and Rachel Parsons, a powerful mother and daughter duo, and Caroline Haslett, whose mission was to liberate women from domestic drudgery, it was the world’s first professional organisation dedicated to the campaign for women’s rights.
Magnificent Women and their Revolutionary Machines tells the stories of the women at the heart of this group – from their success in fanning the flames of a social revolution to their significant achievements in engineering and technology. It centres on the parallel but contrasting lives of the two main protagonists, Rachel Parsons and Caroline Haslett – one born to privilege and riches whose life ended in dramatic tragedy; the other who rose from humble roots to become the leading professional woman of her age and mistress of the thrilling new power of the twentieth century: electricity.
In this fascinating book, acclaimed biographer Henrietta Heald also illuminates the era in which the society was founded. From the moment when women in Britain were allowed to vote for the first time, and to stand for Parliament, she charts the changing attitudes to women’s rights both in society and in the workplace.
About the author:
Henrietta Heald is the author of William Armstrong, Magician of the North which was shortlisted for the H. W. Fisher Best First Biography Prize and the Portico Prize for non-fiction.
She was chief editor of Chronicle of Britain and Ireland and Reader’s Digest Illustrated Guide to Britain’s Coast. Her other books include Coastal Living, La Vie est Belle, and a National Trust guide to Cragside, Northumberland.
Oh my goodness, what a truly fascinating and inspirational read Magnificent Women and their Revolutionary Machines is! I knew I was going to love it from the blurb alone, but this outstanding and insightful book far exceeded all expectations. Henrietta Heald has somehow managed to bring these exceptional women back to life in an explosion of colour that makes them so much more than just words on a page, but back to the living, breathing women they once were.
Published in the centenary year of the Women’s Engineering Society, this book tells the stories of the women at the heart of this group. Spearheaded by Katharine and Rachel Parsons, a powerful mother and daughter duo, and Caroline Haslett, whose mission was to liberate women from domestic drudgery, it was the world’s first professional organisation dedicated to the campaign for women’s rights.
The story centres on the lives of two of the most influential women of this era, Rachel Parsons and Caroline Haslett. Coming from very different backgrounds, Rachel born into a life of privilege and Caroline into one of very humble beginnings, the two women played an important role in the history of women’s rights.
Created just after the end of World War One, the Women’s Engineering Society happened at a time of great social change. Some women had just been given the vote, while others had been doing jobs usually allocated to men and now, with the war over, were expected to go back to a life of domestic drudgery. But this was no longer an acceptable way of life for many of these women who had been given a taste of another kind of life and now wanted more. And so the WES was born. Along with Katharine and Rachel Parsons, former suffragette Caroline Haslett also became heavily involved in the cause.
As entwined as their lives had become, as we move through the book and further into the twentieth century, we see their lives begin to diverge. Caroline becomes one of the leading professional women of her time, while sadly Rachel’s life ends in dramatic tragedy. The story of these two women is beautifully told by the author, who skilfully brings not only Rachel and Caroline, but also many of the other magnificent women of the era, so vividly to life.
The photographs held within the pages of this book were fascinating and added so much to my enjoyment of Magnificent Women and their Revolutionary Machines. I’m a keen amateur genealogist who loves old photographs and am in awe at how much knowledge we’re able to glean from them. This is a book so rich with history that I know I will keep it on my bookshelf and go back to it time and time again.
I knew very little about the Women’s Engineering Society and hadn’t heard of either Rachel Parsons or Caroline Haslett before, but am so glad that I have been given the opportunity to get to know them through the beautiful words and pictures of this book. I’m thankful to them (and other women like them) for the sacrifices they made so that we could enjoy the privileges we take so much for granted today.
A stunning tribute to the female pioneers who paved the way for the women of today. May we long continue to follow in their footsteps.
Magnificent Women and their Revolutionary Machines is available to buy now: Amazon UK
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