St Mary's Centre
By Haddenham Webteam - 5th February 2020 8:30am
Haddenham resident and author, Jane Robinson, has just published another book in her series of publications examining social history through women's eyes.
Her latest book is entitled "Ladies Can't Climb Ladders" and focuses on the lives of pioneering women forging careers in the fields of medicine, law, academia, architecture, engineering and the church. In her startling study into the public and private worlds of these unsung heroines, Jane sheds light on their desires and ambitions, and how family and society responded to this emerging class of working women.
The title of the book is drawn from an excuse offered by male architects for keeping women out of the profession!
Each of Jane's books takes about two years to complete. The first year is spent in detailed research and the second in writing and editing until she is happy with the final result.
Jane explains that she prefers to highlight the lives of "ordinary people rather than celebrities" and her meticulous research draws not only on written historical records in specialist libraries and professional archives but also on personal family stories communicated directly to her by younger generations of close family relatives.
"To help gain access to family stories, I will often place a short paragraph in selected magazines inviting contact from the living relatives of the individuals I am researching — in the case of my latest book, this ranged from professional journals like The Woman Engineer and Medical Women's Federation journal to more broad based publications like Country Life and Saga magazine; and the response I get can be quite remarkable. Indeed, a large number of grandchildren of the women described in my latest publication were at the book launch a week or so ago."
In examining the challenges of women looking to succeed in professions dominated by men approximately 100 years ago, it is apparent that the themes are as relevant today as they were then. So it follows that there has been tremendous interest in Jane's book, with enthusiastic reviews in The Times & Sunday Times, the Observer, Telegraph, Guardian and several other major publications.
"Clearly the book addresses what is very much a live subject about women in the workplace and the ongoing struggles for female equality. Looking forward, as I attend a whole round of literary festivals and talks, I will leave time at the end of each presentation to ensure that members of the audience are able to share their own experiences and describe current challenges and successes of women in the workplace. And I anticipate hearing lots of contemporary examples, as the book appeals to people on two levels: both as a social history as well as a live contemporary issue"
"The characters highlighted in the book are intrinsically inspiring, energetic and uplifting to learn about, but it is sobering to realise that they were fighting the same battles 100 years ago that a lot of women are still fighting now. So, as a woman, that can feel a little disheartening."
Jane already has new writing projects underway, including a short biography of a Victorian reformer called Josephine Butler — a pioneer for education and a champion for down-trodden women in many areas of life, but especially those in prostitution. And another larger volume is being planned for later in the year.
In the meantime, "Ladies Can't Climb Ladders" is attracting considerable attention and literary admiration.
At the invitation of the Haddenham Village Society, Jane has previously be kind enough to deliver a talk on the subject of her earlier book and we hope that she will feel inclined to do so again soon, so that we may hear more of the joys and challenges she faced in writing her latest social history.
"Ladies Can't Climb Ladders — the Pioneering Adventures of the First Professional Women" is now available in high street book sellers as well as online: ISBN: 9780857525871