I very much enjoyed the supplement of best new children’s books (16 June) but how disappointing to see the continuing massive overrepresentation of male protagonists in these stories. While some recommended books did have a female lead, and there were a couple of books about real heroic women (one described as being sure to inspire girls – why not boys?), there were far, far more where the lead character was a boy and where girls remain accessories in boy’s stories. We need more books for both boys and girls to read that normalise girls as adventurous, confident and capable leaders in a whole host of activities hitherto seen as “boys’ stuff” if we are to challenge the culture that still prevails in modern Britain, creating the inequalities seen so much in recent news.
• Good for Graham Johnson reminding us of the earlier show of women’s strength, the matchgirls’ strike (Letters, 16 June). But where is the recognition of the momentous role played by the co-author of The Woman Question: From a Socialist Point of View (1886), Marx’s youngest daughter, Eleanor? To quote from Rachel Holmes’ biography on her role in the establishment of an independent British Labour party: “The name of Eleanor Marx is ubiquitous in the story of how the people’s party was forged. Her voice was in everyone’s ear and her name on everybody’s lips. In the 1890s, Tussy (her family pet name) was given two names by British socialists: “Our Mother” and – when she took leadership of the gasworks – “Our Old Stoker!” By the final decade of the 19th century Eleanor had become a national figure – mother of the radical British nation to her friends and followers; fire-eating rabble-rouser, class-warmongering, a dubious Jewish immigrant, witch, strident bluestocking and harridan to her enemies … by 1893 Tussy was one of Britain’s leading orators and activists, at home and abroad.” She was her father’s personal secretary for years, edited his key political writings and was his first biographer, in between translating Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and championing Ibsen in Britain. And how well known is this astonishingly prodigious woman now? On anecdotal evidence, hardly at all. Can’t understand why.
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