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Review - Rebellious Daughters Of History by Judy Cox

How did you spend lockdown? Judy Cox wrote a series of pen portraits of largely unknown rebellious women. At first, Judy's essays appeared on her Facebook page and theleftberlin.com. Now they've been released as a book. Arlene Finnigan reviews.


by Arlene Finnigan

Work on bravely, GOD’s own daughters! Work on stanchly, GOD’s own sons! But till ye have smoother waters, Let Truth fire her minute guns!”

(From A Song For The Workers by Eliza Cook)

There has been a spate of books about radical women through history published in recent years, several of them featuring Maggie Thatcher, which feels a little like praising Rose West for being a pioneer in the male-dominated field of serial killing. Thankfully Rebellious Daughters Of History by Judy Cox is a upgrade on these.


The book evolved from a series of blog posts during lockdown, with the only criterion being that the women profiled looked to militant collective action rather than Parliament or Congress. The style makes the book really accessible – you can easily dip into it and read a couple of mini biographies when you have a few spare minutes. The variety of backgrounds of the women highlighted, and the historical and geographical range that Cox draws on, is impressive.


There are suffrage campaigners such as Adelaide Knight and Sylvia Pankhurst; abolitionists such as Sarah Parker Remond and Frances Harper; radical artists such as Kathe Kollwitz and Nadezhda Udaltsova; and revolutionaries from Russia, France, Haiti, India and Ghana. Some, such as former Black Panther Kathleen Neal Cleaver and Elaine Brown, are still active today.


The collection is also truly intersectional, focusing on the economic roots of women’s (and men’s) oppression, and highlighting the racism in white-centric feminism. Beulah Richards’ poem, A Black Woman Speaks, for example, describes how white women play a role in oppressing women of colour.


Other lockdown posts have been included and the pen portraits are interspersed with poems by Lord Byron, William Blake and Bobby Sands, among others. It’s an excellent collection, and will encourage you to read further and learn more about these remarkable women.


We are trying to order some copies of Judy's book to sell in Berlin. For more information, please contact us at theleftberlin@yahoo.com