A WOMAN’S CENTURY
2018 sees two important anniversaries for women. A century ago, the Representation of the People Act gave British women over 30, with property qualifications, the right to vote. In 1978, the feminist press Virago launched Virago Modern Classics, publishing forgotten or neglected books by women – called by Sarah Waters ‘some of the greatest fiction and non-fiction of the modern age, by authors whose lives were frequently as significant as their writing’. June Purvis marks the 1918 anniversary with her major new biography of Christabel Pankhurst, a key leader of the suffragette movement, while Virago celebrates its 40th anniversary with a baker’s dozen of specially designed deluxe paperbacks. Historian June Purvis, novelist Linda Grant and Modern Classics editor Donna Coonan discuss these feminist milestones.
Professor June Purvis has a national and international profile for her extensive publication on the suffragette movement in Edwardian Britain. Her Emmeline Pankhurst: a biography (2002) received critical acclaim, and her biography of Christabel Pankhurst, one of Emmeline’s daughters and a key leader of the suffragette movement, appeared in 2018. She was one of the historical advisers for the feature film starring Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep, Suffragette.
Linda Grant is an acclaimed novelist and journalist. When I Lived in Modern Times won the Orange Prize for Fiction, 2000. Grant won the 2006 Lettre Ulysses Prize for Literary Reportage in 2006, and was longlisted for the Man Booker in 2002 for Still Here. The Clothes on Their Backs was shortlisted for the Man Booker in 2008 and went on to win the South Bank Show Award.
Donna Coonan is Editorial Director of the Virago Modern Classics list, which she has run since 2005. This trailblazing list, which marks its fortieth anniversary this year, is dedicated to celebrating women writers and to demonstrating a female tradition in literature. Writers on the Virago Modern Classics list include Daphne du Maurier, Muriel Spark, Vera Brittain, Zora Neale Hurston and Patricia Highsmith.