Since I last posted, I've finished writing Ladies Can't Climb Ladders; held my breath for a total of ten days between submitting it to my editor and hearing whether or not she liked it (she loves it); made the changes she suggested; made the changes the copy-editor suggested; tracked down all those illustrations I'd blithely popped into a folder as I went along without writing down full details of the sources - will I never learn? - and written the captions; enthused over the cover design; started to send out advance publication information to individuals and institutions who asked to be kept in touch with plans, and relaxed.
There's nothing more I can do now except wait for the page-proofs; send those back with corrections, and then welcome my newly-completed, shiny and jacketed offspring into the world before it's launched on 23 January 2020. Here's a taster of delicious blurb:
Ladies Can’t Climb Ladders
The Pioneering Adventures of the First Professional Women
To celebrate the centenary of women first entering the traditional professions, this history - by turns shocking and heart-warming - follows the pioneers as they trespassed into a man’s world. What they found there changed their lives, and ours, for ever. They beat the path that thousands of working women today now follow without a backward glance.
It is a myth that the First World War liberated women. The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 was one of the most significant pieces of legislation in modern Britain. It should have marked a social revolution, opening the doors of the traditional professions to women who had worked so hard during the War, and welcoming them inside as equals.
But what really happened? Ladies Can’t Climb Ladders 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 Robinson sheds light on their desires and ambitions, and how family and society responded to this emerging class of working women.
This book is written in their honour. Their shared vision, sacrifice and spirited perseverance began a process we have yet to finish. Their experiences raise live questions about equal opportunity, the gender pay gap, the work/life balance - and whether it was ever possible for women to have it all.
PenguinRandomHouse, 23 January 2020
In many ways this is a sequel to Bluestockings, in that it deals with what happened next, between the wars, to those women who finally won degrees. There's a chapter in that book called 'Breeding White Elephants,' which is what someone said universities were doing by encouraging female undergraduates. What better time to be launching it than on the joint centenaries of the passing of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act in December 1919, and the granting of Oxford degrees to women in 1920?
I hope, when you have a chance to read it, you'll appreciate how far we've come since the Establishment first grudgingly opened its lumbering doors to professional women - and how far we still have to travel to achieve equality of opportunity and reward. Most of all, I hope you enjoy meeting the extraordinary people I've written about as much as I have. Oh - and the title? It's the best argument male architects could come up in the 1920s with for keeping women out of their profession.