The women of Bedford (and a few men) were out in force last night to welcome Channel 4 News presenter, Cathy Newman, to talk about her new book, Bloody Brilliant Women.
Organised by Rachael Rogan of Rogan’s Books and hosted at Bedford Heights, the event was an opportunity for guests to hear the stories of some of the inspirational women in the book, plus Cathy’s views on feminism, the gender pay gap, social media trolling and more.
Bloody Brilliant Women is about ‘the pioneers, revolutionaries and geniuses your history teacher forgot to mention’ and broadly covers the last 100 years.
The Bedford Independent spoke to Cathy before the event, and asked what inspired her to write the book.
“I was taught history badly at school,” said Cathy. “I felt like I didn’t know enough about history, so as I grew up I’d read these big door-stop history books and realised very few were written about women.
“I knew women must have done something in the 20th century, but very little was written about their achievements.”
When asked about her favourite woman in the book, Cathy doesn’t hesitate to say Beatrice Shilling, the WW2 aeronautical engineer. “Without Beatrice, we wouldn’t have won the Battle of Britain,” says Cathy.
“There’s a pub in Hampshire named after her, but that’s about it. She doesn’t feature in history lessons and there are no women on the GCSE history curriculum.
“The book is dedicated to our daughters. I want them to feel indebted to these women and the incredible odds agains which they succeeded.
“When you read this book, you’ll feel angry, but uplifted.”
The event was expertly compered by journalist Jane Perrone, giving Cathy the opportunity to talk about some of the women’s stories, read excerpts from the book and to talk more generally about life in the public eye and the pressures of the 21st century.
Following her high-profile interview with clinical psychologist and profession, Jordan Peterson in 2018, Cathy was targeted on social media by alt-right groups.
Talking about social media, Cathy told the Bedford Independent: “During the first wave of Twitter death threats I had, I was scared.
“But I realised, who cares what these idiots say? I’ve only learned to shake it off the older I’ve become.”
Issues of feminism dominated the Q&A session, prompting Cathy to admit she hadn’t identified as a feminist until she was fairly established in her career.
Following a promotion at the FT, she discovered that her male replacement was paid £10,000 more than she was in her newly senior position.
The gender pay gap (as refuted by Jordan Peterson) made her question her boss – she received a pay rise – and question how women are perceived in society.
When asked who she would include in a 21st century version of the book she instantly chose Tarana Burke, the woman behind the #metoo campaign.
The evening ended with a book signing, with Cathy taking time to talk to everyone and to write a personalised dedication in each book.
And the women (and men) of Bedford bloody loved it.
Buy your copy of Bloody Brilliant Women from Rogan’s Books.