So Here I Am – Anna Russell

Summary:

This is a timely book.  It is a book containing over 50 speeches by women, given throughout the centuries, and finally giving a voice to the hidden history of half the human race. It is important to note that the speeches are not virulently anti-male, but a true demand for equality of all in all its forms, for men and women to treat and be treated as equals in every sphere of life.

Main Characters:

There is such a wide variety of women featured here, from Queen Elizabeth 1, then jumping through the 1800’s (Fanny Wright, the Grimke sisters, Sojourner Truth), the 1900’s (from the Irish Countess Markievicz to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, to the present day (Michelle Obama, Emma Watson, Maya Lin).

There are so many others here, some famous, most not. The point of this book is that these speeches are not front of mind for many people, men or women. Yes, you may recognise some of the names (Marie Curie, Emmaline Pankhurst), but how many people can quote a line of what they said?

The book is cleverly put together. Working through the centuries, it gives a thumbnail profile of the woman in question, and the setting of/history behind the occasion of her speech, then cites the important points. In the brief bio, the author does note where the woman in question may have held beliefs that are not looked upon favourably today, but the speech is not on that belief.

These women were courageous in their acts, ranging from Fanny Wright in 1823 lecturing on slavery and women’s rights, to Huda Sha’arawi removing her veil in Egypt – in 1923! Each individual act and speech was another layer, upon which subsequent women would  stand and fight for their rights. Black women were, on balance, probably braver, like the illiterate runaway former slave Sojourner Truth, who as a slave had less rights than an animal, and if she had been killed by her master, there probably would have been no consequences.

I found this book to have some remarkable and surprising facts, such as that sexual equality, excepting in the right to vote, is currently not protected by the US Constitution, due to the Equal Rights Amendment not having been ratified by at least 38 US states.

This is a book that showcases a multi-cultured approach to the fight for rights, and freedom of expression, and all the other qualities we take for granted. It is an important book to make available to everyone, so that all voices can be heard. It is a book I aim to give my daughters, and it is an important information source to help inform discussions.

It is necessarily short, in that the full text of all the speeches cannot be reproduced, but I think the aim is to encourage and motivate the reader to do their own research/follow up, and perhaps discover a lot more than the author can provide here. That certainly was my experience.

Overall:

To paraphrase Emma Watson, this book does not intend to promulgate “man-hating”, but instead aims to frame feminism as a force for equality. It does not deal with, or seem to endorse, provocative sound-bytes such as “toxic masculinity”, and other frankly abhorrent terms, but does demand inclusiveness, understanding and support. 

I really liked this book, its presentation, the mix of profile and speech. It made me aware of people I had no idea existed, or like Countess Markievicz of her words that I had never read before. It is a little sad that such a book is still so important today, as true equality has not been achieved globally, even in areas of the world where the dominant religious law actually grants equality (e.g. the Sharia or Islamic law).

Acknowledgements:

Thanks to Netgalley and the author for sending me a free .pdf of this book, in return for an honest and objective review.

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