Helen Pankhurst & Fern Riddell event image

Guest Review: Helen Pankhurst & Fern Riddell at the Book Festival

Earlier this year, Katrina Lambert won the chance to review an event of her choice at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival through the Young Scot Rewards programme. She chose to come along to one of the events in the 2018 ‘Revolting Women’ strand – Helen Pankhurst & Fern Riddell with Adele Patrick: Pioneers and Provocateurs. Read on for her fantastic review:

A Day of Suffragettes, Sisterhood and Solidarity

In the year of the centenary since women first got the vote, I could not have been more excited to go and see ‘Pioneers and Provocateurs’ as part of the Revolting Women strand of the Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Meet the Authors

First up to speak about her book was Dr Helen Pankhurst, great-granddaughter of Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst. Deeds Not Words analyses the status of women’s rights through the last century from when the vote was first granted in 1918. Helen spoke of how she wanted to highlight the progress that society has made, but also how far we still have to go.

Fern Riddell then spoke about her book Death in Ten Minutes which chronicles the life of little-known Suffragette figure Kitty Marion. Fern said her inspiration for the book was the desire to bring the ‘forgotten women’ of history into the limelight.

Documenting our History

The Q&A session focused on a wide range of topics including the role of writers in documenting history.  Helen pointed out how history needs to be well-rounded in order to be useful and accurate and, given it has mainly been men who have been writing our past, now is the time for female writers to come to the forefront. As a historian herself, Fern talked about how we don’t know everything and how ‘looking deeply at our history is not an attack on it’. As a history fanatic I thought these were some really insightful comments, given how history is usually presented as a set of dates and definitive, objective facts.

Making the Change

One of my favourite parts of the event had to be the discussion around the current feminist movement, including #MeToo, and the actions that we need to take. Having been an activist for girls’ and women’s rights since the age of 15, I was particularly excited for this segment.  There was interesting discussion around the different ‘types’ of change needed – individual, social and legislative – and how all three have to happen in order to achieve equality. With the Suffragettes in mind, Helen spoke about the importance of actions, not just talking. She revealed that her personal motto is to ‘have purpose and fun’ which I’m thinking of adopting myself – why change the world if you’re not having a great time while doing it?

We’re the Future

Although I was probably the youngest person in the room, the overwhelming message was that young people, particularly young women, are going to be the ones who are a force for change in the coming years. I know from my experiences and meeting other young people that this is 100% true. The key moving forward is going to be perseverance – pushing through the challenges and set backs so we can utilise our combined power.

I left the event excited for the future, pumped up and ready to take on the world! I have been rapidly reading through Deeds Not Words and Death in Ten Minutes and could not recommend them more – both really thought-provoking and interesting reads. The feeling in the room was one of palpable sisterhood and solidarity – I can’t wait to see how that feeling can be harnessed as we continue to strive for gender equality in all areas.


Thank you so much to Katrina for this wonderful review – we’re so pleased to hear how much you enjoyed the event.

Why not use Katrina’s review as inspiration for writing your own review of a book or event?

You can find out more about the Young Scot Rewards programme here.

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