Saturday, 30 November 2019

Roaring Girls by Holly Kyte

Roaring Girls: The forgotten feminists of British history by Holly Kyte
Published in the UK by HQ on the 28th November 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Roaring Girl was loud when she should be quiet, disruptive when she should be submissive, sexual when she should be pure, ‘masculine’ when she should be ‘feminine’.

Meet the unsung heroines of British history who refused to play by the rules.

Roaring Girls tells the game-changing life stories of eight formidable women whose grit, determination and radical unconventionality saw them defy the odds to forge their own paths.

From the notorious cross-dressing thief Mary Frith in the seventeenth century to rebel slave Mary Prince and adventurer, industrialist and LGBT trailblazer Anne Lister in the nineteenth, these diverse characters redefined what a woman could be and what she could do in pre-twentieth-century Britain.

Bold, inspiring and powerfully written, Roaring Girls tells the electrifying histories of women who, despite every effort to suppress them, dared to be extraordinary.

I love books which link and advance ideas and concepts I have already discovered through previous works so Roaring Girls was a perfect read for me. Holly Kyte's eight chosen women include (arguably) Britain's first science fiction author Margaret Cavendish who was brought to my attention through Monster, She Wrote and whose novel The Blazing World I went on to read, and Antiguan slave Mary Prince whose autobiography, The History of Mary Prince, I've also read. Kyte also tells the stories of Mary Frith, Mary Astell, Charlotte Charke, Hannah Snell, Anne Lister and Caroline Norton. I had vaguely heard a couple of these names before, but knew little of their lives or importance to women's history and was eager to learn.

Kyte gives well researched biographies of each of these women, exploring how the lives they led were considered outrageous and scandalous in their times, and showing how their influence had a profound effect on women's lives in the centuries to follow them. She writes in a lively and engaging style so Roaring Girls is actually quite the page-turner! I was interested in her cautions to see each woman in the context of the times in which she lived. Certainly, in several cases, their words or actions have problematic aspects when viewed from a twenty-first century perspective. However we interpret them today, these women were often intensely disliked by their peers, female as well as male. I was reminded of Zeba Talkhani's thoughts on her experience of female misogyny and how it is often women who cannot or will not oppose patriarchal systems themselves who are the most destructive towards their sisters who do threaten the status quo. Kyte shows us that this is nothing new.

As Kyte says, it is important for women today to remember our forebears' fights and to ensure these early feminists maintain their place in our history. The stories we tell ourselves and our children inform our understanding of the world. If we want to live in a balanced and tolerant society, we need to ensure all women's lives are portrayed in these stories, not just a narrow view of us as demure, submissive ornaments. We Need New Stories showed me just how shockingly wide the gaps are and Roaring Girls is an excellent resource to help fill them in.

Etsy Find!
by Power Up Pins in
London, England

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Holly Kyte / History books / Books from England


  1. Sure sounds like these people were real characters.

    1. Absolutely! It's great to read about such individuals from a time when women weren't supposed to stand out

  2. This sounds like such a good book!

    1. It is! I loved Roaring Girls. This is the kind of history writing I really appreciate :-)

  3. I definitely agree that it is important to remember those who came before us to fight for our rights that we have and are working toward in the present day. It sounds like a very informative and well researched read too!

    1. Roaring Girls is an excellent book! Entertaining, educational and inspirational!

  4. This sounds so interesting! I love that the author was able to present factual material in such an entertaining manner.

    1. I was very impressed with this one. Good research and Kyte shows that dry history tomes are totally outdated!!