Daughters of Time by The History Girls

The History Girls is a blog run by Mary Hoffman and a group of best-selling, award-winning writers of historical fiction. Some of the “Girls” write for young adults, some for fully fledged adults, some for younger readers. Among them, they cover every period from the Stone Age to World War II. Geographically, their novels will take you from Trondheim to Troy, and the Caribbean to the Wild West, via Venice, Victorian England and Ancient Rome. Individual, entertaining, sometimes provocative: on The History Girls blog they share their thoughts on writing, research, reviews, and all aspects of their work. They love what they do and they want to talk about it!

The History Girls kindly agreed to join with us in talking about Cranky Ladies during March, as not only are we crowdfunding our anthology, but they have just launched their own! I’ll let Mary tell you all about it…

Our first ever publication, Daughters of Time was published by Templar on 1st March 2014 and is a collection of stories written by some of our number about remarkable women, from Boudica to the protestors at Greenham common.

It’s intended for readers of 9+ years and so our contributors are thirteen of those History Girls who write for children (some of us do both of course). It took a while after Templar approached us to work out which women we wanted to cover and who would write about whom but by the beginning of the year we had an outline that has now morphed into a book that is at the printers!

Of course we could have done it all differently: there were so many subjects to choose from. So we have added a list of further women for readers to explore.

The anthology sprang from a post by Adèle Geras, a History Girl who was writing about the influence of the book Our Island Story on a whole generation of children. In the comments, another History Girl, Louisa Young, suggested that we should create a modern version of Our Island Story, with each of us writing one story and Adèle editing it.

An illustration from Our Island Story by H.E.Marshall

Adèle quickly rejected the editing suggestion but the idea of our producing an anthology one day got itself lodged in a few minds and Templar enterprisingly called our bluff. After that, the rest was details. Oh, and writing it of course, but it’s always like that with books (I currently have one announced in another publisher’s catalogue consisting of a title and cover and not yet much else).

In the end, I edited Daughters of Time and a dozen other History Girls contributed to it with me. Adèle’s story was about Eleanor of Aquitaine, a very remarkable woman indeed, who was Queen of first France and then England. But we see her here in a private capacity, comforting a sick girl.

Eleanor of Aquitaine

We begin with Boudica – or rather with her resourceful and brave daughter, written about by Katherine Roberts, move on to Aethelfled, a rather less well known ruler, who was daughter of Alfred the Great and inspired Sue Purkiss to write her story, Lady of the Mercians. But it’s not all about royal women.

We have Kath Langrish’s touching story of the unhappy maid to Dame Julian of Norwich, Dianne Hofmeyr writing about Elizabeth Stuart, who escaped being both victim and puppet of the Gunpowder Plot and Marie-Louise Jensen on playwright Aphra Behn.

Mary Wollstonecraft, by John Opie

Penny Dolan introduces us to Mary Wollstonecraft and Joan Lennon takes us back to the childhood of fossil-hunter Mary Anning. Catherine Johnson completes a trio of Marys with the one called Seacole, a heroine of the Crimean War. Celia Rees writes about Suffragette Emily Davison, Anne Rooney about daring aviator Amy Johnson and Leslie Wilson – from her own experience – about the women anti-nuclear protestors of Greenham Common.

So a pretty varied bunch of subjects. I chose Lady Jane Grey, to liberate her reputation from the passive victim as portrayed  by Paul Delaroche in the famous and inaccurate painting of 1833, now in the National Gallery in London.

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey

I wanted to show how much she was still in charge of her own fate, however much the powerful men around her wanted her to be their political pawn. As a sixteen-year-old with a mind of her own and a will of steel.

In many of the stories, History Girls have introduced and created young women alongside the historical figures, to provide a way in for young readers, allowing them to see through the eyes of girls from the Middle Ages to the end of the 20th century, who found themselves part of events bigger than themselves.

We are launching Daughters of Time at the Oxford Literary Festival on Sunday 30th March at 2pm, when I will chair a panel consisting of Celia Rees, Penny Dolan and Leslie Wilson. And there will be several other contributors there to sign copies. We hope to see you there but, if you can’t make it, then we hope you will read the book.

Daughters of Time by The History Girls, Edited by Mary Hoffman Templar, £7.99 paperback,
ISBN: 9781848771697 March 2013.

For further details and review copies, please contact Laura Smythe on laurasmythecontact@gmail.com or 07881555530

A version of this post originally appeared on The History Girls blog.