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  • Published: 23 January 2020
  • ISBN: 9781473559608
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 368

Ladies Can’t Climb Ladders

The Pioneering Adventures of the First Professional Women




A centenary history of the influential women of the twentieth century whose collective entry into the fields of Medicine, Law, the Church, Architecture, Engineering and Academia between the wars shaped the personal and professional lives of working women today

It is a myth that either of the World Wars liberated women.

The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 was one of the most significant pieces of legislation in modern Britain. It marked at once political watershed and a social revolution; the point at which women of 21 and over were recognised in law as being as competent as men. But were they? What actually happened when this bill was passed? This is the story of what happened next.

Ladies Can't Climb Ladders focuses on the lives of six women - six pioneers - forging paths in the fields of medicine, law, academia, architecture, engineering and the church. Robinson's startling study into the public and private lives of these women sheds light not on the desires and ambitions of her subjects but how family and society responded to the working woman and what their legacy looks like today.

This book is written in their honour. It is a book about live subjects: equal opportunity, the gender pay gap, and whether women can expect, or indeed deserve, to have it at all.

  • Published: 23 January 2020
  • ISBN: 9781473559608
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 368

About the author

Jane Robinson

Jane Robinson is also the author of Hearts and Minds: The Untold Story of the Great Piligrimage and How Women Won the Vote and Bluestockings: the Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education. She was born in Edinburgh and brought up in Yorkshire before going to Oxford University to study English Language and Literature at Somerville College. She has worked in the antiquarian book trade and as an archivist and is now a full-time writer and lecturer, specialising in social history through women's eyes. She is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, member of the Society of Authors, and founder member of Writers in Oxford. She is married with two sons and lives in Buckinghamshire. Ladies Can't Climb Ladders is her eleventh book.

Also by Jane Robinson

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Praise for Ladies Can’t Climb Ladders

[Jane Robinson] has come up trumps again with this engrossing, often startling, and arrestingly-titled history of the pioneering women of the early 20th century who were among the first female doctors, lawyers, academics, architects and engineers.

The Bookseller

A superb and energizing history of the professional women who paved the way for gender equality in law, medicine engineering and many other fields. These women were often derided, ostracised and opposed. They encountered newly made laws to keep them out of male-dominated professions and they overcame these barriers with extraordinary strength. They fought their wars in order to give us the freedom to make our own career choices. Deeply moving at times, this book deserves to be read by young and old to celebrate the achievements of an unforgettable group of women.

Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones President, Medical Women’s Federation, UK

A book of huge interest both to me and to anyone, man or woman, who wishes to understand how far we have come in gender equality – and presented in the most fascinating and appealing way

Professor Carrie MacEwen, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges

An engaging read bringing many brilliant and trailblazing women in the professions out of the shadow of anonymity to help inspire future generations.

Dana Denis-Smith, Founder of First 100 Years

Inspiring to read about the courage, pragmatism and determination in these women forging careers and livelihoods in traditional professions. These stories of women from all backgrounds and social levels show the power of persistence and fortitude.

Professor Alice Gast, President, Imperial College London

A rich picture of the struggles and successes of those amazing women who trod so quietly to leave such a massive footprint and legacy behind them.

Dawn Childs, President, Women’s Engineering Society

An entertaining guide, dipping into ladies’ journals of the time to add levity to what indeed is a serious message.

Mia Levitin, Spectator

A well researched and entertaining read…a wonderful celebration of female pioneers

The Sunday Times

Jane Robinson’s book is a lesson in how unthinkingly we wear freedom. Well known as a writer and social historian excavating ordinary women’s lives, Robinson focuses this time on the emergence of lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, architects, scientists and churchwomen after the passing of the landmark law of 1919. Modern professional women will read it with a slow burn of anger and heightened respect for those whose actions, such a relatively brief time ago, made today possible . . . We ride on the shoulders of female giants — courageous, eccentric, clever pioneers. Robinson is a wryly amusing companion and this is an entertaining book, teeming with characters.

Melanie Reid, The Times

An important and crackingly good read

The Telegraph

An engrossing account of the lives of pioneering women who, against the odds, forged careers in the fields of medicine, law, architecture, engineering, academia and the Church in post-First World War Britain . . . Rich in detail, here are the stories of ‘ordinary’ women, not celebrities, which makes the book all the more interesting.

Choice Magazine

Arrestingly written…a stirring testament to unsung heroines

The Observer

Robinson writes with an often witty touch, which only serves to throw into furious relief the seriousness of the resistance women faced . . . An excellent companion to Robinson's Bluestockings.

The Financial Times

[Robinson] weaves an inspirational epic from the lives of countless determined, self-propelled women

The Herald

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