Joan Smith

Oprah, Di and Hillary

Inventing Herself: Claiming a Feminist Intellectual Heritage

By Elaine Showalter

Picador 384pp £16 order from our bookshop

When I was growing up, women did not have role models. Of course, there were famous women from history – Boudicca, Elizabeth I, Marie Curie – but they all seemed impossibly remote. I’m not certain when I heard of Mary Wollstonecraft for the first time, but I’m pretty sure it was after I had discovered The Female Eunuch. What was exciting about Germaine Greer (and Kate Millett, and half a dozen other feminist writers of the early Seventies) was that they were alive and addressing questions that touched my life directly. And I slowly became aware that, far from being a new breed of women who had sprung fully–formed upon an astonished world, they had antecedents stretching back at least two centuries.

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