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.
In a sense, it is this history that Elaine Showalter sets out to chart in her new book. Her title suggests as much, neatly encapsulating both the feeling of isolation that motivated so many of her subjects and their place in a larger scheme. Being a pioneer is a lonely