Learning About Revolutionary Women

Last Friday (as mentioned in my post last week) I was at an event in Sunderland led by two speakers, Dr Laura O’Brien from Northumbria University and author Dr Mary Talbot.

The event titled ‘Revolutionary Women: Imagining Louise Michel’ was great. As part of the Sunderland University public lecture series the event was held outside of the university campus in the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, allowing members of the public as well as students and staff to have the chance of attending.

The inspiration for the joint talk that centred around French revolutionary history circa 1789 onwards came from the graphic novel ‘The Red Virgin and the Vision of Utopia’ by Dr Mary Talbot. The graphic novel is illustrated by Brian Talbot and focuses on the historical figure and story of Louise Michel. The talk began with an overview of the perception and reality of women involved in political protesting from 1789 onwards by Dr Laura O’Brien before Dr Mary Talbot narrowed down the focus to Louise Michel and the graphic novel.

It was fascinating to hear about the perception of women campaigning for various rights. One particular quote during Laura’s presentation, “Let women become citizens so they can raise good citizens” really stood out to me. Previously, I didn’t know much about that particular period of history – it was something I was never taught – but there was nothing completely intangible about it when it was spoken about on Friday. It was obvious that the stereotypes formed during that period have unfortunately lingered – particularly when related to modern feminism.

Instead it was always, and is, about equality.

When it was Mary’s turn to speak she began with audience recognition. She spoke about how she’d written the book for what was likely to be a mostly British audience who would not have previously known about Louise Michel, I know that I didn’t, and so she started her book from the end before going back through the years to where the story began. As a writer, this technique is fascinating, particularly when it is used to introduce a real historical figure. Seeing the end of a journey can often stir intrigue and lead to wonder about where the story began.

Mary went into some detail when it came to the first portion of the book and learning about history through the use of a graphic novel was interesting. The book is filled with accurate references where possible. There are snatches of real, documented speeches from the period and the illustrations were taken from real places that Mary and Brian visited during their research as well as photographs available.

I was fascinated by it all, and yes I bought my own copy of the book which was signed by both Mary and Brian (thank you both again for that. It’s lovely).

The Red Virgin and the vision of utopia

I had a busy day on Friday (I went to see Beauty and The Beast earlier that day with a friend which was great) but I am so glad that I went to the Revolutionary Women event. The long train ride home was worth it.


On Sunday I posted my very first guest blog, Patronus VS Spirit Animal by Cara De Sausmarez and I was thrilled that she’d written something so good for me during her free time. As you can probably tell, she’s a big Harry Potter fan.


There are only a couple of days left before the April CampNaNoWriMo begins and I’ve submitted my project for the month on the website. At the moment I’m calling it Modern Mythology since that the project needed a title and I’ve set the word count at 35,000. We’ll see if I get there.


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