The British Library is releasing a series of out-of-print books by largely forgotten female writers this spring to coincide with the forthcoming exhibition “Unfinished Business: The Fight for Women’s Rights”.
Starting with four books from the 1910s, 20s, 30s and 40s, the Women Writers series focuses on authors who enjoyed broad, popular appeal in their day. Each work sees fictional heroines challenge the attitudes of their time and highlight women’s experience inside and outside the home.
It begins with The Tree of Heaven by May Sinclair, a suffragist and British novelist who was dubbed "the readable modernist". Her 1917 book follows the fortunes of the Harrison family as the children grow up in the shadow of the First World War and Dorothy’s brothers go off, one by one, to the trenches, while she becomes involved with the suffrage movement.
Bad Girl by American short story author and Hollywood screenwriter Viña Delmar follows. Published in 1928, Bad Girl was a bestseller in its day as a cautionary tale about attitudes to premarital sex, pregnancy and childbirth in 1920s Harlem.
Third in the series is 1931’s My Husband Simon by Mollie Panter-Downes. Set in 1930s London, literary Nevis Falconer struggles to be a writer and also manage her marriage with increasing independence outside the home.
The fourth title is Chatterton Square, a 1947 novel by James Tait Black Memorial Prize-winner and William author E H Young. The book concerns the complex web of relationships between two neighbouring families, the Blacketts and the Frasers. Framed by the advance of the Second World War, the mechanics of marriage and love are laid bare through the observation of three of the marital options open to the mid-century woman: unmarried, separated, miserably married.
The series launches in the spring with a further four titles to be released in the autumn.
Rebecca Nuotio, head of commerical brand development and sales, said: "What a magnificent way to mark the British Library’s forthcoming, hotly anticipated women’s rights show ‘Unfinished Business’. These books have been sourced from the library’s collections and, while not about women’s rights as such, the first four titles have a modern, forward-looking focus and provide a freshness of insight into women’s lives and the richness and excellence of their writing."