From Madame Ching, a 19th-century pirate who ruled the South China Sea, to Anna Hedgeman, who helped to organise 1963’s Great March on Washington, it’s time to celebrate these often-overlooked yet awesome characters
My desk is littered with dead women, which makes me sound like the world’s untidiest serial killer. Let me start again. I collect women. OK, that may be worse – it makes them sound like ceramic thimbles. Let’s see … I read a lot – mostly history – and every time I find a fabulous woman from the past whose story was hitherto unknown to me, I gather her up to keep in scribbled notes. I do this selflessly, because the risk to my health is enormous.
In 1791, the German theologian Karl Gottfried Bauer wrote: “The lack of all physical movement while reading, combined with the forcible alternation of imagination and emotion [leads to] slackness, mucous congestion, flatulence and constipation of the inner organs, which, as is well known, particularly in the female sex, actually affects the sexual parts.”