First in the Fight by Helen Antrobus and Andrew Simcock

20 Women who made Manchester

Emmeline Pankhurst stands proudly in St Peter’s Square, but she stands for so many more…

First in the Fight tells the compelling stories of the twenty women featured on the Our Emmeline statue long-list. Author Helen Antrobus brings to life the achievements of these radical Manchester women alongside beautiful illustrations by the Women in Print collective.

Book blurb

The women of Greater Manchester have long stood shoulder to shoulder in the fight for equality and social change. The unveiling of the statue of Emmeline Pankhurst in St Peter’s Square, strove to represent the contributions that Manchester women had made not only to the city, but also to the rest of the world.

Sitting alongside stunning illustrations from the ‘Women in Print’ collective, First in the Fight brings to life the stories of a range of inspiring women, from suffragettes, to botanists and mathematicians. The efforts of these pioneering women have shaped the world we live in and have helped pave the way for the voices of the next generation of women to be heard.

My thoughts

First in the Fight is a book which tells the story of twenty women who were nominated as being deserved of a statue in Manchester. They are women who have each in their own way worked and fought for the rights of women. They have done this through their work and by championing issues to show that women deserve to have equal pay, equal opportunities in education, in work and in suffrage. Simply put – to have equality, to be considered as equal to men.

Women have long been considered the property of men, considered the weaker sex and therefore inferior to men.

Each of these women worked and fought to demonstrate that is not the case, that women – and men – are firstly human beings, two sides to the same coin. Women and men may have differences but neither is better nor more deserving than the other.

The book takes us through the campaign in Manchester, supported by Andrew Simcock, a member of Manchester City Council, to redress the absence of women’s statues in the city. That statues are, if you will, a symbol of equality. A visible acknowledgment of the work women have done to improve the life of their fellow Mancunians and, indeed, that of the wider population of the UK and beyond.

The story of the campaign is given in the book and it is interesting to read how it took on and grew. How individuals and groups worked together was a pleasure to read about.

These are the women, not all from Manchester but all have strong ties to the City, who were listed for a public vote on who should be the subject of the first statue of a woman in Manchester in over 100 years. Not all are well known but each were nominated as having left a significant mark on Manchester.

Margaret Downes 

Margaret Ashton 

Mary Quayle

Ester Roper

Ellen Wilkinson

Lydia Becker

Christabel Pankhurst

Sylvia Pankhurst

Emmeline Pankhurst

Elizabeth Gaskell

Enriqueta Rylands

Anne Horniman

Olive Shapley

Marie Stopes

Shena Simon

Kathleen Ollerenshaw

Louise DaCocodia

Elizabeth Raffald

Emily Williamson

Sunny Lowry

After huge consideration and much fund raising the Emmeline Pankhurst statue, by Hazel Reeves, was unveiled in St Peters Square in Manchester on the 14 December 2018.

These women often made personal sacrifices to be able to further their causes some died others suffered appalling treatment at the hands of the authorities in pursuit of their goals. It is only now, for many of these women, that a proper acknowledgement of their sacrifices, of their work has been told albeit briefly. So many of these women have been virtually unknown to us as his-story has been told in preference to her-story even though both are equally part of our-story – all our History.

It has been an absolute pleasure to have read this wonderful book bringing into print and out to the world the stories of these 20 extraordinary women each of whom deserves to be recorded for posterity. Future generations of women – and men – deserve to know about all of these women. This book brings a ‘snapshot’ of each of them and how they worked and fought to bring equality, to demonstrate the equality of women in politics and in all aspects of life.

This is a beautiful book with pictures, graphics and wonderful illustrations by the ‘Women in Print’ collective portraying many of the women as well as the telling of the journey, the campaign for the statue and, of course, most importantly – the women.


My thanks to iNostagia for a copy of First in the Fight and to Kelly of LoveBooksTours for asking me to take part in the First in the Fight BlogTour.



Blog Tour

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Helen Antrobus

Andrew Simcock

Author: lovebooksreadbooks

I love to read and hope you enjoy reading what I have to say about the books I have read.