Today we welcome Robert Wainwright to Booklover Book Reviews to share with us the writing journey that led to his latest book, Miss Muriel Matters: The Australian actress who became one of London’s most famous suffragists.
And, thanks to Harper Collins Australia – ABC Books, we have a paperback copy to giveaway.
I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, from the day I left high school and took a cadetship with the local newspaper in my home town of Busselton in the remote south-west corner of Western Australia.
I consider myself very fortunate to have lived through the final years of typewriters and hot metal presses that thumped beneath the floor of the editorial floor, and to have been there at the beginning of technology that ushered in computers and mobile telephones and the ability to scan and send photographers from remote locations.
During all this the basics of journalism have not changed, that the essence of news is telling someone something they don’t know. The combination of that description and my nose for “a good yarn” have been the guiding lights in my career as a non-fiction author, which I regard in many ways as long-form journalism.
I found a niche in recent years in unearthing stories of lost histories; Australians who in their day were famous (or infamous depending on your point of view) across the world and yet were for some reason forgotten, their deeds smothered by history that tends to throw the spotlight on a small number of heroes and heroines and leaves others in the shade.
The first of these was Sheila Chisholm, a young woman from Goulburn where she learned to ride horses and kill snakes and yet who ended up having a love affair with a King of England, bewitched politicians, movie stars, literary giants and wealthy businessmen, organised the biggest fund raising event in England’s history and became one of London’s first businesswomen. When her first marriage to a Scottish aristocrat failed, she married an English baron, and when she was widowed after World War II she married a Russian prince. She was so famous in London that The Times reported one day that she was ill and then a week later that she was well, and yet somehow her story and dazzling life was forgotten. [ Sheila: The Australian beauty who bewitched British society (2014) ]
The second was about a man named George Finch, a boy from Orange who decided at the age of 13 that he wanted to climb the highest mountain in the world. He did so in 1922, the first real attempt to reach the roof of the world, stopping only to save his climbing mate from certain death. George’s life and exploits, as an adventurer and a brilliant scientist and inventor, were largely hidden behind the glorification of Britain’s romantic but flawed mountaineer George Mallory, with whom he climbed. [ The Brilliant Outsider ]
My latest book follows the same theme, the story and adventures of Muriel Matters, an actress and elocutionist form Adelaide who became one of the most famous suffragettes of London as women battled for the vote in the first years of the 20th century, and yet was forgotten by history in the shadows of the iconic figures of Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst.
Having watched her home town become the first in the world to grant women the twin rights of the vote and to stand for election, she was already imbued with the power of choice and electoral equality when she sailed to London in 1905 seeking fame on the stage.
Instead she found fame as an agitator, social reformer and thinker, a woman whose achievements were because of the intelligence and gumption rather than good looks and social position.
She became the first woman to make a speech in the House of Commons (as a protester) and flew over London in an airship, one of the first powered flights over the city, to drop Votes for Women leaflets on the head of the King as he trotted down The Hall in his golden carriage to open Parliament. She championed early childhood education and worked in London’s slums to improve conditions for mothers, championed the peace movement during the Great War and fought for prison rights and animal welfare.
As her surname suggests Muriel Matters was a woman who mattered, quite simply one of the most amazing women that you’ve probably never heard of … until now!
Miss Muriel Matters by Robert Wainwright
The Australian actress who became one of London’s most famous suffragists.
Discover the most inspiring woman you’ve never heard of …
In 1909, a young Australian actress made headlines around the world when she took to the sky over London in an airship emblazoned with the slogan ‘Votes for Women’ and dropped leaflets over the city. Muriel Matters was dubbed ‘that daring Australian girl’, and the American media declared it to be the world’s first aerial protest.
Just months earlier, Muriel had become the first woman to make a speech in the British House of Commons, after chaining herself to a brass grille to protest against the segregation of women in the Parliament. She went on to become one of the most famous suffragists of her day, her skill as an orator drawing crowds in their thousands.
So why is the remarkable Muriel Matters a relative unknown in both Britain and her home country? In Miss Muriel Matters, bestselling writer Robert Wainwright discovers an extraordinary woman full of intelligence, passion and bravery who fought for women’s rights in a world far from equal.
About the Author, Robert Wainwright
Robert Wainwright is a well-known journalist and the author of several topical books. Fascinated by characters and what drives them, he has written books about Rose Porteous, Caroline Byrne, Martin Bryant, Sheila Chisholm, George Ingle Finch and Ian Thorpe. He currently lives in London with his wife, Paola Totaro, and their family.
Thanks to the lovely people at HarperCollins – ABC Books we have a paperback copy of Miss Muriel Matters to giveaway to one lucky reader:
- open worldwide
- extra entries for spreading the word via Twitter [+2] and Facebook/Google+/Webpage [+4]
- extra entries for registered participants of the Aussie Author Challenge 2017 [+1 for challenge commitment and +1 for each review link submitted to date as part of the challenge]
- entries close midnight 26 April 2017
- the winner will be randomly selected and announced on our Facebook Page
- the winner must respond to my email requesting their mailing address within 5 days otherwise their prize will be forfeited and another winner selected