Notable Sussex Women
580 Biographical Sketches
by Helena Wojtczak
Published by The Hastings Press
SUSSEX BOOK REVIEW
An unexpected delight. Superficially Notable Sussex Woman looks like it will be a a lifeless affair, containing brief biographies of largely forgotten women of Sussex who have left their mark in one field or another.
It takes no time at all to realise that Helena Wojtczak's light touch has turned this into a fascinating book.
Although most her subjects are selected for their achievements, Wojtczak is interested in the private lives, foibles and failings of these women, not just their public triumphs.
The best bits of the book are those which concern the truly eccentric women of Sussex - the one-offs, misfits and lunatics.
Characters like Valerie Barker of Climping, described as a sexual imposter, who not only wore a suit and married a woman, but also visited a barber every day for a shave. It's a joy to be reminded of such non-conformity.
In truth the cast assembled contains relatively few household names or worthies who will be remembered even 100 years from now - with a few very honourable exceptions. This is not to belittle the achievements of the the 580 women, all dead, written about here. It's more a reflection of how hard it is to make a lasting impact on anything of any importance.
Writers, aristocrats, actresses, feminists and suffragists are well-represented in the author's selection. More surprising is that the women of West Sussex have produced war heroes, engineers, explorers, test pilots and even a rally driver.
The book may not altogether succeed in one of the author's aims - to show that guides to Sussex are wrong to make so few references to the great women of our county.
But it succeeds magnificently in bringing back to life the passions and lives of a colourful cast.
Book reviewed by Mark Hoult, West Sussex.info
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