Rebel women between the wars – Q&A with Sarah Lonsdale

Posted by Rebecca Mortimer - Tuesday, 27 Oct 2020


How would you like someone who has read your book to sum it up in one sentence?

“Inspiring stories about ‘ordinary’ women who achieved extraordinary things simply through their courage, determination and willpower, at a time when few women were able to do what they wanted.”

What book in your field has inspired you the most?

Difficult! I’m picking two: Interwar generally has to be D. L. Mahieu A Culture for Democracy: Mass Communication and the Cultivated Mind in Britain Between the Wars (Clarendon, 1988). Interwar women writers: Nicola Beauman A Very Great Profession: The women’s novel 1914 – 39 (Virago, 1983).

Did your research take you to any unexpected places?

Yes, to obscure and dusty archives where I uncovered the hidden lives, loves and secrets of my subjects, recorded in letters, diaries, dance cards and other documents. My favourite archives were the Alpine Club Library, the Friends Library, National Archives of Australia and the Pepys Library, Magdalene College Cambridge.

Which writing process do you use (computer, longhand, dictate, other)?

Longhand – note taking in libraries and archives
Computer – writing the book

Why did you choose to publish with MUP?

Several friends and colleagues of mine have had very positive experiences publishing with MUP.

What are you working on now?

I’m working on a proposal to turn the life of one of the women in my book (Dorothy Pilley) into a full-length biography.

If you could go back and give yourself once piece of advice when starting out on this project, what would it be?

Take your time, enjoy living with these women, they can teach you so much about how to live your own life.

If you could have been the author of any book, what would it be and why?

Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex – such an inspiring and courageous, as well as intellectually rigorous book.

What other genres do you enjoy reading?

Contemporary fiction; historical fiction.

Which authors (academic and not) would you invite to a dinner party?

This is if I can have dead and alive:

Lissa Evans (Old Baggage) – she would be a hoot
Melissa Harrison (All Among the Barley) – has written one of the best books I’ve read this year
Tim Winton (Dirt Music) – ditto
Arundhati Roy – exciting intellect, wonderful writer
Simone de Beauvoir
Ernest Hemmingway – never a dull moment
Toni Morrison – wrote the best novel I’ve ever read
Hannah Arendt – one of the greatest thinkers of C20
Lisa Mullen – author of Mid-Century Gothic, the best academic book I’ve read recently









Rebel women between the wars is available now. Sarah Lonsdale is a former journalist and has as written for a wide variety of publications including: Observer, Financial Times, Evening Standard, Daily Telegraph, Independent on Sunday, National Geographic, TLS and the Sunday Times. She was a weekly columnist for the Sunday Telegraph from 2006 – 2014. Sarah is currently a senior Lecturer in Journalism at City, University of London.



Newsletter Sign Up

Manchester University Press

Your cart is empty.

Select your shipping destination to estimate postage costs

(Based on standard shipping costs)

Final cost calculated on checkout
Promotional codes can be added on Checkout