A History of Women in 101 Objects

A walk through female history

Annabelle Hirsch

How rich and diverse, how complex and non-linear the history of all women is.
A History of Women in 101 Objects by Annabelle Hirsch (Hardback ISBN 9781805300878) book cover

Available as Hardback, eBook, Downloadable audio

From a hunger strike medal to a bidet, the Amazon rainforest to the plantations of South Carolina, Simone de Beauvoir to Beyoncé, this is the story of women as never seen before


This is a neglected history. Not a sweeping, definitive, exhaustive history of the world but something quieter, more intimate and particular. A single journey, picked out in 101 objects, through the fascinating, too-often-overlooked, manifold histories of women.

Open up this cabinet of curiosities and you’ll find objects that have been highly esteemed – even, like the Bayeux tapestry, fought over by nations – and others that are humble and domestic. Some (like a sixteenth century glass dildo) are objects of female pleasure, some (a thumbscrew) of female subjugation. There are artefacts of women celebrated by history and of women unfairly forgotten by it; examples of female rebellion and of self-revelation; objects that are inspiring, curious or (like radium-laced chocolate) just fundamentally ill-conceived.

Through the variety and nuance in all these 101 objects, Annabelle Hirsch has created a new history - teeming, unexpected, witty and always illuminating. This overdue corrective reveals what a healed femur says about civilisation, what men have to fear from hat pins, and it shows that the past has always been as complicated and fascinating as the women that peopled it.

“An ambitious project, wide in scope, idiosyncratic in approach … The power of this book is cumulative; read as a whole it becomes increasingly affecting. At its heart it is about female pain, female bravery and female creativity”
sunday Times

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“Hirsch provides a rich, subversive take on history … The scope and delicious imaginative leaps of Hirsch’s work, translated from German by Eleanor Updegraff, start to work their magic. I guarantee many readers will be exposed to something new”
financial Times

“Whimsical, fun and witty. Annabelle Hirsch’s book is a like a treasure hunt through history, culture, politics, fashion and art”
Andrea Wulf

“A reminder, lest we forget, that women are and have always been, whether quietly or vociferously, on the periphery or centre stage, the engine, the glue, the inspiration behind it all”
Gillian Anderson

“I adored this book! Hirsch’s intimate observational gifts turn that world into a rousing, living record of all that we have wrestled with”
Olivia Colman

Annabelle Hirsch

Annabelle Hirsch, born in 1986, has German and French roots. She studied art history, dramatics and philosophy in Munich and Paris, and works as a cultural journalist for Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) and various other magazines. She writes short stories and translates French literature. She lives between Rome and Berlin.

Eleanor Updegraff was born in London and studied English Literature, German and Russian at Durham University. She is a literary translator and author, ghostwriter and editor, and reviews books for various publications online and in print. She has lived in Vienna since 2015.

Listen to an extract from A History of Women in 101 Objects: ‘Knife’, read by Samin Nosrat.

Listen to an extract from A History of Women in 101 Objects: ‘Dish With the likeness of Roxelana’, read by Elif Shafak.

Listen to an extract from A History of Women in 101 Objects: ‘The Hatpin’, read by Helena Bonham-Carter.

Listen to an extract from A History of Women in 101 Objects: ‘Sappho Papyrus’, read by Jackie Kay.

Listen to an extract from A History of Women in 101 Objects: ‘15 Malleus Maleficarum’, read by Margaret Atwood.

Listen to an extract from A History of Women in 101 Objects: ‘The Bidet’ as read by Olivia Colman

An extract from the first chapter of A History of Women in 101 Objects: ‘Healed femur’, read by Gillian Anderson.

The hardback of the book is available now, the audiobook will be published on 5 March 2024, featuring 101 notable women including Margaret Atwood, Olivia Colman, Elif Shafak and more still to be announced. Canongate will donate a portion of the sales of the audiobook to Refuge, supporting women and their children experiencing domestic abuse.

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