We are delighted to welcome New York Times bestselling author of historical fiction, Marie Benedict, to be our guest blogger. I heard Marie talk about her terrific books when she spoke to the Naples, FL Friends of the Library series last week (which attracts over 700 attendees!!) and was happy to chat with her there about how I have enjoyed reading her stories about remarkable (and “under appreciated”) women. One of my favorite books of hers was THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE ROOM about Hedy Lamarr. Two other winners were CARNEGIE’S MAID and THE OTHER EINSTEIN about the first Mrs. Albert Einstein. Marie has a brand new release LADY CLEMENTINE.Now the author gives us the background and inspiration for this very interesting novel:
From Marie Benedict:
When you picture the leadership of Great Britain during the hardships and challenges of World War II, do you think of Winston Churchill in those iconic photographs? Do you imagine the ubiquitous cigar, the Homburg hat, the famous speeches, and the “V” for victory sign? Do you usually envision him alone, or perhaps, in the rare photograph, with Roosevelt or Stalin? Would it surprise you to know that the lens on those famous images of Winston during the war — and long before it as well — should be broadened to include his wife, Clementine?
If the photographs of Winston were altered to accurately reflect the role that Clementine Churchill played throughout their lives — not only in World War I and World War II, but all the critical years in between — we would see her sharing the broad mantle of leadership alongside her husband, because their society would not allow her to assume her own political power. We would witness her campaigning alongside Winston for Parliament over many decades and serving as a senior government official’s wife like no other, as the spouse of the Home Secretary, Lord Admiral, and of course, the Prime Minister — all the while vetting and editing his speeches, discussing policies and strategies, influencing governmental leaders towards their shared goals, and helping him deal with the difficult landscape of colleagues and staff.
And these tasks are only the ones she performed with Winston. Behind the scenes, she are undertook many projects of her own design — such as ensuring the safety of air raid shelters for the British people during the Blitz, advocating for roles for women in the war effort, and raising millions of dollars in aid for the wounded people of Russia — not to mention the vast array of responsibilities she assumed on Winston’s behalf, such as caring for their family and home and tending to his demanding schedule, and for his safety, such as accompanying him on his tours of Blitz sites so he wouldn’t act rashly, as was his wont, and get in harm’s way.
So why do we always envision Winston alone during the critical periods in modern history? Because he certainly wasn’t. Can we attribute it to limited historical preconceptions about the nature of women’s abilities? If so, even though we cannot travel back in time and alter the photographic record to ensure that it accurately reflects Clementine’s role, we need to begin affirmatively write women back into the historical narrative where they’ve been all along, hidden in plain sight.
Now what women in history do you feel were never given the credit for their accomplishments?