Take a break from the current news cycle to join a lunchtime conversation on Wednesday 23rd September with author and journalist Helen Lewis, about why difficult women make history. 

Helen Lewis joined Fawcett Society Chief Executive, Sam Smethers, to discuss her book Difficult Women: A history of feminism in 11 fights, and to share her views on why we need to reclaim the history of feminism as a history of difficult women. 

Helen Lewis argues that feminism’s success is down to complicated, contradictory, imperfect women, who fought each other as well as fighting for equal rights. Too many of these pioneers have been whitewashed or forgotten in our modern search for feel-good, inspirational heroines.

In her book we meet the working-class suffragettes who advocated bombings and arson; the princess who discovered why so many women were having bad sex; the pioneer of the refuge movement who became a men’s rights activist; the ‘striker in a sari’ who terrified Margaret Thatcher; the wronged Victorian wife who definitely wasn’t sleeping with the prime minister; and the lesbian politician who outraged the country. 


Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society


Sam joined Fawcett in August 2015 as Chief Executive. Prior to Fawcett, she was the Chief Executive of Grandparents Plus for over six years. Sam is no stranger to equalities and gender issues having worked for both the Equal Opportunities Commission and the Equalities and Human Rights Commission. She also served as a Fawcett trustee between 2007 and 2010, was a trustee of Gingerbread for seven years and has nine years’ experience working in Parliament. Sam is passionate about equal representation, valuing and sharing care and closing the gender pay gap.


Helen is a British journalist who works as a Staff Writer at the Atlantic magazine, based in London. She hosts the longform interview series The Spark on BBC Radio 4, and her history of feminism, Difficult Women, was published in February 2020. She was formerly deputy editor at the New Statesman and the 2018/19 Women in the Humanities Honorary Writing Fellow at Oxford University.

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