We Shall Fight Until We Win is an anthology of stories about pioneering women from the past 100 years. It has been published by 404 Ink, who last year produced the essay collection Nasty Women, and Glaswegian BHP Comics, whose alphabet book, The Mighty Women of Science came out in 2016.
From Emeline Pankhurst and Nicola Sturgeon, through Noor Inayat Khan and Shami Chakrabarti, to Margaret Thatcher and Mhairi Black MP, this wonderfully active and varied book gathers together 100 years of female power. And that’s just the subjects!
Most strips encompassed in the book have a writer and an illustrator, also women: Denise Mina (words) on Betty Boothroyd (for eight years the Speaker at the UK House of Commons); Shazleen Khan (graphics) on Joan Bakewell (author, playwright, Humanist of the Year, and appointed “a voice of older people”); Letty Wilson (graphics) on Diane Abbott .
On top of that, Laura Jones (Emerging Publisher of the Year 2017) and Heather McDaid (The Saltire Society Emerging Publisher of the Year) are the Scottish publishing freelancers who started 404 Ink, both under 40 and pioneering ahead in their field, both able to commission seriously skilled young women.
Strength and determination abound in this publication, and it starts, as you would expect, with Emmeline Pankhurst, Nicola Love’s text running, “We were willing to break laws…so that we might force men to give us the right to make them”. In one of those happy coincidences, Charlot Kristensen’s graphic on page five depicts the suffragette rally taking place in the same street in London where 250,000 recently marched to make known their feelings about (among other things) the misogyny of Donald Trump.
Each chapter is idiosyncratic with a distinct style and quality: realistic (Sophia Alexandra Duleep Singh); caricature (Poison Penmanship, Jessica Mitford); like a traditional comic strip (Jackie Forster); innocent looking drawings (The Radical in the Footnotes, Beatrice Webb); colourful (The 60%); and monochrome (Jeyaben Desai), reflecting both artist and story. “A graphic novel can say more than just words, without cramming it all into text.” states illustrator Maria Stoian.
The contributors involved in this publication specifically depict women “with multiple sides to them” (Jenny Bloomfield). “It became a project to make it diverse. It’s historical so that was hard” (Heather Palmer, BHP). Above all, We Shall Fight is informative and documents women who have made an astonishing difference: in torture rehabilitation (Helen Bamber), as a WWII spy (Inayat Kahn), and there is also a group of school kids, The Glasgow Girls, who stood against the policy of detaining children for immigration purposes.
Jenny Bloomfield is right: “It is amazing what you can get across in a small physical space.”
A Graphic Novel of Women will be at the Edinburgh Book Festival Sat 11 Aug 13:45 – 14:45