> Skip to content
  • Published: 23 January 2020
  • ISBN: 9781473559608
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 368

Ladies Can’t Climb Ladders

The Pioneering Adventures of the First Professional Women




An inspiring and startling centenary history of the first professional women whose determination to have successful careers shaped the personal and working lives of women today.

It is a myth that the First World War liberated women.The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919 was one of the most significant pieces of legislation in modern Britain. It should have marked a social revolution, opening the doors of the traditional professions to women who had worked so hard during the War, and welcoming them inside as equals.

But what really happened? Ladies Can't Climb Ladders focuses on the lives of pioneering women forging careers in the fields of medicine, law, academia, architecture, engineering and the church. In her startling study into the public and private worlds of these unsung heroines, Jane Robinson sheds light on their desires and ambitions, and how family and society responded to this emerging class of working women.

This book is written in their honour. Their shared vision, sacrifice and spirited perseverance began a process we have yet to finish. Their experiences raise live questions about equal opportunity, the gender pay gap, the work/life balance - and whether it is possible for women to have it all.

_______________________________

'A wonderful celebration of female pioneers' Sunday Times'A crackingly good read' Telegraph'A stirring testament to unsung heroes' Observer'A lesson in how unthinkingly we wear our freedom' The Times

  • Published: 23 January 2020
  • ISBN: 9781473559608
  • Imprint: Transworld Digital
  • Format: EBook
  • Pages: 368

About the author

Jane Robinson

Jane Robinson is also the author of Hearts and Minds: The Untold Story of the Great Piligrimage and How Women Won the Vote and Bluestockings: the Remarkable Story of the First Women to Fight for an Education. She was born in Edinburgh and brought up in Yorkshire before going to Oxford University to study English Language and Literature at Somerville College. She has worked in the antiquarian book trade and as an archivist and is now a full-time writer and lecturer, specialising in social history through women's eyes. She is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, member of the Society of Authors, and founder member of Writers in Oxford. She is married with two sons and lives in Buckinghamshire. Ladies Can't Climb Ladders is her eleventh book.

Also by Jane Robinson

See all

Praise for Ladies Can’t Climb Ladders

An important and crackingly good read

The Telegraph

Arrestingly written…a stirring testament to unsung heroines

The Observer

Jane Robinson’s book is a lesson in how unthinkingly we wear freedom. Well known as a writer and social historian excavating ordinary women’s lives, Robinson focuses this time on the emergence of lawyers, doctors, engineers, teachers, architects, scientists and churchwomen after the passing of the landmark law of 1919. Modern professional women will read it with a slow burn of anger and heightened respect for those whose actions, such a relatively brief time ago, made today possible . . . We ride on the shoulders of female giants — courageous, eccentric, clever pioneers. Robinson is a wryly amusing companion and this is an entertaining book, teeming with characters.

Melanie Reid, The Times

A well researched and entertaining read…a wonderful celebration of female pioneers

The Sunday Times

Robinson writes with an often witty touch, which only serves to throw into furious relief the seriousness of the resistance women faced . . . An excellent companion to Robinson's Bluestockings.

The Financial Times

An entertaining guide, dipping into ladies’ journals of the time to add levity to what indeed is a serious message.

Mia Levitin, Spectator

[Jane Robinson] has come up trumps again with this engrossing, often startling, and arrestingly-titled history of the pioneering women of the early 20th century who were among the first female doctors, lawyers, academics, architects and engineers.

The Bookseller

A superb and energizing history of the professional women who paved the way for gender equality in law, medicine engineering and many other fields. These women were often derided, ostracised and opposed. They encountered newly made laws to keep them out of male-dominated professions and they overcame these barriers with extraordinary strength. They fought their wars in order to give us the freedom to make our own career choices. Deeply moving at times, this book deserves to be read by young and old to celebrate the achievements of an unforgettable group of women.

Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones President, Medical Women’s Federation, UK

An engrossing account of the lives of pioneering women who, against the odds, forged careers in the fields of medicine, law, architecture, engineering, academia and the Church in post-First World War Britain . . . Rich in detail, here are the stories of ‘ordinary’ women, not celebrities, which makes the book all the more interesting.

Choice Magazine

A rich picture of the struggles and successes of those amazing women who trod so quietly to leave such a massive footprint and legacy behind them.

Dawn Childs, President, Women’s Engineering Society

An engaging read bringing many brilliant and trailblazing women in the professions out of the shadow of anonymity to help inspire future generations.

Dana Denis-Smith, Founder of First 100 Years

A book of huge interest both to me and to anyone, man or woman, who wishes to understand how far we have come in gender equality – and presented in the most fascinating and appealing way

Professor Carrie MacEwen, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges

Inspiring to read about the courage, pragmatism and determination in these women forging careers and livelihoods in traditional professions. These stories of women from all backgrounds and social levels show the power of persistence and fortitude.

Professor Alice Gast, President, Imperial College London

[Robinson] weaves an inspirational epic from the lives of countless determined, self-propelled women

The Herald

Related titles