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Sat, 04 Mar


Malvern St James Girls School

Melissa Benn and Jane Martin (Y3)

Writer and campaigner, Melissa Benn, in conversation with social historian, Jane Martin, about the strength of political and family traditions - concerning ethics, ideas and ways of campaigning - and how this works its way down the generations. 

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Melissa Benn and Jane Martin (Y3)
Melissa Benn and Jane Martin (Y3)

Time & Location

04 Mar 2023, 11:00 – 12:00

Malvern St James Girls School, 15 Avenue Rd, Malvern WR14 3BA, UK

About the event

Melissa Benn comes from a long line of outspoken campaigners and prominent Parliamentarians. Her journalism has appeared in a wide range of publications, including the Independent, the Times, Public Finance, Marxism Today, Guardian, the New Statesman, Mslexia and Teach Secondary magazine, where she writes a regular column. Her essays have appeared in Storia, Feminist Review, Women: A Cultural Review, Race and Class, Forum, The Political Quarterly and in several collections of essays including Feminism and Censorship (Prism), Moving Targets:Women, Murder and Representation (Virago), New Gender Agenda (IPPR) and Women of the Revolution: Forty Years of Feminism (Guardian Books).

Melissa has published nine books, including two novels, Public Lives (Hamish Hamilton, 1994) and One of Us (Chatto and Windus, 2008), which was shortlisted for a British Book Award in 2008. It was described by the novelist Sara Paretsky as an ‘insider look at politics and power but a heartbreaking novel in its own right'. Her writing on the expanding possibilities and enduring burdens of women’s lives includes Madonna and Child: Towards A New Politics of Motherhood (Jonathan Cape 1998) described by Catherine Lockerbie in the Scotsman as a ‘warm compassionate and unfailingly intelligent’ study of contemporary motherhood.  This was followed, a decade and a half later, by What Should We Tell Our Daughters? The Pleasures and Pressures of Growing Up Female (John Murray 2013), an exploration of young women’s lives from the perspective of a feminist and mother in mid-life, which was shortlisted for a Politico’s Book of the Year in 2014 and described by one reviewer as ‘A Bible for any young woman who has doubted herself, any brilliant mind who has ever felt unworthy.’

Melissa has also written a number of books on education including  School Wars: The Battle for Britain’s Education (Verso, 2011) described by the Observer as ‘a tremendous book.’ Life Lessons: The Case for a National Education Service (Verso, 2018) set out a route map for educational change, and was described by Guardian Education columnist  Fiona Millar as ‘an eloquent and much needed blueprint for reform when radical ideas are in short supply.’  The Guardian published a chapter of the book as one of its Long Reads.

A political campaigner all her adult life, Melissa was a founder member of the  Local Schools Network and was chair of Comprehensive Future, an all-party group committed to the phasing out of the 11 plus and fair school admissions, from 2014-2018. In 2019, she helped co-found Private Education Policy Forum. In 2012, she won the Fred and Anne Jarvis award for her exemplary advocacy of high-quality comprehensive education.

Jane Martin is Professor of Social History of Education in the School of Education, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom and Director of the Domus Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Histories of Education and Childhood. She teaches and researches on gender and history, education policy and social justice, and research methods in education. Her publications include Women and the Politics of Schooling in Victorian and Edwardian England, winner of the History of Education Society (UK) Book Prize 2002 and Making Socialists: Mary Bridges Adams and the Fight for Knowledge and Power 1855-1939 (2010). Her books with Joyce Goodman include Women and Education 1800-1980 (2004) and a 4-volume set for Routledge Women and Education: Major Themes in Education. 


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