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From great American Joan Baez to British women who have influenced history

By: stagedoorscribbler - March 5, 2018

Joan Baez

It was good to hear Joan Baez doing a round of interviews last week including one with  BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray.

At the age of 77 American folk legend Baez seems as full of verve as ever but she’s beginning to talk about gently winding down a career that has kept her at the top for more than 50 years.

Peace, campaigner, activist and gifted with one of the purest, heart-stopping voices you’re ever likely to hear, she’s always managed to manoeuvre her way through the sometimes treacherous waters of the music business with a calm sense of control.

Her early romantic relationship and ongoing friendship with the mercurial genius that is Bob Dylan has proved her to be capable of 

handling, maybe even relishing, challenging personalties with joy and good humour. The fact that a later lover was Apple guru Steve Jobs perhaps underlines this.

Baez has just released her 25th studio album, Whistle Down The Wind. She says it will be her last. Personally I hope not, but who knows? Witty, wise and wonderful, Joan Baez we would miss you.

Switching from a great American to her personal choice of some of the greatest British women, Jenni Murray is in Oxford tonight (Monday 5th March) presenting her History of Britain as you’ve never heard it before.

She examines the contribution of 21 women whose lives have enthralled, intrigued, inspired and enriched Britain over the years.
Our nation, she says, has been defined by its conflicts, its conquests, its men and its monarchs for to long. She is now attempting to redress the balance by showing that can be defined by its women too.

In her personal selection Murray sheds light on social, political, religious and cultural aspects of British history that have been enhanced by worms. She  reinvigorates the stories behind the names we all know but also reveals the fascinating tales behind those less familiar.

And the women on Jenni Murray's list? Boudicca, Fanny Burney, Constance Markievicz, Caroline Herschel, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Ethel Smyth, Mary Quant, Aphra Behn, Jane Austen,Nancy Astor, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, Emmeline Pankhurst, Margaret Thatcher, Barbara Castle, Elizabeth I, Mary Wollstonecraft, Ada Lovelace, Gwen John, Mary Seacole Nicola Sturgeon and Mary Somerville. 

*Jenni Murray - A History of Britain in 21 Women is at The Oxford Playhouse this evening (Monday 5th March). More information at