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Shooting for the Sky: Women Breaking Barriers Since 1918

Yesterday marked the 100-year anniversary of the Representation of the People Act – when some women first won the right to vote in the United Kingdom.

Sixteen years old when women got the vote, Beryl Markham would redefine what was possible for women to achieve. Her claim to fame was an extraordinary achievement that killed several men before her.

But even before that, she was breaking barriers. At eighteen, she became the first licensed female racehorse trainer in Africa. Always being adventurous and independent, Markham decided to shoot for the sky. In 1936, she was the first person to successfully cross the Atlantic east to west in a solo non-stop flight. At this point, no pilot had ever flown non-stop from Europe to New York, and no woman had ever made this flight solo. Not that men hadn’t tried.

This route was even more challenging than the eastward route her male counterpart, Charles Lindbergh, took in 1927. In her memoir, West with The Night, she documented her unparalleled journey, her crash in Nova Scotia, Canada, and her ultimate triumph.

Markham was evidently not afraid of taking risks unheard of in her day. She broke preconceived notions on women’s abilities, and in the process showed everyone what a woman could do.

Here at the Claret Press office, Markham’s incredible achievements remind us that though many women’s lives have improved, many have not. Sylvia Vetta’s Brushstrokes in Time tells the gripping tale of a woman coming-of-age in the oppressive climate of communist China. Where Markham broke a glass ceiling with her ground breaking – sky breaking – airborne adventure, the courageous protagonist Little Winter uses art to express herself and break barriers. Based on extensive research into the Stars Art Movement, a radical art movement that would produce Ai WeiWei and other internationally acclaimed (but now exiled) Chinese artists, Brushstrokes in Time has the persuasiveness of reality. Soaring through themes of motherhood, love, and freedom of expression, Vetta has written of a brave battle towards female independence.

Claret Press salutes all women but cherishes those who break the rules.

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