Once Upon a Time in Birmingham: Women who dared to dream – Louise Palfreyman


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Who was the world’s first female programmer? Who made history as the first British woman to sail solo around the world non-stop? Who is Birmingham’s first female Muslim MP? Meet Mary Lee Berners-Lee, Lisa Clayton, Shabana Mahmood and many more in Once Upon a Time in Birmingham, a lively introduction to thirty of Birmingham’s most awe-inspiring women, past and present.

From pioneers in their field to everyday heroines, these are women who refused to be silenced, who fought for what they believed in, who proved they were just as good as men… if not better!

Compete in two days of challenging heptathlon events with Olympic gold medallist Denise Lewis. March the picket lines with staunch activist and seeker of justice Jessie Eden. Raise your voice and speak up for girls around the world with courageous campaigner and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai.

Accessible, educational and downright inspirational, this empowering collection of creators and innovators, activists and changemakers, is a must-read for all ages. Complete with vibrant illustrations from a host of up-and-coming female illustrators, learn about the women who made, and are making, Birmingham the great city it is today.

The thirty inspirational women featured in the book are:

Aliyah Hasinah, PC Andrea Reynolds, Asha Devi, Barbara Walker, Bertha Ryland, PC Cath Hannon, Catherine Osler, Clare Rowland, Constance Naden, Constance Smedley, Denise Lewis, Dame Elizabeth Cadbury, Dame Ellen Pinsent, Hannah Sturge, Dr Hilda Nora Lloyd, Imandeep Kaur, Jessie Eden, Joyce Green, Joye Beckett, Kit de Waal, Professor Lea Pearson, Lisa Clayton, Malala Yousafzai, Marion Tait, Mary Lee Berners-Lee, Professor Pam Kearns, Raj Holness, Salma Zulfiqar, Dr Sara Jabbari, and Shabana Mahmood.



About the author

Louise Palfreyman writes fiction and nonfiction and has been published in Best British Short Stories (Salt, 2014), the Bath Flash Fiction Festival Anthology, and literary journals in the UK and America. She opened the inaugural London Short Story Festival, and was recently the first writer-in-residence at the University of Wolverhampton. She mentors writers of short fiction and memoir and works with regional arts projects and universities, delivering workshops, community publications, and readings. Louise writes literary fiction and is currently working on a novel.

About the publisher

The Emma Press is an independent publisher based in a Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham, specialising in poetry, short fiction and children’s books.
The Emma Press is a BAME-led, feminist, radical organisation, keen on making poetry, publishing and literature as welcoming and accessible as possible. We are committed to breaking down traditional elitist and exclusionary structures, through providing opportunities for publication for writers and illustrators, through creating books which reflect as many people’s experiences as possible, and through sharing publishing knowledge.


About the illustrators

Jan Bowman is a trained architect and freelance artist. Originally from Scotland via Canada, she lived and worked in Birmingham for 25 years. She is now based in London. Jan’s book This is Birmingham, a history of the 18th-century Lunar Society, was published by Waverley Books in 2009. It tells the story of the Industrial Revolution and how Birmingham was built by immigrants. It was on Waterstone’s Recommended list for nine months and is often presented as an award in Birmingham schools. Jan is currently seeking a publisher for her second book, Arthur, the graphic memoir of an enterprising scout leader and bicycle mechanic who grew up in Birmingham in the shadow of World War II.

Yasmin Bryan has always been interested in the arts, following in the footsteps of her creative family from a young age. She studied the arts throughout school and college, and later graduated with a degree in Visual Communications from Birmingham City University. Yasmin now lives in Nottingham and works as a freelance designer in print design, card design and commission-based work. Though her preferred method of practice is digital design, Yasmin also enjoys painting and drawing. She enjoys creating her own textures in wet media or from photographs, incorporating them into her work.

Amy Louise Evans is an illustrator living and working in the West Midlands. Her style is a mix of hand-drawn and digital artwork, with a focus on people, plants, and the occasional cat. She mainly illustrates for publishing. In 2013, while she was studying MA Digital and Visual Communication at the University of Wolverhampton, Amy moved into a canal boat right in the centre of Birmingham. She fell in love with everything about Birmingham: its eclectic collection of buildings, its community spirit and the fact that every suburb is heaving with history and character.

Saadia Hipkiss is a mixed-media artist based in Birmingham. Born in Stourbridge, she spent her formative years in Spain before returning to her roots to study at Birmingham City University, where she graduated in Visual Communications –  specialising in illustration. Saadia’s style of art is very colourful, using a wide variety of materials including paint, digital art and even papier-mâché. Saadia has exhibited her artwork far and wide, from Spain’s Costa Blanca to Gaudi’s Casa Batlló Museum in Barcelona, to London’s Brick Lane Gallery and most recently at Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton.

Chein Shyan Lee is an illustrator based in Malaysia. She is a graduate of Birmingham City University, with a BA (Hons) in Visual Communications, specialising in illustration. Her interests include children’s book illustration, editorial, reportage drawing, branding, printmaking and embroidery. Her work reflects her persistence and attention to details.

Farah Osseili moved from Lebanon to Africa to London, but Birmingham is where she now calls home. Farah graduated with a degree in Visual Communications from Birmingham City University in 2017. As an artist, she is quite flexible, able to turn her hand to most things, but her passion lies in illustration. Farah has created a book celebrating women, called Womanhood. She draws much of her inspiration from nature and the tranquility it brings her. She wishes to bring that feeling into her work.

Michelle Turton is a Birmingham-based freelance illustrator, specialising in portrait, travel and lifestyle illustration. Her work has been exhibited across Europe and has featured in books, on walls, skateboard decks, giant 3D sculptures and walls across the world. Closer to home, you’ll find her work displayed at The Garrick Theatre in Lichfield and exhibited as part of the inaugural Birmingham Design Festival in 2018. Michelle’s ‘Peony Passion’ sun bear sculpture, which she painted for The Big Sleuth art trail in 2017, raised £8,000 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

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