At the beginning of the decade renowned historian Sheila Rowbotham was a rebellious sixteen-year-old at a Methodist boarding school in the north-east of England, reading Sartre and dreaming of Paris. By the end of the sixties she was a seasoned political activist, planning Britain’s first-ever women’s liberation conference, and beginning to find her voice as a writer.
Her story of the intervening years moves from coffee bars in Leeds to the Sorbonne and Oxford University, where she arrives wearing frayed Levis and clutching a volume of Rimbaud. A participant in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, she was also a member of the editorial board of the notorious revolutionary newspaper Black Dwarf.
While faithful to the exhilaration and enthusiasm of the sixties, Rowbotham is also wryly amusing about her younger self. When Jean-Luc Godard wanted to film her in the nude, she dithered between principle and vanity. Wearing the shortest of mini skirts she argued passionately for women’s liberation.
Promise of a Dream is a moving, witty and poignant recollection of a time when young women were breaking all the rules about sex, politics and their place in the world. Sheila Rowbotham was, and remains, one of their most effective and endearing voices.