Kate Adie on women in World War I

Kate Adie
(CC-BY Joanna Penn)

A Topping & Co author event
Christ Church, Bath, 10 December

As I mentioned a while back, one of my heroes in life is Kate Adie, so when Topping Bookshop sent me its list of upcoming events I got very excited about this one. Adie is a proper serious broadcast journalist. She was a rare female face on TV news outside of the studio back in my childhood and when I aspired to be a journalist she was a natural role model. But my failure to become a journalist hasn’t stopped me from admiring her, so I willingly braved the cold, dark and steep hills of Bath last night to see her in the flesh.

Unlike the other author events I’ve been to this year, Adie wasn’t interviewed for the crowd, she simply stood at the front of the big old church and spoke to us. She was lively, engaging and full of enthusiasm for her subject. Essentially her talk was background to and highlights from her new book Fighting on the Home Front: the Legacy of Women in World War One.

Adie held forth knowledgeably about the legal status of women 100 years ago and how World War I changed everything. She consummately related the points she was making to Bath and Bristol, as well as dropping in some related anecdotes from her own life. But most of all she exuded passion for her subject and admiration for the women who stepped up, not only those who filled the gaps left behind by men who had gone to war, but also the women who went to war themselves and those women who had to fight hard for the right to fill those gaps, even as Britain was creaking desperately with need of them.

Adie also spoke a little about her own career, about how her school teacher was so eager to get at least one pupil into university that Adie found herself “shunted into university via the catflap”, and how a reporter has to have an ordinary life to go back to between assignments: “You have to live an ordinary life in order to understand disorder.” She also had a lot to say about the strength and resilience of human beings.

I enjoyed Adie’s autobiography The Kindness of Strangers back when it came out and greatly look forward to reading my autographed copy of her new book.