W&N Editorial Director Maddy Price pre-empts ground-breaking story of womankind’s journey through medical history in first acquisition for the imprint

Elinor CleghornW&N has acquired a blistering and enlightening account of the relationship between women and medicine by historian Dr Elinor Cleghorn. Editorial Director Maddy Price bought UK and Commonwealth rights in DANGEROUS, DEFECTIVE AND DELIRIOUS: A HISTORY OF UNWELL WOMEN from Emma Finn at C&W.

Women’s bodies have been the primary battleground of female oppression throughout history. In this book, Dr Elinor Cleghorn will unpack the roots of the perpetual misunderstanding, mystification and misdiagnosis of women’s bodies, and trace the journey from the ‘wandering womb’ of ancient Greece, through the rise of witch trials across Europe, Victorian ideas about hysteria and to today’s shifting understanding of hormones, menstruation, the menopause and conditions such as endometriosis. Packed with character studies of women who have suffered, challenged and rewritten medical orthodoxy – and touching on the author’s own experience of dismissed symptoms and misdiagnosis – this is a revolutionary examination of the relationship between women, illness and medicine.

Maddy Price said: ‘This is a book that needs to be written. Every woman has a story of symptoms dismissed as hormonal, unimportant or simply imagined. When we understand the long history behind these assumptions, we can begin to challenge them. With her wealth of knowledge and research combined with her deep personal understanding of the issue, Elinor is the perfect person to write this book. I am delighted to welcome Elinor to W&N as my first acquisition for the list.’

Elinor Cleghorn said: ‘As a woman with a complex health condition, I have been affected by the many layers of misunderstanding and doubt which permeate so many women’s medical care and treatment. By writing this book, I hope to change the cultural conversation by revealing the fascinating, frustrating, and complex histories that have cast such long shadows over what it means, today, to be an unwell woman. In W&N I have found the perfect home to do this, and I am honoured to be working with such a passionate and driven editor as Maddy Price.’

Dr Elinor Cleghorn is a feminist cultural historian. After receiving her PhD in 2012, Elinor spent three years as a post-doctoral researcher at the Ruskin School, University of Oxford, working on an interdisciplinary medical humanities project. She now works as a writer and researcher, and lives in Sussex. Her own pain and other symptoms were dismissed for seven years before she was finally diagnosed with lupus.

W&N will publish in hardback in Spring 2021. Maya Ziv at Dutton triumphed in a 5-way auction for the US rights, in a strong six figure deal via Molly Atlas at ICM. German rights have sold to KiWi Verlag at auction and Spanish rights were pre-empted by Planeta, with other interest pouring in.