W&H buys 'enlightening' feminist medical history from Dr Elinor Cleghorn

Lucy Nathan
Rights - NonFiction Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Dangerous, Defective and Delirious: A History of Unwell Women explores relationship between women and medicine


Maddy Price, editorial director at W&N, has bought a "blistering and enlightening" account of the relationship between women and medicine by historian Dr Elinor Cleghorn, from Emma Finn at C&W. Dangerous, Defective and Delirious: A History of Unwell Women will be published in hardback in spring 2021. US rights have been bought in a five-way auction by Maya Ziv at Dutton in a six-figure deal via Molly Atlas at ICM, while German rights have been sold to KiWi Verlag at auction, and Planeta pre-empted Spanish rights.

Dr Cleghorn "will unpack the roots of the perpetual misunderstanding, mystification and misdiagnosis of women's bodies", through ancient Greece, witch trials in Europe, Victorian ideas about hysteria, and today's shifting understanding of conditions such as endometriosis. The book includes both character studies and the author's own experiences.

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."

Dr Cleghorn, a feminist cultural historian who received her PhD in 2012 and whose own pain was dismissed for seven years before she was diagnosed with lupus, 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."

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