Feminist facts

18th October 1996 at 01:00
Women's Rights: The Story So Far News Multimedia CD-Rom for Windows Multimedia PCs and Apple Macintosh, Pounds 39.99 From News Multimedia, Leighton Buzzard: 01525 852813.

Women's Rights: The Story So Far tells the saga of women's fight for justice and equality. The present is seen very much as part of a continuum that goes back to the French and American Revolutions. And the end, far from being nigh, is still a long way off.

As part of the The Times Perspectives series of CD-Roms, Women's Rights presents history through newspaper articles, photographs and illustrations. Edited by Jonathan Bastable, it uses an eminently user-friendly format.

The menu is peppered with little gems, some of which will leave young readers rubbing their eyes in disbelief. For example, church and political leaders denounced Mary Wollstonecraft's demand for the rights of woman in 1791 as immoral. Women, they blustered, should not put their own needs before those of their husbands and children. In those days, women could be declared insane if they disagreed with their husbands, they were not allowed bank accounts and were banned from universities.

Women's Rights is packed with fascinating recordings of different women's experiences. A section entitled "Turning the Tide" which cleverly uses fashion icons to denote different historical periods, shows the transformation of women's thoughts and experiences over the 20th century.

To remind us of how far we have come, a clipping from The Times in 1913 quotes Sir Edward Clarke in a speech at Queens Hall, in which he declares that studying political affairs of the country would make a woman "a much worse mother and much less pleasant wife".

Other options in this section look at developments in maternity care, women's health, abortion, the law, the workplace, childcare and "unhappy families".

A Timeline option offers several events for each year, which you can call up for further information. Each decade from 1850 to 1900 has its own screen, but when you get to this century, each year has its own page. Events range from the international ("1992: Hang Loose with Hillary") to the national ("1919: First Woman MP"). Further clicks give biographies, articles andpictures.

The beauty of the CD is its accessibility: you don't need to be expert to be whizzing through the thing in a matter of minutes. But there's something else, too: at a time when feminism is almost daily being denounced as passe and boring by younger women (as well as by passe and boring men), here is an attractive and fact-packed multi-media resource that documents not only what the long struggle for women's rights was all about, but also what it continues to be.

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