Fringe Literature

Edinburgh International Book Festival: Inspiring Women with Chelsea Clinton

Chelsea Clinton is not known only as the daughter of Hillary and Bill Clinton. She is also known for being the Vice President of the Clinton foundation and her endless efforts of wanting to make the world a better place. She Persisted and She Persisted around the World are two books that each include a short biography and the work of thirteen women from various fields and places. Clinton admitted that the two women who were role models for her and who with their resilience and persistence motivated to be who she is today were her mother and her mother’s mother. She explained that the 26 women portrayed in her books are women that she found inspiring, with interesting stories and success which were result of their persistence.

Clinton then presented some of the women from her books including; Maria Tallchief, the first American prima ballerina, Sissi Lima do Amor, the first female football superstar, and Virginia Apgar, who created the Apgar score, a test of newborn’s health (“the first test of our life”). She mentioned some interesting facts for each one of those women, such as the fact that J.K. Rowling published her Harry Potter books with her initials instead of her full first name (Joanne) to reach out to a young male reading audience, and the fact that Amor wanted so much to play football – despite people’s criticism – that she was using her dolls’ heads for ball.

Clinton pointed out the importance of female role models, quoting Sally Ride: “you can’t be what you can’t see”. However, she suggested that reading stories of significant and inspiring women is equally important to boys. She discussed the great female teachers that she had and their role in her life, and she admitted to have been privileged and blessed with the support by her family and the very good education she received. She encouraged young people to ask their teachers to support their ideas on improving the world, to be persistent and not to lose their purpose, even if sometimes they might need to adjust their plans. The chairwoman, Carol Wood, agreed by nicely quoting Sting: “teachers can affect eternity”.

When Clinton said that even though the situation at the moment (especially in the USA) is infuriating, she believes things can still be changed and be better. After making this observation, the audience applauded her optimism and hope. Later, she explained that the kind of books that portray women, who usually are not popular or recognised, is not a trend, and that we need more of those books that will encourage a shift in the world to reach a healthy equilibrium.

Finally, Clinton answered questions from the audience – mostly from children, who were encouraged to ask questions and to then share the knowledge with their peers. She explained that the reason she wanted to write those books was that often America and the world went forward because of women who persisted. She talked about her other books, published and upcoming, as well as about her favourite childhood books. Inevitably, she answered questions such as “how was it to be growing up in the White House?” and “Will you be the President?” by explaining that her parents were very good at making the White House experience ordinary and demystifying by having dinner altogether and inviting her classmates. She also clarified that one has to have very clear vision of what they want to do in order to run for President; however, it is a good thing to give young people high expectations and get them interested in politics and the common good.


She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World

Chelsea Clinton

Penguin Random House

Buy book here


She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History

Chelsea Clinton

Penguin Random House

Buy book here


Image: Ben Snooks via Flickr

By Athina Frantzana

PhD Candidate on Gender Equality in STEM, Researcher/Writer/Reviewer. Topics: equality, diversity & inclusion, women's rights, feminism, and science.

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