Best-selling author Kate Mosse will shine the spotlight on women whose achievements and contributions have been routinely neglected, overlooked or misattributed in her first ever one-woman show.

Based on her most recent non fiction book Warrior Queens and Quiet Revolutionaries: How Women (Also) Built the World in each show, Kate - founder of the Women's Prize for Fiction - will highlight women from every corner of the world and in every period of time.

She’ll also share how she tracked down her own long-forgotten relative, Lily Watson, in whose literary shadow she is walking.

Ms Mosse said: "I'm in my 60s now, and I like to have new challenges. You've got to be brave, haven't you? I love being a writer, but you can't just think, “I'll keep doing the thing that I've always done.” You've got to push yourself and keep trying.

"It was my lockdown project, researching all these amazing women – and turning detective for my own family history too - and I wouldn't have had time to do it otherwise. And then I thought, “I would just really enjoy sharing these stories with bigger audiences.

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"During the course of the show, as well as plenty fun facts and ‘did-you-knows’, I’ll tell the life stories of some of the most interesting, most inspiring, most astonishing women from the book - from Joan of Arc and Mary Seacole to Florence Nightingale and Agatha Christie, from the Mongolian princess Khutlan to Rosa Parks, from the notorious 18th century pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Reid to Beatrix Potter and the legendary English footballer, Lily Parr.

"Some of the stories are tragic, some are hilarious, and some make you gasp out loud because you can't quite believe it. But I want people to come out of the theatre just going, “Oh my God, I never knew that!”

She added: "I can't wait to see the faces of the audience. When I write a book, I put it out there and the reader takes it from my hands, and then the book’s completed.

"It's the same with the theatre tour. The show only exists when the audience is in the auditorium. Otherwise, it's just me and the wonderful stage manager and the sound and lighting guys, talking into silence. I love the idea that a theatre show will be different every night because the people who are there are different every night. 

"And I really love the UK. That sounds really old fashioned, and I don't mean it in a creepy, weird flag-waving kind of a way, but rather than we have a wonderful country.

"I’m hugely looking forward to travelling around Britain, going to places I don't know and seeing cities and towns that I might have heard of, but never visited. Everywhere I go, I hope I will have time to go out and about.

Oxford Mail:

"If I possibly can, I will seek out a detective story or a novel set in that town because I think that's how you quite often get under the skin of a place."

Ms Mosse, who is best known for her 2005 global bestseller Labyrinth, describes the show as 'a love letter to history'.

"But it also asks the question: what is history?" she said. "Who makes it? Who gets to decide what matters? Why do some people end up in the history books and others don't? I want to unravel the way that history gets written. 

"Another theme is asking what, if anything, links all of these women? Are there special characteristics that come up time and again, regardless of place or time or the work a woman is doing? And I want the audience to feel that they are part of that conversation with me. 

"Finally, it’s a celebration.  I want people to feel inspired, empowered and delighted to have spent the evening in the company of so many trailblazers from the past.

At every show, Ms Mosse will be asking the audience as they leave to nominate the one woman from history they would have put in her book.

"That way, together the audience and I will be building a massive library of women, many more even than the thousand I mention in my book, " she said.

"I’m hoping many of these will be important women locally who I won't have heard of. Putting women back into history, getting women’s names better known, is about repetition. Saying their names over and over again. After all, we know that women and men built the world together.

"This is not about ignoring all the wonderful men who've done incredible things (and some of the monsters), but rather putting the women back in. The more I go around the country, the more varied and regional the nominations will be."

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Lily Watson, Ms Mosse's long-forgotten great grandmother, is her own 'lost woman from history'.

She said: "Lily, who was a privileged middle class Victorian wife and mother, as well as a writer and educational reformer, is a good example of how easily women, even if they're famous and known in their day, can vanish.

"I had always known that my great grandmother ‘wrote’, but there was never a suggestion that it was a profession, or she was well known, or it mattered in any way. It was always delivered rather like an insignificant hobby, rather like saying: “Yes, she does flowers in church on a Sunday.” So, I was fascinated.

"I had always thought I was treading new ground in a family of teachers and lawyers and vicars. But it turns out that I was walking in my great grandmother's footsteps.

"It was also interesting to realise that she was really very popular and well known, yet now all of her books are now out of print. She doesn't appear anywhere in any biography of Victorian literature or women's writing. She's just vanished.

"And so I'm asking myself the question: How is that? Part of the show will be answering that question, because so many people turned to tracing their family histories during lockdown."

What message are you hoping to impart through Lily's story?

"That anyone, even if they are famous in their day, can be written out of the history books – it’s not necessarily deliberate, but more than people’s reputations can fade. A personal message is, if your older generation is still with you, talk to them.  

"Having only just stumbled on Lily’s story, I am disappointed that my beloved dad, my wonderful aunt, and my very wonderful granny are no longer here for me to ask about their memories of her.

"I've now discovered so much, but I would love to be able to ask them, “What do you think about this?” So that's been the only moment of sadness in what has been a joyous project."

Ms Mosse said science was an area in particular where women's contributions have been written out of history.

She said: "In science it is called the Matilda Effect – a phrase coined in 1993 by an American science writer called Margaret W Rossiter to refer to the routine attribution of women's discoveries to the men who worked for them, or alongside them, because the male science historians just didn't believe women could be scientists.

"Did you know that the great scientist Mary Somerville, who gave her name to Somerville College, Oxford, is the reason why we have the word “scientist”?

"Before her, the phrase was “men of science”, so the word “scientist” was created for Somerville because she was brilliant, but she was not a man! How else could they describe her? 

"The most notorious example is Lise Meitner, who in 1944 had to watch her colleague Otto Hahn being given the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their joint work on nuclear fission, even though he said, “She did this.” But the Nobel jury just couldn't believe it.

Ms Mosse starts writing every morning at 4am and finds it the most productive way of working.

"I'm best at that liminal time between being asleep and being awake. Everybody knows that for a writer it's the fear of starting, the procrastination that does for you. So I've always been an early riser and early to bed person.

"I don't set an alarm, I just wake up when I wake up. My imagination has always been more active in the early morning. At that time, there's a great joy of being the one person awake in the house and writing.

"It means that I can get four, sometimes even five hours’ work done before I need to step into my other role as a carer, or load the dishwasher, or feed the dog, or get on a train to go to London for meetings!

"I've never been very good at writing in the afternoons, and I don't like working in the evenings. I'm asleep on the sofa by eight o'clock!"

Where do you get your energy from?

"Coffee... though, actually, I only drink decaf now... On a serious note, I’ve never been one for sitting around and having a moan. If you think something's not quite as it should be, whatever it is, you've got two choices: to moan about it, or to do something about it.

"It's the great suffragette phrase: “Deeds, Not Words.”

"My wonderful parents brought me up to play my part. When I was growing up in our village in Sussex in the 60s and 70s, there wasn't an evening in our house when somebody wasn’t coming around for a committee meeting, or to stuff envelopes or put things through people's doors. So I grew up with this form of community-based activism."

She added: "I love what I do. I'm incredibly lucky that things have worked out for me so that I can do the thing I love as my day-to-day job.

"I still have to pinch myself, because that doesn't always work out for writers. I love being with my family and friends and walking across the field to the pub at lunchtime.

"I'm a big walker, so you could call that a hobby. It's a really sunny day today and I've got a lot to do, but I will make sure that I find time to go out for a walk across the fields.

"But I don't need other hobbies. Because I was an overnight success at the age of 45 [laughs] rather than when I was just starting out, I don't take anything for granted.

Ms Mosse set up the Women's Prize for Fiction 28 years ago - and has just launched the Women's Prize for Non-Fiction - and feels it has managed to retain its clout. Why?

"Because we were always very clear that it was about celebrating the very best and putting exceptional novels by women into the hands of men and women who’d appreciate them.

"It's exactly in the spirit of my tour, where, like the Prize, I will celebrate, honour and amplify incredible women from the past. 

"Lots of people tried to attack us and say, “This is really sexist,” or said daft things like “If women were any good, they would win the real prizes”, so completely ignoring the stats of who was published and how few women were shortlisted for literary awards.

"But we were determined to shine a spotlight on excellent, original, dazzling novels by women, written in English from all over the world, and that is what we continue to do. 

She added: "I’m putting all these great stories out there, so that men and women, boys and girls, everyone, will come along to the show and be entranced, blown away, mesmerised by these tales. I believe in travelling hopefully, in trying to change the world for the better. Often, I think it’s easier to change hearts and minds by being positive stories rather than by being angry.

"For some people, of course, anger is very important and fuels their activism: sexism, racism, misogyny, religious intolerance, enslavement, war, a lack of equality or rights, quite rightly anger is what gives people the power to act. It’s what drives them forward.

"But, for this theatre show, what I want is a whole theatre full of people gasping, turning to each other and saying, “Oh, I never knew that!”  and for them to leave feeling uplifted.

Kate Mosse will be at Chipping Norton Theatre on March 2.

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