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About 100 Women

Fascination with reading and hearing about the lives of others is at the heart of the human desire to know ourselves. We want to read about lives and experiences that are akin to our own, and also about those that allow us to imagine something different. Sometimes that difference is small: another city, another job, a path not taken. Sometimes the difference is so vast that we can only grasp the edges of someone else's experience. And sometimes reading about the experiences of others raises questions or comparisons with our own lives that lead us to confront preconceptions or initiate change.

100 Women grew from a desire to celebrate the differences and similarities of our lives. It started with a discussion about how we could showcase a range of experiences across ages, backgrounds and opportunities. We chose to tell the stories of 100 women, all connected to Newcastle in some way. Their tales are alike in some ways and starkly different in others. This collection shows women at every stage of life, from teenagers to octogenarians. Their backgrounds and circumstances may be different, but commonalities emerge. There are familiar themes, such as overcoming social constraints and the challenge of combining career with family. Other themes reflect universal challenges, such as poverty and lack of choice. But the stories also tell us about the importance of people and place, of connection, of understanding where you fit in the world and what you can offer. Many women struggle with what Reverend Maz Smith describes in her story as "the expectation that women will be beautiful, bright and fast - that women will be everything".

Every reader will have a different experience of this collection. Like Kathy Butler, discovering an intimately known name between the pages of a dusty book, the feeling may be one of recognition. Or, as with Diana Rah's story of her flight from a war zone, it may be an altered perspective, allowing readers to see something familiar in a way that is transformed by the experience of others. Whether drawing inspiration and encouragement from individual stories, or from the patterns of strength and resilience that emerge from the collection, we hope that readers will take a moment to imagine what it might mean to live differently. And also take a moment to celebrate their own lives.

This collection captures one of the truisms of the human experience - that each of us is like everyone else, like some other people, and like no-one else at all. Each story in this collection is a glimpse through a window, a portion of the meaning. In the snapshots of the lives in this collection, we believe that readers will recognise there is something bigger - something more to admire - in every story.

Gillean Shaw, Keryn Stewart and Kevin McConkey, editors of 100 Women