Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964. She is the author of five novels and five non-fiction books, and has worked as a freelance journalist for 25 years.
She completed a BA in American Studies at the University of Sussex (which included a year at UC Davis, home to the world’s first square tomato), then an MA in English at Clark University in the States. In 1989 she moved to Botswana to teach English and ended up working for the country’s first tabloid newspaper, the Voice. One of her initial assignments was to track down a talking hippopotamus.
She then became editor of the Okavango Observer, during which she was arrested for ‘causing fear and alarm’ and for contempt of court. She was acquitted, and received a Journalist of the Year award. Many of her books are set in the Okavango Delta, where she lived for 12 eventful years, including a critically acclaimed memoir Place of Reeds (2005). After returning to London she wrote education and careers features for the Independent, and her work has appeared in most national newspapers.
Her main interest is uncovering the buried lives of women from the past, whether in fiction or social history. The Ghost of Lily Painter (2011) was based on the true story of two Edwardian baby farmers executed in 1903, while Family Likeness (2013) explored the fate of ‘war babes’ born to African American GI fathers. Her latest non-fiction is Downstream: a history and celebration of swimming the River Thames (2015), which unfortunately required her to put on a wetsuit, and plunge into the Thames.
Caitlin's book BAD GIRLS, a social history of women in Holloway Prison comes out in March 2018. Caitlin is also currently writing a novel based on the life of Agnes Beckwith, Victorian ‘champion lady swimmer of the world’.
Since 2014 she has worked as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design.
Society has never known what to do with its rebellious women.
Those who defied expectations about feminine behaviour have long been considered dangerous and unnatural, and ever since the Victorian era they have been removed from public view, locked up and often forgotten about. Many of these women ended up at HM Prison Holloway, the self-proclaimed 'terror to evil-doers' which, until its closure in 2016, was western Europe's largest women's prison.
First built in 1852 as a House of Correction, Holloway's women have come from all corners of the UK - whether a patriot from Scotland, a suffragette from Huddersfield, or a spy from the Isle of Wight - and from all walks of life - socialites and prostitutes, sporting stars and nightclub queens, refugees and freedom fighters. They were imprisoned for treason and murder, for begging, performing abortions and stealing clothing coupons, for masquerading as men, running brothels and attempting suicide. In Bad Girls, Caitlin Davies tells their stories and shows how women have been treated in our justice system over more than a century, what crimes - real or imagined - they committed, who found them guilty and why. It is a story of victimization and resistance; of oppression and bravery.
From the women who escaped the hangman's noose - and those who didn't - to those who escaped Holloway altogether, Bad Girls is a fascinating look at how disobedient and defiant women changed not only the prison service, but the course of history.