The Women’s Prize Trust to launch a non-fiction award alongside its long-running fiction award. After research it discovered that female non-fiction writers are less likely to be reviewed or win prizes than their male counterparts.
The new book prize, the award for non-fiction books by the Women’s Prize, will be awarded annually. It is open to all female writers all around the globe who are published in the United Kingdom and write in English. A prize money of £30,000 and a statuette named "The Charlotte" will be awarded to the winner. The statuette has been given by the Charlotte Aitken Trust, a charity set up by the former literary agent Gillon Aitken on behalf of his late daughter.
Kate Mosse, the Women's Prize's founder and director, stated that the prize was not intended to take away the spotlight from brilliant male writers but rather to include women. She went on to say that she hoped it would highlight everyone who is doing something extraordinary, allowing readers to make their own decisions.
Womens Prize Award For Non-Fiction Female Writers
"In nonfiction, there is this idea of a neutral voice, which is even stronger, the idea of the expert. But, actually, the expert, the default voice, is male, whereas there’s a huge amount of amazing narrative non-fiction being written by women that is simply not getting any attention at all. It matters because readers are missing out," said Mosse. The Women's Prize Trust is aiming to award the new prize for the first time in 2024 and is currently searching for sponsorship.
The research conducted by the trust discovered that 26.5% of non-fiction reviews in national newspapers were allocated to female non-fiction writers, while 35.5% of books that were awarded a non-fiction prize over the past 10 years were written by a female writer across seven UK non-fiction prizes.
Well-known UK non-fiction prizes include the Baillie Gifford Prize, previously known as the Samuel Johnson Prize. The award was won by Katherine Rundell in 2022 for her book Super-Infinite: The Transformations of John Donne. The award has been won by twice as many men, 16, as women since its founding in 1999.
A few other non-fiction prizes include the Orwell prize for political writing, the Wolfson history prize, the James Cropper Wainwright prizes for nature writing and conservation writing, and the Costa biography award, which was scrapped along with the other Costa Book Award in 2022.
Mosse said the statistics around reviews and prizes had not surprised her because it had been her instinct that women were very poorly represented in fiction reviewing. She added that the research made "grim reading".
According to Mosse, numerous factors have led to the launch of the non-fiction prize. This included the establishment of the Women's Prize Trust as a charity in 2018. The trust’s ambition and a newspaper article about books that the next prime minister should read, published in summer 2022, not including a single book by a female writer, were triggers for Mosse.
Authors including Kate Williams, Afua Hirsch, Anita Anand, Hallie Rubenhold, Mary Ann Sieghart, and Charlotte Atiken Trust are supporting the new Women's Nonfiction Prize.
The prize will include all genres of non-fiction, from history to memoir, music to nature, writing to science, and philosophy to biography. The winner will be decided by a panel of five judges, like the Women's Prize award for fiction.
The Women's Prize for Fiction was launched in 1996 in response to a lack of women on the shortlists of major prizes. The award was won by Ruth Ozeki in 2022 for her book, The Book of Form and Emptiness.
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