In Her Nature
How Women Break Boundaries in the Great Outdoors
'Heartfelt, passionate, infuriating and often devastating, this book will inspire you to fight for your right to tread your own path'
– Caroline Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women
When Rachel loses five family members in five months, grief magnifies other absences. Running long distances across moors and mountains used to help her feel at home in her body and the world, but now she becomes painfully aware of her inability to run without being cat-called or followed by strange men, or to walk alone at night without fear. Her eyes are opened to injustices facing women in sport, from men who push her off paths during races, to male bias in competition regulations, kit and media coverage. The outdoors becomes a place of danger, and its loss sharpens her sense of the grief women experience, globally – every day, everywhere – for our lack of freedom.
Rachel goes in search of a new family: the foremothers who blazed a trail at the dawn of outdoor sport. She discovers Lizzie Le Blond, a courageous Anglo-Irishwoman who scaled the Alps in woollen skirts; climbed, cycled, skated, hiked, rowed and sailed in the frozen peaks; photographed fearless women tobogganing at breakneck speeds; and founded the Ladies’ Alpine Club, defying men who wanted the mountains to themselves. Yet after such groundbreaking progress in the late 1800s, a backlash drove women out of sports and public space.
Are we living through a similar backlash now? Is ours an era of unprecedented female empowerment, or of reversal in women’s rights? Telling Lizzie’s story alongside her own, Rachel runs her way from bereavement to belonging, finding ways to be more at home in a world that feels hostile to women. On the way she’s inspired by the tenacious women, past and present, who insist that breaking boundaries outdoors is, most definitely, in her nature.
In Her Nature was awarded the British Library Eccles Writer’s Award.
Reviews for In Her Nature
‘Rachel Hewitt’s writing is always elegant, fierce, intelligent and truthful. No one writes as well as she does about endurance—and survival.’ – Helen Lewis, author of Difficult Women
‘A brave, necessary, and, sadly, timely book, In Her Nature examines women’s relationship to the outdoors through the prism of a deeply moving memoir about grief and loss. It reveals the staggering history of women’s systematic marginalisation from public spaces and asks if we are again at a crossroads for women’s freedoms — while also offering us a route to reclaiming our own. Heartfelt, passionate, infuriating and often devastating, this book will inspire you to fight for your right to tread your own path.’ – Caroline Criado Perez, author of Invisible Women
‘A book of courage, grief, anger, wisdom and fortitude. It demands our attention.’ – Hermione Lee, author of Virginia Woolf
‘An urgent, powerful, inspiring book about women making a space for themselves in the macho world of outdoor pursuits – one that reflects on what we risk and what we gain by turning our faces to the wind.’ – Cal Flyn, author of Islands of Abandonment
‘A vital feminist memoir of life outdoors, underpinned by the depth of historical knowledge that only a true scholar can bring.’ – Kate Maltby, columnist and critic
‘In Her Nature is a beautifully crafted and heartbreakingly personal memoir, rooted in the history of female experience in a man’s world — the outdoors. This astonishingly brave, deeply important and emboldening book offers hope and encouragement for women to find freedom and solace in the joyous expanse of the natural world.’ – Helen Carr, author of The Red Prince
‘A powerful account of women’s strengths and achievements in the mountains.’ – Anna Fleming, author of Time on Rock
‘An extraordinarily compelling book that left me seeing with fresh eyes. Blending expert historical storytelling with piercing memoir, Rachel Hewitt leads the reader over moors and mountains on a grand tour of grief, solitude, camaraderie, and women’s long struggle to claim the freedom of the outdoors.’ – Oliver Burkeman, author of Four Thousand Weeks
‘Insightful, compelling, and rightfully outraged, In Her Nature brilliantly reclaims the hidden histories and contemporary experiences of women running, hiking, climbing, and taking up space in the world. An essential read, as well as a moving, revealing, and empowering one.’ – Jon McGregor, author of Reservoir 13 and Lean Fall Stand
‘With intimate attention and in beautiful prose, In Her Nature moves deftly between the inner life and the great outdoors. Rachel Hewitt shows that not only do women have a history as runners, climbers and adventurers; we also have a right to the outdoors that is as crucial – and fragile – today as it ever was.’ – Sarah Ditum, columnist and critic
‘In Her Nature is an urgent, beautifully written and fiercely important book. By framing the remarkable life of the pioneering mountaineer Lizzie le Blond within her own profoundly moving memoir of loss and endurance, Rachel Hewitt has produced an extraordinary double history: of women’s achievements in the great outdoors, and the relentless challenges women face in staking a claim to their own physical presence in sport, landscape and public space.’ – Helen Castor, author of She-Wolves
‘A life-affirming book about the thrill of exploring the great outdoors, asking why so many women are excluded from running, hiking and mountaineering. It confronts the obstacles we face every day, including violence, assault and the general assumption that we don’t belong here; but In Her Nature proves we have a right to run free.’ – Natasha Carthew, author of Undercurrent
‘Brave, brilliant and quietly furious, In Her Nature makes a powerful, original case for women claiming space.’ – Victoria Smith, author of Hags
‘A stunning, raw and powerful book – about grief and putting ourselves back together, about freedom and the fight for it, and about strength and the hunger to test it.’ – Tiffany Watt-Smith, author of Schadenfreude
‘In Her Nature reanimates the stories of the past to reveal, brilliantly, the conditions through which women so often have to battle in the present. It does so through an absorbing account of private grief and public loss that will alternately make you cry, laugh and rage. Most of all In Her Nature will make you want to run, and to experience something of the hard-won emotional and physical freedom that Hewitt’s prose so movingly evokes.’ – Daisy Hay, author of Dinner with Joseph Johnson