What To Read: Valorie Clark is feeling rebellious

Interview of Valorie Clark by Subtack, who writes Unruly Figures, a publication and podcast about the life and times of the world’s greatest rebels.

What’s your Substack about in one sentence? 

Unruly Figures is a twice-monthly celebration of history’s biggest rule-breakers.

You’re fascinated by stories of people who couldn’t follow the rules. Why is that?

I could probably come up with a million reasons, but I think the most obvious is that those people tend to be more fun, you know? I like reading about people with whom I would want to go on an adventure. And rarely does an adventure start with someone who prefers to stay at home and make tea. (The only exception I can think of is poor Bilbo Baggins, who wanted nothing more than to stay at home.)

Ironically, I’m a bit of a timid rule-follower myself. Maybe I like these stories because they inspire me to come out of my shell a little.

Your first subject was Joe Carstairs. Why did you choose her to kick off your podcast?

Gosh, I love Joe. I picked her for a few reasons – she’s the ultimate benevolent rule-breaker. The rules she broke rarely hurt anyone and often actually benefited people. She became an ambulance driver in World War I because she wanted to go to war when women weren’t allowed to. She wore men’s clothes just because she wanted to. Joe was very emphatically her own person during a century when everyone wanted to tell women exactly how they should act, and I wanted to celebrate that.

But also, from a practical perspective, because Joe was largely forgotten by history after 1950, there’s not a ton of information out there about her. There’s literally one biography, and from a research/writing/storytelling perspective, that seemed very doable for my first episode. I’m doing everything for Unruly Figures by myself: I research, write, record, edit, and promote this podcast alone. Starting out, I had no way of knowing how long each step would take. Beginning with a limited amount of material left me space to make mistakes.

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