Edna Adan Ismail’s A WOMAN OF FIRSTS optioned by Neal Street Productions

Aug 2, 2019

Neal Street Productions has optioned Film and TV rights to A WOMAN OF FIRSTS, the autobiography of pioneering teacher, midwife and women’s health campaigner Edna Adan Ismail, published by HQ on 8th August. Neal Street acquired rights from Jonathan Sissons at Peters Fraser & Dunlop (PFD).


Described (on Desert Island Discs) as ‘Tough as General Petraeus, as compassionate as the Pope, as tireless as Michael Phelps, as beautiful as Tina Turner, and with a work ethic to rival Bill Gates’, Edna Adan Ismail has endured imprisonment, mutilation, persecution and civil war in her lifelong pursuit to improve women’s health in Africa. The daughter of Somaliland’s best-loved doctor, Edna saw first-hand how poor healthcare, lack of education and ancient superstitions had devastating effects on her people. And when she suffered the trauma of FGM as a young girl at the bidding of her mother, she experienced it for herself. Edna’s determination was set. From being the first girl from her country to win an educational scholarship in Britain, to becoming the first midwife to practise in Somaliland, and as her country sought independence, Edna rose to become its First Lady and first female cabinet minister. But even as she was courted by presidents and kings, this extraordinary woman never forgot her roots. Having retired from a leading role in the World Health Organisation, Edna built her own hospital, brick by brick and – at 82 years old – she still works there training future generations in what has been hailed as one of the Horn of Africa’s finest university hospitals.


A significant media campaign will be supporting the publication of A WOMAN OF FIRSTS on 8th August, highlighted by the book’s selection for Radio 4 Book of the Week from 5th – 9th August. Edna will also be visiting the UK from 12th – 16th August to promote the book.



Neal Street Productions is run by Sam Mendes, Pippa Harris, Caro Newling, and Nicolas Brown and has been successfully producing award-winning film, TV and theatre for the past 15 years.  Neal Street’s diverse film and television slate includes the hugely successful Call the Midwife for the BBC, which is currently filming its ninth series; John Logan’s Penny Dreadful and the upcoming Penny Dreadful: City of Angels for Showtime; the award-winning The Hollow Crown for the BBC; two series of Britannia for Sky/Amazon, and the BAFTA nominated, contemporary thriller Informer for BBC/Amazon. Neal Street’s film projects have included Revolutionary Road for Paramount and DreamWorks, Things We Lost in the Fire for DreamWorks, and Jarhead for Universal. Their upcoming First World War epic, 1917, directed by Sam Mendes and co-written by Sam Mendes and Krysty Wilson-Cairns for Amblin and Universal, stars George MacKay, Dean-Charles Chapman, Mark Strong, Andrew Scott, Richard Madden, Colin Firth and Benedict Cumberbatch and will be released 25th December in the USA and 10th January 2020 in the UK.


Edna Adan Ismail quote: “Neal Street has been producing innovative and exceptional projects. I am delighted to be working with them to bring my story to life.”


Pippa Harris, MD Neal Street quote: “Edna’s memoir is one of the most inspiring and remarkable I have ever read.  Whatever challenges are thrown at her, she responds with courage, wit and grace. She has single-handedly transformed the lives of thousands and continues to strive to bring healthcare to those most in need. We are thrilled that she has entrusted this book to us and can’t wait to see her life immortalised on screen.”