Biography, Source, Women's History

A Lasting Literary Collaboration – Beyond the Grave

Ross might have been surprised had she known that after her death Somerville would go on to publish another seventeen books as collaborations between them. Six months dead, it seems, Ross sent a message through a medium to her partner: “You and I have not finished our work. Dear, we shall.” Later attempts to get her to manifest herself at spiritualist seances proved unsuccessful or inconclusive, yet she apparently collaborated willingly, even on the stories in Stray-aways, 1920, many of which involve spiritualism and the occult.

Biography, Source, Women's History

Naomi Jacob – Novelist Conventional & Extraordinary

She wore men’s clothes; her future biographer mistook her, on first sight, for J. B. Priestley. She boasted (to friends but never in print) that she had served under fire on a destroyer during the second world war, without any of her shipmates suspecting that she was a woman. She once got married, but this proved a temporary aberration: the marriage was over within weeks and her husband’s name is not recorded.

Biography, Source, Women's History

Constance Smedley – Renaissance Woman

The Cotswolds caused Smedley, hitherto a Tory by inheritance, to move sharply to the left in her politics. She carried her idealism and activism back to London to run the Greenleaf Theatre and theatre school, to the USA for the years 1915-22, where she and Armfield left their impress on theatre movements in New York and California, and she was no less active in her late years back in England.

Biography, Source, Women's History

Lady Lucy Herbert – Prioress

… since Roman Catholic institutions were for generations illegal in Britain, parents who wanted their daughters brought up as Catholics, and who could afford it, often shipped them off to convents in France or the Low Countries. These flourishing female communities were hotbeds of talent and ability, and they recorded their own lives and those of their convents in a range of valuable historical texts. Distinctions of social rank were not quite obliterated among them, and women who rose to be leaders in the religious life were often aristocrats.

Biography, Politics, Women's History

Katherine Cecil Thurston – From a Will to a Death

If middle-class women lived humdrum lives, it was clearly a relief to read about the sensational. But the one among Thurston’s novels that became notorious in the light of its author’s end was The Fly on the Wheel, whose Irish heroine, torn between two men and hemmed in by the restrictions of being a woman, commits suicide by poison.

Biography, Politics, Women's History

Elizabeth Smith – No Ivory Tower

Elizabeth Smith is a splendid example of the way that learning could provide a challenge and an outlet to women whose daily lives were by modern standards terribly cramped … She is also an example of the women’s tradition: though she died before she was thirty, she was remembered for years, with admiration, by other women who were trying to think or write. She shows too, less pleasingly, how reactionary cultural forces would join ranks against a woman stepping out of line, even when she did so in her mind rather than her behaviour.

Biography, Source, Women's History

Ahead of Her Time – Jane Johnson’s Nursery Library

Johnson wrote out her “fairy-tale” for her daughter and eldest son, and bound it like a proper book, about five or six years after the little Barbara had looked like herself rather than like her relations. This is startlingly early, before the late-eighteenth-century wave of professional writers for children, at about the same time as John Newbery’s A Little Pretty Pocket-Book, 1744, which is generally presented as a first … Johnson’s manuscript is now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, and it finally, in 2001, reached print as a Bodleian publication …

Biography, Event, Women's History

Sojourner Truth

26 November 1883 Sojourner Truth (born as Isabella Hardenbergh), speaker and preacher, charismatic religious and political leader, died on this day at her home in Battle Creek, Michigan, USA. The day of her death is known but the day of…

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