Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties
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An exuberant group biography—"a splendidly various collection of 'brief lives' written with both gusto and sensitivity" (The Guardian)—that follows ten women in 1950s Britain whose pioneering lives paved the way for feminism and laid the foundation of modern women's success.
In Her Brilliant Career, Rachel Cooke goes back in time to offer an entertaining and iconoclastic look at ten women in the 1950s—pioneers whose professional careers and complicated private lives helped to create the opportunities available to today's women. These plucky and ambitious individuals—among them a film director, a cook, an architect, an editor, an archaeologist, a race car driver—left the house, discovered the bliss of work, and ushered in the era of the working woman.
Daring and independent, these remarkable unsung heroines—whose obscurity makes their accomplishments all the more astonishing and relevant —loved passionately, challenged men's control, made their own mistakes, and took life on their own terms, breaking new ground and offering inspiration. Their individual portraits gradually form a landscape of 1950s culture, and women's unique—and rapidly evolving—role.
Before there could be a Danica Patrick, there had to be a Sheila van Damm; before there was Barbara Walters, there was Nancy Spain; before there was Kathryn Bigelow, came Muriel Box. The pioneers of Her Brilliant Career forever changed the fabric of culture, society, and the work force.
This is the Fifties, retold: vivid, surprising and, most of all, modern.
Her Brilliant Career is illustrated with more than 80 black-and-white photographs.
steps. * To be truthful, in the case of bergenias, all leathery and vulgar, I wish she hadn’t bothered. I look at them and shudder. † Margery used to call these sculpted green blobs her ‘pudding trees’. The current avenue is not the one she planted; in 2001 a new set of trees were put in, Margery’s having been on their last legs. * The cousin of an Earl, Henry was a reckless gambler. In 1951 she was jailed for fraud, having borrowed money from a ‘friend’ to pay her racing debts (the cheques of
train in the moonlight, she was filled with a sudden comprehension of the beauty of the physical world. This was an intensely spiritual experience, but it was also deeply erotic – ‘I had the heightened sensibility of one in love’ – and, as such, the beginning of a restlessness that would endure for the next two decades. * Frederick Gowland Hopkins was a fellow of Trinity College. * Motley were John Gielgud’s designers during the Thirties. One of their number, Sarah Harris, was the first wife of
career continued a little longer but it too came to a halt in the end. Her last movie, directed by the stalwart Ralph, was the lamentable Percy’s Progress in 1974. A sequel to Percy, it was a comedy – I use the word loosely – about the recipient of the world’s first penis transplant. The Boxes’ time had passed. They were middle-aged people at a moment when middle-aged people suddenly seemed very old indeed – a trend that the movies, as ever, ruthlessly exaggerated. First there had come the films
soul, after all. But then, overnight, the situation changed. On 14 May the Buchra had gone up in flames and Vicky had found herself homeless. Two nights later, Grace and her children woke up to find their own houseboat on fire, the flames coming at them ‘like a wall’ from the direction of the kitchen. There was no time to think. Ann acted first, pushing Beryl through the bedroom window – this was the only way out – and on to the mud outside. Then she looked around. Chaos, and in the middle of it
are women; 1020 Recorders, of whom 201 are women; 559 circuit judges, of whom 106 are women; 91 high court judges, of whom 17 are women. In the supreme court, there sits only one woman. According to one recent report, at the present rate it will be another fifty-five years before women achieve equality in the senior judiciary. In fifty-five years, a snail could crawl around the M25 nine times. She would have been appalled by this, but not surprised. For all her success, for all her supreme