Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties

Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties

by Rachel Cooke


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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.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062333872
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 12/08/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 368
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.70(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Rachel Cooke is an award-winning journalist. She writes for The Observer and is the television critic for the New Statesman. This is her first book.

Table of Contents

Introduction xi

1 In the Kitchen with Patience Gray 1

2 The Show Must Go On: Three trouser-wearing characters - Nancy Spain, writer and personality; Joan Werner Laurie, magazine editor; Sheila van Damm, rally-car driver and theatre manager 45

3 A Monumental Ambition: Alison Smithson, architect 91

4 In the Garden with Margery Fish 129

5 The Brontës of Shepherd's Bush: Muriel Box, director, and Betty Box, producer 169

6 Digging for Victory: Jacquetta Hawkes, archaeologist 217

7 All Rise: Rose Heilbron, QC 259

Fashion in the Fifties 299

Some Good and Richly Subversive Novels by Women, 1950-60 307

Select Bibliography 313

Acknowledgements 317

Credits 321

Index 325

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