Barbara Taylor Bradford: A Lady of Substance
Bestselling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford grew up in Leeds with a mother who read The Lady. Here she reveals how that early introduction to journalism has inspired her to start a monthly column revelling in ‘heart-warming tales’
When I was a young girl, growing up an only child in Yorkshire, I remember my mother, Freda, reading one magazine in particular. There was always one in the house and she’d often be found flicking through it. That magazine was The Lady.
Now, many years and 28 novels later, here I am, writing my first column for that very same title. The wheel has come full circle – and I couldn’t be happier. It was my mother, who worked as a nurse and nanny, who made me fall in love with words, with writing. She introduced me to books and taught me to read by the time I was four. By five, I had my own library card. By 16, after attending Northcote School for Girls (where we wore green uniforms, crisp white shirts and panama hats in summer), I left the classroom to become a reporter on the Yorkshire Evening Post.
My mother always said that ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’. But I wanted to get on, to become a writer. I was born a fool, I suppose.
Since then, I have gone on to write 27 bestselling novels – my 28th, Secrets From The Past, will be published next February. But I have never forgotten the Leeds street I came from and the trees I used to climb as a young tomboy. Nor have I ever lost my love of journalism, of current affairs, and of the big issues that women care about.
My father, Winston, was named after Winston Churchill. Not because Churchill was a great politician – my father was born way back in 1900 – but because the future war leader was, at that time, a celebrated journalist. He had recently escaped bravely from an enemy jail, after being captured while working as a war correspondent in South Africa, where he was reporting on the Boer War. Journalism runs in my family. It is, in fact, why I am now writing this column.
So what will I offer you?
Well, I will be writing about the things that concern you, whether they’re the big stories, or the small. And I won’t pull my punches – I am, after all, a Yorkshire woman, with my feet on the ground and my heart, I hope, in the right place.
I won’t be writing for young women, or old women – but for all women. I was born in the 1930s, but I believe strongly that age is now just a number. It certainly should be. Nor am I a feminist, in as much as I don’t consider myself to be part of an organisation, but I do believe that all women can be role models – and that we should take responsibility for liberating ourselves. I believe in being fair-minded, but bold in my convictions.
During the war, when I was nine or 10, I held a jumble sale in front of my house. It was a decent success and I raised a pound, which I sent to Clementine Churchill, 10 Downing Street, for her Aid To Russia Fund.
Remarkably, I received her letter of thanks by return post, a letter that became one of my most treasured possessions. For Mrs Churchill’s note taught me the value of hard work, of generosity, of a commitment to a cause. The return may not always be financial, but it can be of enormous value.
As an eager follower of the news, I am all too aware that the world can create havoc in our lives. I was a huge fan of the journalist Marie Colvin – who was killed in Syria – and my latest book draws on many real events from the terrible recent war in Libya.
And we face plenty of more ordinary, but no less important, struggles, too. In these hard economic times, millions of women are having to tighten their belts and watch their weekly budgets. Things aren’t easy. But despite this, there are plenty of heartwarming tales to brighten up the gloom. I shall be looking for them, while also highlighting the injustices and annoyances that we all face in everyday life.
I will be writing about the women who beat the odds, the women warriors, the heroines, everyday or otherwise. I will, in essence, be writing about you.
Barbara Taylor Bradford’s first monthly column will appear in the 7 September issue of The Lady. If you would like to write to her with your feedback, or to suggest subjects for her column, please contact her at The Lady, 39-40 Bedford Street, London WC2E 9ER, or email Barbara@lady.co.uk
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