Wednesday, December 21, 2011


As my latest book THE WOMAN WRITER is selling well, I am celebrating with this super review which Susan Elkin wrote earlier this year.  Many thanks, Susan.

The Stage’s long history by Susan Elkin

Thirteen years later, in 1894, Comerford’s friend, the journalist, entrepreneur and fund raiser Joseph Snell Wood, recognised that women journalists — a growing and powerful force in the last quarter of Victoria’s reign — needed a specific support organisation to establish and safeguard their rights.
So he founded the Society of Women Journalists. In 1951 it changed its name to the Society of Women Writers and Journalists to meet the changing needs of its members. And of course they wrote for The Stage right from the beginning and still do. I have long been a member of SWWJ — and here I am.
Sylvia Kent, SWWJ council member and archivist, has now documented the society’s history. And it’s an entertaining and informative book which, in a succinct and accessible way, actually goes way beyond the history of the SWWJ to provide a nice snapshot of women writers and their work during the last century or so.  There’s plenty of information here for anyone doing a research-based degree on this or a related subject, for example.

Her opening chapter about the indefatigable Snell Wood and life in the 1880s is colourful and interesting. Why, Kent wonders, did he think the original members needed the services of an oculist and a rhinologist?

We also learn about SWWJ’s competitions, the breadth of its membership, its education work, its key members today and much more. Kent has included some fine photographs too. The ‘mugshots’ of early members who wrote for The Gentlewoman, which Snell Wood edited, are splendid. Cut from that to vice-president Jean Bowden (aka romantic novelist Tessa Barclay) with Jacqueline Wilson (now Dame Jacqueline) in 1990, or Martina Cole ‘one of our newest members’ and you get the sense of what a far reaching little book this is - with quite a lot to interest Stage readers.
The Woman Writer: The History of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists by Sylvia Kent (The History Press, rrp £12.99, ISBN 9780752451596)

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