I'm delighted that one of my books based on the glorious past of the Society of Women Writers and Journalists, is once again in the spotlight. Reason is that the Society which is the oldest professional writing group in the United Kingdom, is planning to celebrate its 120th anniversary this year. We were created on 1 May 1894 by (believe it or not) a man by the name of Joseph Snell Wood. Fleet Street of the 1890s was so very different from that in later decades and this clever, charismatic newspaperman was one of the few to believe that women could write well. He employed many. At that time, he was editor of several national dailies and journals, such as The Gentlewoman, The Daily Graphic and The Bystander. He seemed to understand the difficulties experienced by "the new woman" who tried to earn her living in the print room. And he succeeded. When he launched our Society on that sunny morning in 1894, more than 200 women clamoured to become members. Since then, thousands of professional journalists, novelists and poets can say they owe so much to this gentleman whose daughter eventually became a member of our Society.
Our story is amazing with history unfolding as a background. We celebrate those pioneers and first notable members and the work they carried out during the Boer War (the first women war reporter), the Great War and of course, during World War 11 our member Phyllis Deakin was the first woman staff reporter on The Times and the first woman journalist in Paris after it was re-taken in WWII.
Royalty often came to our lunches and festivals and our presidents' list included names such as Lady Violet Astor, Clemence Dane, Vera Brittain, Joyce Grenfell, Nina Bawden, Lady Longford and many more. Currently Baroness Williams of Crosby (Shirley Williams), Lady Sandra Howard, Sir Tim Rice, Simon Brett and our lovely Life President Victoria Wood are counted among our luminaries. So, work is progressing to provide an exciting programme of upcoming events which we hope many writers, not only female but many of our male associates will enjoy. More details at a later date, but do check us out at www.swwj.co.uk