Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties


In 1956, a widow, Violet Clark, was accused of the murder of her baby twins. At her trial, Wright’s defence saved her from the gallows. The Fifties were a conservative, inward looking decade during which women retreated once more to the safety of the kitchen. But Violet was defended by Rose Heilbron QC, the first woman to be appointed silk in Britain, the first woman to defend in a murder trial – and a tabloid celebrity. Rachel Cooke tells the story of Heilbron and some of her extraordinary contemporaries – Muriel Box, film director; Betty Box, film producer; Margery Fish, plantswoman; Patience Gray, cook; Alison Smithson, architect; Sheila van Damm, rally car driver and theatre owner; Nancy Spain, journalist and radio personality; Joan Werner Laurie, editor; Jacquetta Hawkes, archaeologist.

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ISBN: 9781844087419 Category: Tag:


In her apron and rubber gloves, a smile lipsticked permanently across her face, the woman of the Fifties has become a cultural symbol of all that we are most grateful to have sloughed off. A homely compliant creature, she knows little or nothing of sex, and stands no chance at all of having a career. She must marry or die.

But what if there was another side to the story?

In this book Rachel Cooke tells the story of ten extraordinary women whose pioneering professional lives – and complicated private lives – paved the way for future generations. Muriel Box, film director. Betty Box, film producer. Margery Fish, plantswoman. Patience Gray, cook. Alison Smithson, architect. Sheila van Damm, rally car driver and theatre owner. Nancy Spain, journalist and radio personality. Joan Werner Laurie, editor. Jacquetta Hawkes, archaeologist. Rose Heilbron, QC.

Plucky and ambitious, they left the house, discovered the bliss of work, and ushered in the era of the working woman.

Additional information

Weight 0.3 kg
Dimensions 19.6 × 12.8 × 2.8 cm






xli, 342




305.409045 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K