I am very happy to announce that throughout this week, leading up to March 8, International Women's Day, The Rejected Realms will take this opportunity to recognize historic women in real life each day to celebrate the advancement of the rights and status of women and the achievements of women all across the world.
This project's genesis came when I looked up a list online of "famous historical rejects". Although I did find past lists which others had compiled, to my own dismay, there were no women included on said lists! Nada. Zip. Zilch. To me this was just a daily reminder that we can do more to prevent history from being whitewashed as being solely the past exploits of men -- there are lots of fantastic female rebels, rejects and gadflies and I was determined to make sure they saw their day in the sun here in The Rejected Realms.
Thank you so much to Kathexa and Gruenberg for helping us decide the final nominees.
Some of the runner-ups of the nominees included: Bessica Medlar Raich (a pioneer aviator who built a bi-plane in her living room and flew it solo without flight instructions!) , Margaret Hamilton (the director of the development of the on-board flight software for the Apollo space program - credited with the term, "software engineering"), Rana El-Kaliouby (another MIT star - she's a leading expert in facial recognition software) and Beverley McLachlin (first Canadian chief justice - I'm biased here).
Obviously there's just too many amazing women out there for us to be able to recognize all of them on a short list of seven. Hah! This just stands as a non-exclusive list of women we think are incredible role models, geniuses and thoroughly inspirational to everyone -- some of them known more than others, but all of them brilliant.
MARCH 1 -
Arundhati Roy (born November 24, 1961) is an Indian novelist, activist and a world citizen. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her first novel The God of Small Things.
Roy was born in Shillong, Meghalaya to a Keralite Syrian Christian mother and a Bengali Hindu father, a tea planter by profession. She spent her childhood in Aymanam, in Kerala, schooling in Corpus Christi. She left Kerala for Delhi at age 16, and embarked on a homeless lifestyle, staying in a small hut with a tin roof within the walls of Delhi's Feroz Shah Kotla and making a living selling empty bottles. She then proceeded to study architecture at the Delhi School of Architecture, where she met her first husband, the architect Gerard Da Cunha.
The God of Small Things is the only novel written by Roy. Since winning the Booker Prize, she has concentrated her writing on political issues. These include the Narmada Dam project, India's Nuclear Weapons, corrupt power company Enron's activities in India. She is a figure-head of the anti-globalization/alter-globalization movement and a vehement critic of neo-imperialism.
In response to India's testing of nuclear weapons in Pokhran, Rajasthan, Roy wrote The End of Imagination, a critique of the Indian government's nuclear policies. It was published in her collection The Cost of Living, in which she also crusaded against India's massive hydroelectric dam projects in the central and western states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat. She has since devoted herself solely to nonfiction and politics, publishing two more collections of essays as well as working for social causes.
Roy was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize in May 2004 for her work in social campaigns and advocacy of non-violence.
In June 2005 she took part in the World Tribunal on Iraq. In January 2006 she was awarded the Sahitya Akademi award for her collection of essays, 'The Algebra of Infinite Justice', but declined to accept it.
----- weroy.org, 2006.
MARCH 2 -
"I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things."
Emma Goldman was a crusader for anarchism, feminism, and the labor movement. She was also an essayist and is best known as the first editor of Mother Earth, a magazine providing a forum for feminist and anarchist writers.
Goldman was born June 27, 1869, in Kaunas, Lithuania, a province of the Russian Empire, during the early stages of revolt against czarism and the rise in popularity of communism. The seeds of the Bolshevik revolt were already being sown in the towns and villages throughout the country where discontent with czarist rule was strongest. Goldman, who described herself as a born rebel, came into the world as the third daughter of Abraham Goldman and Taube Goldman. Her parents' marriage, like many Jewish Orthodox unions of the time, had been arranged.
Goldman suffered the fate of being a female in a culture that valued males. When she was young, her father made no effort to disguise his disappointment at having still another daughter instead of the much-prized son he hoped for. He has been described as hot tempered and impatient, particularly with Goldman's rebelliousness, which she showed at an early age. He was a traditional Jewish father, and he planned to arrange a marriage for his daughter when she was 15. Goldman, however, had different ideas: she longed for an education and hoped someday to marry someone she loved. Goldman described her mother as cold and distant, but also strong and assertive, and she may have served as a role model for Goldman's own forthright manner.
After spending her childhood in Kaunas, Königsberg, and St. Petersburg, Goldman emigrated to the United States in 1885 with a sister. They joined another sister who had settled in Rochester, New York, where Goldman found work in a coat factory, sewing ten-and-a-half hours daily at a salary of $2.50 a week. She lived in a crowded apartment with her two sisters and her brother-in-law. Their working and living conditions, as well as those of others even more destitute, sparked her interest in anarchism and the labor movement, which was in its infancy.
She joined radical groups agitating for an eight-hour workday and other improvements in factory conditions.
Goldman was intensely interested in the Haymarket Square incident in Chicago in 1886. A labor rally called by a small group of anarchists was interrupted by a bomb explosion and gunfire. When it was over, seven police officers and four spectators were dead and one hundred were injured. Eight anarchists were tried and convicted of inciting a riot. Four of the convicted were hanged, one committed suicide in prison, and the other three served prison sentences. Spurred by her outrage at this alleged injustice, Goldman began attending anarchist meetings and reading the militant anarchist newspaper Die Freiheit (Freedom). She felt herself irresistibly drawn to the movement, and in the summer of 1889, at the age of 20, she moved to New York City to be near the center of anarchist activity.
After arriving in New York, Goldman befriended Johann J. Most, a well-known anarchist and publisher of Die Freiheit. She also met Alexander Berkman, who became her lover and with whom she remained close throughout her life. By this time, she was known as Red Emma, and she was followed by detectives wherever she went. She wrote, traveled, and lectured to promote anarchism and the labor movement. In 1893, she was briefly jailed for inciting workers to riot. After her release from jail, she traveled to Vienna to train as a nurse and midwife. She then returned to New York and resumed her lecturing. In 1901, she was accused of provoking the assassination of President william mckinley, because the assassin had attended one of her lectures. No charges were ever brought against her, but newspapers throughout the United States portrayed her as an evil traitor because of her controversial ideas.
In 1906, Goldman published the first issue of a magazine that was to serve as a platform for feminist and anarchist ideas. She called her venture Mother Earth, and within six months, it became a leading voice for feminism and anarchism. With Berkman, Goldman published the magazine until 1917, while she continued to travel, write, and lecture. During this time, she carried on an eight-year relationship with Ben Reitman, Chicago's King of the Hobos, a wellknown anarchist and labor activist who became her manager. Goldman had long since given up her idealistic notions about marriage. She had been married twice to the same man, both times with disastrous results, and had carried on a number of love affairs. Goldman preferred the impermanence and freedom of short-term affairs and wrote in more than one essay that marriage was women's greatest enemy because it robbed them of their independence.
The entry of the United States into World War I in 1917 precipitated a wave of hostility toward leftists, pacifists, anarchists, and foreigners. Legislation such as the Selective Service Act, the Espionage Act, and the Sedition Act were passed during 1917 and 1918 in order to suppress opposition to the war or the draft and to restrict certain civil liberties. Heedless of the repressive mood of the country, Goldman and Berkman, along with Leonard D. Abbott and Eleanor Fitzgerald, organized the No-Conscription League to oppose "all wars by capitalist governments." In the June 1917 issue of Mother Earth, they declared,"We will resist conscription by every means in our power, and we will sustain those who … refuse to be conscripted." As a result of their antiwar activities, Goldman and Berkman were arrested and charged with conspiring to prevent draft registration. They were tried and convicted and each received the maximum sentence of two years in prison and $10,000 in fines. In December 1919, in the wake of a red scare that led to the arrest and deportation of hundreds of leftists, anarchists, and labor organizers, Goldman and Berkman were deported to Russia.
Goldman was optimistic about resuming life in Russia now that the czar had been toppled by the Bolsheviks, but her hopes quickly dissipated as the realities of the new government became apparent. In her opinion,"the old cruel regime … had simply been replaced by a new, equally cruel one." She and Berkman left Russia in 1921 and eventually went to Germany. During their years in Germany, Goldman lectured and wrote a book, My Disillusionment in Russia (1923), detailing her disillusionment with Bolshevik rule.
In 1924, Goldman moved to England, but she longed to return to the United States. Accepting an offer of marriage to James Colton, a staunch Scottish anarchist she had known for many years, provided her with an opportunity for British citizenship and the possibility of obtaining a British passport. She hoped to make her way to Canada and somehow gain entry into the United States. During the 1920s and 1930s, she traveled through Europe, writing and lecturing, and in 1931, she published her autobiography, Living My Life.
Goldman's wish to return to the United States was granted for a brief 90-day lecture tour in 1934, after which she returned to Europe. In 1940, while on a trip to Canada to enlist support for the anti-Franco forces in Spain, Goldman suffered a stroke. She died several months later, on May 14, 1940, in Toronto. Her body was allowed to be returned to the United States for burial in Chicago near the graves of other anarchists she admired.
MARCH 3 -
Madame C.J. Walker was America’s first self-made female millionaire. She amassed her fortune through hard work, innovative ideas, and a fierce dedication to her craft and her people. Contrary to most historical accounts, Madame C.J. Walker did not invent the pressing comb. Per her own words, Madame Walker started the “hair-growing” business, borne out her desire to remedy her own hair loss.
In 1910 Madame C.J. Walker moved her ever expanding “Special Correspondence Course” business, founded on her System of Beauty Culture, to Indianapolis. There she purchased and paid for her home adjoining which was a factory and laboratory. On September 2, 1911 she petitioned the Indiana Secretary of State to become incorporated and on September 19th, 1911, said petition was granted, marking the genesis of the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company of Indiana, Inc. wherein Madame Walker was the President and sole shareholder of all 1,000 shares of stock.
She was also an early civil rights advocate on behalf of Black people, and an avid financial supporter of what today we call HBCU”s or Historically Black Colleges and Universities. By the time of her passing in 1919, Madame C.J. Walker had built one of the largest black owned manufacturing companies in the world, an international network of over 15,000 Madame Walker agents, beauty schools in three states, and a 32 room mansion at Irvington-on-the-Hudson, New York.
Madame’s only child, A’Lelia Walker became President of the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company of Indiana upon her mother’s passing. Per Madame’s will, two-thirds of the stock of the Company was placed in a Trust, over which were five Trustees. The other one-third of the stock of the company was bequeathed to her only child. When A’Lelia died, the one-third share of stock she owned was “split” between two people, each receiving onesixth share. The majority two-thirds remained in the Trust.
Over six decades later, in 1985, the Trustees petitioned the Marion County Probate court to allow them to sell the stock and assets of Madame Walker’s company, including inventory and historical documents, to a man named Raymond Randolph. The owners of the remaining shares of stock also agreed to sell their shares to Raymond Randolph. Thus, on December 20th, 1985, Raymond L. Randolph became the first person since Madame C.J. Walker herself to own all 1000 shares of stock in the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company of Indiana, aka the Madame C.J. Walker Manufacturing Company.
MARCH 4 -
In 1963, soon after joining the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, Delia Derbyshire, who has died of renal failure aged 64, was asked to to realise one of the first electronic signature tunes ever used on television. It was Ron Grainer's score for a new science fiction series, Dr Who. Grainer had worked his tune to fit in with the graphics. He used expressions for the noises he wanted - such as wind, bubbles, and clouds. It was a world without synthesisers, samplers and multi-track tape recorders; Delia, assisted by her engineer Dick Mills, had to create each sound from scratch.
She used concrete sources and sine- and square-wave oscillators, tuning the results, filtering and treating, cutting so that the joins were seamless, combining sound on individual tape recorders, re-recording the results, and repeating the process, over and over again.
When Grainer heard the result, his response was "Did I really write that?" Most of it, Delia replied. She deserved at least half the royalties, insisted the composer. She did not get them. At that time the BBC preferred to keep members of the workshop anonymous and uncredited.
Shortly after Delia had arrived at the workshop in 1962, I was also invited to join. I was stunned by her beauty, awed by her talent, and we began a friendship and a working partnership, within the BBC and outside, which was to delight and infuriate us for 40 years.
Delia was born in Coventry and educated at Coventry Grammar School and Girton College, Cambridge, where she took a degree in music and mathematics. After briefly working for the United Nations in Geneva, she joined the BBC in 1960 as a studio manager.
In those days BBC career progression was a slow affair, but before long she was sitting in, off-duty, at the new Radiophonic Workshop in Maida Vale. The senior studio manager, Desmond Briscoe, realising that the tall, quiet, auburn-haired young lady was not only enthusiastic but enormously creative and talented, invited her to join the department on attachment; she was to remain until 1973.
Delia used, he realised, an analytical approach to synthesise complex sounds from electronic sources. "The mathematics of sound," he said, "came naturally to her."
Delia thought that perhaps she just had a very strange mind. She analysed everything: the pace, the cutting, the editing of a film, every inflection, every comma, the subtleties in the human voice. "I suppose in a way," she observed, "I was experimenting in psycho-acoustics."
Although Dr Who made Delia and the Radiophonic Workshop nationally famous, it was her other drama and features work that showed her true talent. Her collaborations with the poet and dramatist Barry Bermange for the Third Programme showed her at her elegant best.
He put together The Dreams (1964), a collage of people describing their dreams. It was set by Delia into a background of pure electronic sound. In a second 1964 Bermange piece about people's experience of God and the devil, Amor Dei, he asked her to create a gothic altarpiece of sound. She composed this with snippets of archive and voices, again with only the simplest of equipment and facilities, often working through the night, for weeks on end.
Among her outstanding television work, one of her favourites was composed for a documentary for The World About Us on the Tuareg people of the Sahara desert. It still haunts me. She used her own voice for the sound of the hooves, cut up into an obbligato rhythm, and she added a thin, high electronic sound using virtually all the filters and oscillators in the workshop.
"My most beautiful sound at the time was a tatty green BBC lampshade," she recalled. "It was the wrong colour, but it had a beautiful ringing sound to it. I hit the lampshade, recorded that, faded it up into the ringing part without the percussive start.
"I analysed the sound into all of its partials and frequencies, and took the 12 strongest, and reconstructed the sound on the workshop's famous 12 oscillators to give a whooshing sound. So the camels rode off into the sunset with my voice in their hooves and a green lampshade on their backs."
In those days, the Radiophonic Workshop received a stream of visiting musicians, composers and writers - from Berio to Brian Jones - and she entranced them with her intellect and the joy of her company. But Delia was never starstruck; she cheerfully devoted as much time to encouraging young students as to talking with celebrities.
In the mid-1960s she and I worked with Peter Zinovieff, the composer and visionary pioneer of synthesisers, in a company called Unit Delta Plus. Delia became involved in an early electronic music concert at the New Mill Theatre in Newbury that also featured a pioneering light projection show by Hornsey College of Art and magnetic sculptures by Paul Takis.
She worked on Guy Woolfenden's electronic score for Peter Hall's 1967 Royal Shakespeare Company production of Macbeth with Paul Scofield, and on Hall's film Work is a Four Letter Word (1967). It was at Zinovieff's Putney studio that she first met Paul McCartney.
Later, Delia, her protege David Vorhaus and I set up Kaleidophon, a Camden Town-based independent studio. There she worked on the album Electric Storm (1968), now considered a classic, which was credited to White Noise and released on Island Records.
At Kaleidophon we put together electronic music for the London theatre of the late 1960s. There was Medea and Alan Dobie's Macbeth for the Greenwich Theatre; On the Level, a musical by Ron Grainer; and Tony Richardson's Hamlet at the Roundhouse.
She also took part in a Roundhouse concert of electronic music including early electronic works by McCartney. She even recorded a score for an ICI-sponsored student fashion show, which was the first in the world to use electronic music.
H er 11 years and nearly 200 programmes at the workshop represented probably the most productive times of her life. They also took their toll. To work with Delia during the late 1960s and early 70s was to witness the joy and energy-sapping pain of creation. "I think I must have reverse adrenalin," she said. "As the deadline gets closer most people speed up - I just get slower."
By 1973 Delia had become progressively more unhappy with her life at the workshop and she left to join me at Electrophon, an electronic music studio I had set up in Covent Garden. There, unfortunately, she found little relief from her unhappiness and decided to leave London. She became involved, bizarrely, in the laying of the national gas main as a radio operator, she worked in a Cumbrian art gallery, and she worked in a bookshop.
In 1980 she met Clive Blackburn, who was to be her partner for the rest of her life. Probably for the first time, she found happiness and settled into what, for her, was a normal existence.
For others it still appeared to be organised chaos - yet she did have a tidy and organised mind. She was still fascinated by the act of creation; still encouraging, scolding and praising her many friends.
In the last few years she was beginning once more to take an interest in electronic music, encouraged by a younger generation to whom she had become a cult figure. The technology she had left behind was finally catching up with her vision.
One night many years ago, as we left Zinovieff's studio, she paused on Putney bridge. "What we are doing now is not important for itself," she said, "but one day someone might be interested enough to carry things forwards and create something wonderful on these foundations." Her partner survives her.
• Delia Derbyshire, composer and arranger, born May 5 1937; died July 3 2001
-- Brian Hodgson.
MARCH 05 -
Lizzie Crozier French (1851-1926), teacher, lecturer, and woman suffragist, was the originator of a movement to change Tennessee laws to provide more freedom for women. The Woman's Emancipation Act of 1919 was passed largely as the result of her efforts in the area of women's rights. She was born in Knoxville, May 7, 1851, the daughter of Mary Ethelred and John Hardy Crozier. Her father followed the practice of law after teaching in his early years. A noted scholar, he served as a trustee of the University of Tennessee and Knoxville Female College.
Lizzie received her education in the Convent of Visitation in Georgetown, District of Columbia, and in the Episcopal School at Columbia, Tennessee. She later took a special course in elocution in New York.
In 1872 Miss Crozier was married to William B. French, the grandson of Hugh Lawson White. This marriage was to last but a brief time, due to Mr. French's untimely death. Afterwards, in September, 1885, Mrs. French established Knoxville Female Institute, of which she was principal. Five years later she organized a special school of elocution, doing much of the teaching herself. In 1897 she published a Manual of Elocution. Of her work in the field of speech, The South Western Journal of Education had this to say: "Don't think you can't get fine instruction in Elocution in the South. Mrs. L. Crozier French is a teacher with a reputation that is not confined to her own state, but covers the South. Her School of Elocution offers every opportunity for complete study without the necessity of a student's going far from home. Her Manual of Elocution (now in its second edition) is a great success."
Mrs. French's compelling interest in culture and learning inspired her in 1885 to organize the Ossoli Circle, the first woman's club in the state. The purpose of the club was "to stimulate intellectual growth and moral development and to be of mutual benefit to women of literary taste and ability." A number of years later, Mrs. French founded the Writers' Club of Knoxville; she was also founder of the Woman's Educational and Industrial Union. As a charter member of the Knoxville Art Museum and the Knoxville Lyceum, she was instrumental in providing unusual cultural opportunities for the citizens of her native city.
Always an ardent advocate of rights for women, Mrs. French was the first woman to run for a position on the city council. Though her bid for the post was position on the city council. Though her bid for the post was unsuccessful, she continued her interest in civic matters as well as women's rights. In 1910 after being elected state president of the Federation of Women's Clubs she began a crusade for woman suffrage. In 1912 she was made president of the Tennessee Suffrage Association. Her enthusiasm and splendid ability as an organizer enable her to make a unique contribution to the promotion of women's rights.
Lizzie Crozier French died in Washington, D. C., May 14, 1926, seven days after her seventy-fifth birthday. She had gone to Washington to lobby for the passage of a bill to benefit working women and to attend the dedication of the Tennessee room in the new National Women's Party Building which was to be decorated in her honor.
The Knoxville Sentinel had this to say of Mrs. French: "She is, beyond doubt, the most brilliant woman in Tennessee today, and one of the most enthusiastic women in philanthropy of any of her sex."
Lizzie Crozier French, noted educator and civic leader, gave freely of her time and energy to improve the status of women. She is honored by people everywhere for her vision and her courage in hastening the progress of women's rights.
Katherine Johnson was a pioneer scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She determined the trajectories for America's first manned space flights in 1961 and 1962. In 1969 her work was instrumental in landing men on the moon. The following year she helped bring the ill-fated Apollo 13 safely back to Earth. An early computer expert, Johnson was considered to be one of the most brilliant mathematicians at NASA.
Katherine Coleman was born on August 26, 1918, in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. She told Wini Warren in 1996 that "education was the primary focus in our family." Since White Sulphur Springs did not have a high school, each September Katherine, her sister, and two brothers moved to Institute, West Virginia, the home ofWest Virginia State College. Institute was an all-black town with many well-educated residents and the Colemans attended the college's laboratory high school. Their mother kept house for them in Institute while their father stayed at his job at the Greenbriar Hotel in White Sulphur Springs.
As at other historically black schools, mentoring students was a major focus at West Virginia State. Johnson's high-school and college teacher Angie Turner King a major influence. Johnson told Warren: "Our teachers made such a difference—all my teachers and professors were very supportive and nurturing…James Carmichael Evans, was one of my math teachers in college—his wife had taught me math in the eighth grade—and because they didn't have children at the time, I became a kind of child to them…To please him I always had to do my very very best…. At that time, I was very interested in French and English studies…but Professor Evans said, ‘I know how good you are in French, but you will also major in mathematics.’" So Johnson majored in both mathematics and French, graduating summa cum laude in 1937. Over the next three years she did graduate work in mathematics and physics at West Virginia State.
Johnson married James Goble, and they had three daughters. She taught math, and occasionally French, at various high schools in Marion and Morgantown, West Virginia. After moving to Newport News, Virginia, she worked as a substitute teacher and as program director for the local United Service Organizations (USO). After her first husband's death she married James A. Johnson, an artillery captain.
Became a Human Computer
Johnson began her career as a "human computer" at the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), NASA's predecessor, at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Before the age of electronic computers, NACA employed hundreds of women mathematicians as human computers. They used slide rules and mechanical calculators to perform complex calculations on wind-tunnel experiments. Whereas men with similar qualifications were classified as professionals, the women were sub-professionals. However most of the women enjoyed their work and were much better paid than female employees elsewhere. Black mathematicians, however, were segregated in their own office and loaned out to various divisions as needed.
When the space race heated up with the 1957 launch of the Soviet satellite Sputnik, Johnson was perfectly positioned to embark on a successful career in a profession dominated by white men. Soon after joining the NACA she was loaned out to the Flight Research Division and, as she told Warren, "never sent back." It was the department that would become the nucleus of the space program. Johnson told Warren: "We were pioneers of the space era. We worked in secret for about three years, often without knowing exactly what the total thrust of our work was…You had to read Aviation Week to find out what you'd done…Everything was so new—the whole idea of going into space was new and daring. There were no textbooks, so we had to write them…We created the equations needed to track a vehicle in space."
Regardless of their position women were not allowed to attend briefings. Johnson told Warren: "I'd ask what had gone on in the briefing—I'd listen and listen, and ask questions. Then, of course, I'd ask why I couldn't go myself, and eventually they just got tired of answering all my questions and just let me in."
In general women's names were omitted from their research at NASA. Johnson told Warren: "We needed to be assertive as women in those days—assertive and aggressive…. I was working with Ted Skopinski and he wanted to leave and go to Houston…but Pearson, our supervisor—who was not a fan of women—kept pushing him to finish the report we were working on. Finally, Ted told him, ‘Katherine should finish the report, she's done most of the work, anyway.’ So Ted left Pearson with no choice; I finished the report and my name went on it, and that was the first time that a woman in our division had her name on something." Her groundbreaking report provided the theoretical basis for launching, tracking, and returning space vehicles. During her 33-year career at NASA Johnson co-authored 21 technical papers.
Johnson and the Moon Landing
Johnson tracked the trajectories of the first manned space flight, the Mercury flight of astronaut Alan Shepard in 1961. She helped design the tracking system that enabled NASA to predict within two miles the location of Glenn's rocket cone after his three orbits around the Earth in 1962. The headline in the New York Amsterdam News read "Her Paper Helped to Track Astronaut: Math Expert Who Aided Spaceman Is ‘Thrilled.’"
By the mid-1960s Johnson and a colleague were worrying about something going wrong, such as a computer failure. They began to formulate possible problems and backup solutions and developed simple navigational methods for the astronauts to use in case they lost contact with ground control. She told Warren that, although they were in Virginia, "the computers we were using were out in California, and there was the time differential…. We worked mostly at night, so we could communicate with the computers. Most of the time we worked sixteen hour days…. One morning I woke up in my car by the side of the road—I had fallen asleep behind the wheel, and I told myself I had to cut back."
MARCH 07 -
Joanne Rowling was born in July 1965 at Yate General Hospital in England and grew up in Chepstow, Gwent where she went to Wyedean Comprehensive.
Jo left Chepstow for Exeter University, where she earned a French and Classics degree, her course including one year in Paris. As a postgraduate she moved to London and worked as a researcher at Amnesty International among other jobs. She started writing the Harry Potter series during a delayed Manchester to London King’s Cross train journey, and during the next five years, outlined the plots for each book and began writing the first novel.
Jo then moved to northern Portugal, where she taught English as a foreign language. She married in October 1992 and gave birth to a daughter in 1993. When the marriage ended, she and Jessica returned to the UK to live in Edinburgh, where Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone was eventually completed. The book was first published by Bloomsbury Children’s Books in June 1997, under the name J.K. Rowling. The “K”, for Kathleen, her paternal grandmother’s name was added at her publisher’s request who thought that a woman’s name would not appeal to the target audience of young boys.
The second title in the series, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, was published in July 1998 and was No. 1 in the adult hardback bestseller charts for a month after publication. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban was published on 8th July 1999 to worldwide acclaim and spent four weeks at No.1 in the UK adult hardback bestseller charts.
The fourth book in the series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire was published on 8th July 2000 with a record first print run of 1 million copies for the UK. It quickly broke all records for the greatest number of books sold on the first day of publication in the UK.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was published in Britain, the USA, Canada and Australia on 21st June 2003 and broke the records set by Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire as the fastest selling book in history. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was published in the UK, US and other English-speaking countries on 16th July 2005 and also achieved record sales.
The seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was published in the UK, US and other English speaking countries in 2007.
J.K. Rowling has also written two small volumes, which appear as the titles of Harry’s school books within the novels. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Quidditch Through The Ages were published in March 2001 in aid of Comic Relief.
In December 2008, The Tales of Beedle the Bard was published in aid of the Children’s High Level Group (now Lumos).
As well as an OBE for services to children’s literature, J.K. Rowling is the recipient of numerous awards and honorary degrees including the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord, France’s Légion d’Honneur, and the Hans Christian AndersenLiterature Award, and she has been a Commencement Speaker at Harvard University USA. She supports a wide number of charitable causes through her charitable trust Volant, and is the founder of Lumos, a charity working to transform the lives of disadvantaged children.
In 2012, J.K. Rowling published her first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy (Little Brown), which has now been published in 44 languages.
J.K. Rowling has also written The Cuckoo's Calling (Little Brown), her first crime novel under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith, which was published in 2013 and is to be translated into 37 languages. A second Robert Galbraith novel is due to be published in 2014.
J.K. Rowling is currently writing the screen play, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, an original story set in the wizarding world, some of which will be familiar to Harry Potter fans. It marks her screenwriting debut and the start of a new film series with Warner Bros.
J.K. Rowling lives in Edinburgh with her husband and three children.