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First Lady of Fleet Street: A Biography of Rachel Beer [Hardcover]

Yehuda Koren , Eilat Negev
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

24 April 2011
Rachel Beer was both a rebel and a pioneer. In the late 19th century, at a time when women were still denied the vote, she became the first woman ever to edit a national British newspaper in fact two, The Sunday Times and the Observer. It was to be over eighty years before another woman took the helm of a Fleet Street paper. As a woman she was barred not only from frequenting the London Clubs that fed her rival male editors with political gossip, but also from the Press Gallery of the House of Commons. However, whilst other female journalists were restricted to frocks, frills and frippery, Rachel managed to raise her formidable voice on national and foreign political issues including the notorious Dreyfus Affair as well as on social and women s issues, often controversially. Aunt of the poet Siegfried, Rachel's family, the Sassoons, had made their fortune in Indian opium and cotton. Her marriage to Frederick Beer brought together two wealthy dynasties. It was also to bring Rachel strife and heartbreak for while the Prime Minister, William Gladstone, attended the wedding, Frederick's father s decision to abandon the Jewish religion and baptize his son led to Rachel being disowned by many of her proudly Jewish family. Rachel anticipated her family's rage, but ultimately followed her heart, only for tragedy to strike when her beloved husband died and her family conspired to have her certified. Drawing on a wealth of original material, First Lady of Fleet Street paints a vivid picture of a remarkable woman and of the times in which she lived. It also provides an important history of two venerable Jewish families, their origins and their rise to eminence.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 526 pages
  • Publisher: JR Books Ltd; 1st Edition edition (24 April 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906779198
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906779191
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 24.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 183,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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It is an extraordinary story, all the more remarkable in that such a fascinating woman should be almost completely unknown. All credit to the authors for giving the first lady of Fleet Street the byline she deserves. --The Sunday Times 17 April 2011

It is an extraordinary story, all the more remarkable in that such a fascinating woman should be almost completely unknown. All credit to the authors for giving the first lady of Fleet Street, the byline she deserves. --The Sunday Times (Culture Magazine), April 17, 2011

Who was the first woman to edit a national newspaper in Britain?...It was the redoubtable Rachel Sassoon Beer who, in 1891, really upset convention by taking up the reins of a national newspaper - the Observer. Now biographers Eilat Negev and Yehuda Koren have handsomely made up for the information deficit. Their book is a comprehensive study of Beer's life, covering her glamorous days as a Mayfair socialite and concluding in the sad and unjust official declaration that she was "of unsound mind". --Vanessa Thorpe, The Observer, June 5, 2011

It is an engaging tale. --Hugh Carnegy, The Financial Times, May 9, 2011

About the Author

Yehuda Koren and Eilat Negev are the authors of In Our Hearts We Were Giants a dwarf family s survival of the Holocaust, and Lover of Unreason the life and tragic death of Assia Wevill, Ted Hughes doomed love.

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This superb biography - if it weren't factual it could almost be a sequel to Trollope's, The Way We Live Now - is a gripping account of one of the most extraordinary and powerful women of the last century and a half, Rachel Beer, the first, and only (!), female editor of The Times and The Observer. Her trailblazing example, her espousal of ethical causes - the Dreyfus affair to name just one - and her championing of women's rights give her heroic stature. What makes it crucially pertinent for us today is the invidious comparison of Rachel Beer with those morally and intellectually diminished (and most shamefully, women) editors who followed her.

The trajectory of incandescence that her brief career afforded was cut tragically short in the first years of the 20th century when she had a breakdown following the death of her husband. Familial pressure and medical incompetence conspired to have her declared insane, removing from her those rights and freedoms that she had fought so hard to give others.

The First Lady of Fleet Street also brilliantly illuminates a period that bridged the late 19th and early 20th centuries, where British culture flowered with the benificence and genius of newly immigrant Jewish communities. The authors have created a source book for any researcher examining the social history of British media of the late Victorian era. It offers an acerbic perspective of a flawed and hypocritical society. It is also a tragic history of Rachel Beer's family, the Sassoons, who cruelly disowned her on her marriage to Frederick Beer and her subsequent conversion to Anglicanism. With forebears in Baghdad that grew wealthy from the sale of opium to their astonishing assimilation into British society the Sassoons enjoyed a privileged existence.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars First Lady of Fleet Street 26 April 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is absolutely tragic that a woman (who contributed so much to the British Newspaper industry) was vilified, by some of her contemporaries, for her jewish ancestry and sex.

From the social class constraints to the professional obstacles she managed to overcome, Rachel Beer's journalistic and musical gifts shone.

Both Eilat Negev and Yehuda Koren (authors of the book) have done an excellent job of detailing her extraordinary life.

A brilliant, inspiring read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Remarkable Women 22 Jan 2012
This is a must have book since it gives a lot of details about the life and times, and politics in Victorian England. Much of it is relevant today. Rachel Beer has been mostly forgotten. A sad story about an exceptional women well ahead of her time. I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.
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