Book reviews

A selection of reviews first published in the Marx Memorial Bulletin

 

Charlotte Haldane: woman writer in a man's world


By Paul Routledge
Basingstoke: Macmillan (1998), 224pp, £45.00. ISBN 0-333-66073-8.

 
 

Although perhaps best known for her work as organiser of the International Brigade Dependants and Wounded Aid Committee and as the wife of the world famous scientist J.B.S. Haldane (their life together is well described), Charlotte Haldane had a varied and interesting life that reached into many fields.

She was born in 1894 in the London suburb of Sydenham of Jewish immigrant parents and counted among the many friends in her literary circle the writers Malcolm Lowry and the eminent critic William Empson.

She wrote seven novels, 13 biographies, made radio broadcasts, wrote plays and political essays, as well as her own autobiography Truth Will Out (1949), which dealt with her life and subsequent split with the Communist Party, of which she had been a member for many years.

An ardent feminist, she was one of the earliest women journalists on Fleet Street and Britain’s first female war correspondent. She acted as guide and interpreter to Paul and Eslanda Robeson in Spain.

The author says: ‘Charlotte Haldane was a prototype of the woman whose way opened largely as a result of the social transformation of the First World War’ [and that] ‘her writing is an honest, radical account of a generation which had a profound sense of vocation but not always a clear idea of where that vocation would lead.’

This is a good assessment of one who, while not a major figure in the labour movement, nevertheless made a contribution through her writings and political activity, and for this she deserves to be remembered.

This first life of Charlotte Haldane (1894-1969) will help to this end.

Harold Smith

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Charlotte Haldane
4. Marxism/Leninism
6. Peace