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First Lady of Fleet Street

February 27, 2012 - Amy Phelps
Take a look at the true story of a female newspaper editor in Victorian England in "The First Lady of Fleet Street" by Eliat Negev and Yehuda Koren.

Much of this book takes a look at the wealthy families of both Rachel (Sassoon) Beer and her husband, Frederick Beer, a newspaper owner. Mrs. Beer's wealthy Jewish family earned much of their money through trading deals. Rachel herself lived a life of more opportunity than other unmarried women of her day - since her father died and left her money solely for herself, she wasn't forced into marriage for monetary reasons and held out until she met Frederick, whom her family didn't like.

Beer inherited a newspaper from his father and was its editor, and when Rachel took interest in it, he eventually set her up with her own newspaper to edit, leading the two to become direct competitors. Rachel was an outspoken woman for her time, something that made her some enemies and many wouldn't talk to a "female" editor, and eventually got a large "scoop" from a gripping trial of the time.

When Frederick fell severely ill, Rachel took over editing both newspapers and nursing him. When he finally succumbed to his illness, exhausted and stressed, Rachel's friends and family took note of her declining health to her detrement. Her family had doctors declare her mentally ill and she was stripped of the newspapers, her land and her money.

It's a sad story for such a crusading and strong woman, but very telling of the time period.

"The First Lady of Fleet Street" is published by Bantam. It is $30 and 368 pages long.


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