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Charlotte Franken was born the daughter of Jewish immigrants, in London on 27th April 1894. Her father was a German fur dealer based in Antwerp from 1906. When her father's went through difficulties, Charlotte enrolled in a shorthand and typing course in London and became a secretary. She began writing stories and had one published in October 1916. Two years later she married and gave birth to a son, Ronnie Burghes.
By 1920 Charlotte Franken was a journalist for the Daily Express, in which she wrote articles on the role of women from a feminist perspective. She was especially critical of the new women politicians’ record in Parliament and also wrote for the political magazine `Time and Tide’. More than once she attracted litigation for her flagrant style of journalism and controversy seemed to follow her for much of her life.
After an interview with the scientist and author John Haldane, Charlotte set up an agency in 1925 that syndicated science articles for national newspapers. In October of that year, to obtain a divorce from her husband, Charlotte arranged with a private detective to spend the night with John Haldane at the Adelphi Hotel in London. The case received national publicity and Haldane was dismissed from Cambridge University for "gross immorality". The following May, the couple were married.
Now Charlotte Haldane, she continued to write for the Daily Express and also for the New Statesman. She also wrote about women's issues in `Motherhood and Its Enemies’ and the novels `Man's World’ (1926), `Brother to Bert’ (1930), `I Bring Not Peace’ (1932), `Youth Is A Crime’ (1934) and `Melusine’ (1936).
A member of the Labour Party at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, Charlotte supported the Popular Front government and was highly critical of the British government's non-intervention policy. Both Haldanes joined the Communist Party and were active in raising men and money for the International Brigades, which her 16 year old son, Ronnie Burghes, succeeded in joining. Charlotte was involved in the setting up of the Dependents Aid Committee, which raised money for the families of members of the British Battalion in Spain. Ronnie Haldane was badly injured at Jarama and in August 1937 was forced to return to England. Later that year Charlotte visited Spain with Paul Robeson and reported on the war for the Daily Worker.
After attending the World Congress Against Fascism in France in May 1938, Haldane was sent by the `Daily Herald’ to report on the Communist International being held in China. In February 1939 Haldane was appointed editor of `Woman Today’, a journal for left-wing feminists and was involved in the establishing of the Women's Committee for Peace and Democracy.
On the outbreak of the Second World WarCharlotte attempted to become a front-line war reporter. At that time there were no women war correspondents in Britain and she was turned down by the Daily Herald and the Daily Express. In August 1941 the Daily Sketch decided to employ her as a war reporter in the Soviet Union. Charlotte was shocked at the level of censorship taking place under Joseph Stalin. She wrote about her experiences in the USSR in her book `Russian Newsreel’ (1941).
Thus disillusioned, Charlotte left the Communist Party when she returned to London in November 1941. She later wrote that membership of the party had affected her journalism. In 1942 Charlotte joined the Eastern Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and recorded eight programmes about Russia and China. She wrote an anti-Soviet play, `Justice Is Deaf’, set in the near future after a Communist takeover of Britain. The BBC refused to broadcast it for political reasons during the war but it was eventually performed for radio in 1950.
John Haldane obtained a divorce from his wife in November 1945. He remained a member of the Communist Party but Charlotte continued to attack the Soviet Union in sharp terms. She published her autobiography, `Truth Will Out’, in 1949 and regularly published over the next two decades until her death in 1969.