Jean Shapiro was born on November 25 1916, in Carshalton, Surrey. At Commonweal Lodge school, Purley, where she became head girl, she was also the only pupil in her class to go into higher education. She took a diploma in journalism at University College London. In the mid-1930s, inspired by the Spanish civil war, she joined the Communist Party and remained an active member for two decades.
Her first job was to sub-edit the memoirs of past Prime Minister, David Lloyd George. She worked on `Farmer and Stockbreeder’, writing on women’s issues. Her first marriage to fellow journalist Stewart Farrar ended during the Second World War, a period when she had a formative experience. Her first baby was taken from her before she had seen her, since she had spina bifida and was unlikely to live more than a few days. Later in the war, she married a Communist, Jewish airman – the clinical psychologist Monte Shapiro.
She took on the refurbishing of an old building as a day nursery for working mothers. While her children were young, she worked as a teacher. Shapiro’s writing for the Daily Worker focused particularly on women’s issues. She left the Party in 1956, soon after Khrushchev’s denunciation of Stalin.
Jean Shapiro was home editor for `Good Housekeeping’ and, for 17 years, answered readers’ letters. The problems that readers presented inspired her later books – on motherhood and childcare – and her campaigning.
In her late years she became an influential voice for feminism, using her earlier experience; he r most important work being `Ourselves, Growing Older’ (1989). She also wrote `On Your Own’ (1985) a guide for separated, divorced and widowed women – which offered advice on coping with everything from a leaky roof to a new relationship – and `Get The Best Out Of The Rest Of Your Life’ (1990). Shapiro became involved with the University of the Third Age in Bristol, where she ran a non-fiction writing group. Jean Shapiro died on May 10th 2005, aged 88,
Source: Guardian May 19th 2005
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