First Lady of Fleet Street
A Biography of Rachel Beer
Date of publication: April 2011
Publisher: Aurum Press Ltd
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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.