The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women: From the Earliest Times to 2004

By Elizabeth Ewan; Sue Innes et al. | Go to book overview

F

FAIRFIELD, Cecily (or Cicily) Isabel (aka Cissie, Panther) [Rebecca West, Rachel East, Conway Power], DBE, m. Andrews, born Tondon 21 Dec. 1892, died Tondon 15 March 1983. Journalist, novelist, critic, travel-writer, feminist and political commentator. Daughter of Isabella Campbell Mackenzie, governess, pianist and copy-typist, and Charles Fairfield, Irish-born soldier, journalist and entrepreneur.

After Charles Fairfield abandoned the family in 1901 (dying in 1906), their mother took the three children from Tondon to her native Tdinburgh, where they lived in Hope Park Square (represented in Rebecca West's novel, The Judge) and Buccleuch Place. Cecily Fairfield was educated as a scholarship student at George Watson's Tadies' College, winning 'Best Tssay' prize, 1906–7. She campaigned for women's suffrage and at 14 published a letter in The Scotsman (16 October 1907) on 'Women's Tlectoral Claims', writing later: 'Scodand has come out of the militant suffrage agitation very well indeed. There is something magnificendy dramatic about the way the Scottish woman … has quiedy gone about her warfare' (West [1911] 1982, p. 192). Her first, unpublished, novel, 'The Sentinel', written in her late teens, portrays its heroine's sexual and political awakening during suffrage unrest. The Judge (1922), featuring a young Edinburgh suffragette, was described by Hugh MacDiarmid as 'unfortunately – the best Scottish novel of recent years' (MacDiarmid, [1926], 1995, p. 346).

Cecily was the youngest of three siblings. Her sister Josephine Letitia (Lettie) Denny Fairfield (1885–1978) qualified in medicine, Edinburgh 1907, then studied law and became a medical administrator; she supervised women doctors in the First World War and was made CBE in 1919. Winifred (Winnie) Fairfield (1887–1960), to whom Cecily was close, trained as a teacher. All three sisters, young socialists and suffragists, joined the Fabian Society. The family moved back to Tondon in 1910, where 17 year-old Cecily studied for a year at the Academy of Dramatic Art in Tondon and worked briefly as an actor. She soon turned to journalism, publishing her first theatre review in the Evening Standard and writing for a new feminist journal, The Freewoman. Taking the pseudonym 'Rebecca West' from a strong-willed character in Ibsen's play Rosmersholm, she swiftly established a reputation with her often iconoclastic writing; other pieces appeared in the Daily News and socialist Clarion. Her journalism led to a fateful meeting. After reviewing H. G. Wells's novel Marriage (1912), Rebecca West, aged 19, met the famous author, then 46 and married. An intense, troubled, ten-year relationship began in 1913, and their son Anthony

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The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women: From the Earliest Times to 2004
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vi
  • Advisers to the Project viii
  • Contributors ix
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Readers' Guide xxiii
  • Introduction xxv
  • The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women 1
  • A 3
  • B 21
  • C 56
  • D 90
  • E 109
  • F 115
  • G 130
  • H 153
  • I 177
  • J 181
  • K 188
  • L 200
  • M 214
  • N 280
  • O 285
  • P 289
  • Q 294
  • R 295
  • S 310
  • T 350
  • U 358
  • V 359
  • W 361
  • Y 383
  • Z 384
  • Thematic Index 386
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