A Jazz Player, a Climber and Doris Lessing: The Lives of Women Over 50, 1975 | Women
In the last part of a national survey in October 1975, Observer’s Magazine spoke to older women “whose energy and enthusiasm suggest that even at 50 life may be just beginning” (“The Women of Britain – and what they think “).
The pot bios were a random combination of accomplishments, quotes, and a physical description, like some kind of weird Miss World. The first was Kathy, 50, a jazz saxophonist whose “major break” was the war: “All the men were called, and I got my chance in what was mostly a man’s world. I was a born busker.
I wanted to know more about Gwen, 51, a climbing guide, who “has done several first female ascents in the Swiss and Italian Alps”. She said she wrote for the same reason she started climbing: “To stretch myself and get to the top, which is a dull place anyway. The greatest pleasures lie in getting there.
Chief Superintendent Mary, 53, had “been implicated in virtually every crime in the book”, but had never been attacked. She is described as being “cheerful, outgoing, confidence-inspiring, gray curly hair, motherly but not stuffy…goes to work at New Scotland Yard…on her bike.”
Doris Lessing, 54, ‘An ex-Communist with a keen emotional and political intelligence that is reflected in her characters. A serene beauty, a calm forehead, plump, a little messy, she lives in London with a cat’ – yes, it was the author of The golden notebook.
Margot Fonteyn, 56, said: ‘In ballet, once you stop, you’re done forever’…”Raven-haired, petite, looks and moves like a girl. Eats lots of steak; wears Yves St Laurent .’
Betty, 60, a film producer, didn’t have kids because “I couldn’t care less”. A completely understandable answer to a rude question.
The last word goes to Dame Marie Rambert, 87, founder of Ballet Rambert. “She turned a cartwheel on her 80th birthday.”