Jill Tweedie

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Jill Sheila Tweedie (22 May 1936 – 12 November 1993) was a British feminist, writer and broadcaster. She wrote a column in The Guardian on feminist issues (1969–1988), "Letters from a faint-hearted feminist", and an autobiography entitled Eating Children (1993). She succeeded Mary Stott as a principal columnist on The Guardian‍'‍s women's page.

Her light style and left-leaning politics captured the spirit of British feminism in the 1970s and 1980s. In November 2005, she was one of only five women included in the Press Gazette's 40-strong gallery of most influential British journalists.




  • Under the pseudo-Gothic vaults, brightly hatted, lace stockinged, discreetly jewelled, the 27 womwen Members go clicking over the tiled floors. ... Highly educated, immensely hard working, more dedicated, more conscientious than many of their male colleagues these women hold down one of the most demanding jobs there is. Many of them are married, a few have small children and some have households organised beyond the dreams of Mrs Beeton. And all of them have one regret — that there are no more than 24 hours in a day. Time is an enemy. Watching telly by the fireside becomes a rare treat, an evening at the theatre something to be planned for weeks in advance, and then frustrated. They need energy, energy, and more energy. This is no life for fluttery ladies with migraine[s] and female complaints.
    Life at the House is not yet geared to women. The men have their built in barber but they have no hairdresser, what do you do when your hair droops and your on television that evening? They share one bath between them. They have no office of their own.
  • In my early teens, skinny ribs daily rent asunder by the explosive emotions within - oh golly gosh how I hate that spotty, mingy Mildred and will Rock Hudson ever ever clasp me in his steely arms - I burst upon a diary with a great gold lock.
    But the Moroccan leather binding, the milky expanse within, instantly transformed me into Baroness Munchausen. My very handwriting spiked into the serious trembly copperplate I deemed more suitable for the consumptive heroine I wished to be than the thick round letters of the large schoolgirl I was (if experts today are right and handwriting shapes the fortunes of the writer, I should have died elegantly at the end of the diary). Even the contents were bastard - I found it beneath my dignity to write of anything but the most searing Brontë-esque passions and now, far from being a record of day-to-day events, each entry requires a simultaneous translation: "Today I think I shall go mad, I shiver, I groan, I sob" (Myron Fickelburger didn’t sit next to me in Chemistry); "Wild gales sweep across the moors, I run and howl, my eyes stream tears" (it’s windy in the playground and I’ve got this bit of asphalt in my eye). Discovered long hence, that diary would provide historians with a vivid and haunting picture of youthful stress in the fifties - vivid and haunting and deeply untrue.


  • It would be a tragedy if the still embryonic Women's Liberation Movement in this country sank without trace into the amniotic fluid of niceness, but already I detect some signs. The women directly concerned with organising the March 6 demo, though they point with pride to the massive WL movement in the US seem not to have learned very much from the performance of their American sisters. They bend over backwards to be fair. ('We must be very careful not to assume that if a woman is refused a job it is sexual discrimination' — why? It's not our job to worry about fairness.) They talk too much about wanting to be taken seriously; they say too often how much they deprecate extremes and shudder with refined horror at bra-burnings, and at SCUM and WITCH. Not at at the image we want, they say, metaphorically crooking their little fingers and adjusting their petal hats. We don't want to go to jail, or worse, be laughed at.
    The tendency among these ladies is to sneer at the Germaine Greers of the movement and, indeed, it is easy enough to carp at sweeping genralisations and lack of careful factual research. But anger, neurosis, insights , obsession and extremism is where it is at and women will have lost the battle before it has begun if they reject all this and concentrate their energies only on concrete injustice. Reforms like equal pay, equal job opportunities, free contraception, better nursery schools, have needed implementation as long as I can remember, and armies of hard-working, dedicated women have been pushing them forward as long as I can remember, too, and a great deal longer. The only new ingredient Women's Lib had to offer was the intellectual recognition of an imprisoned psyche, and the realisation that when that inner battle is fought and won, concrete injustices crumble at the roots.
    And that is not done by being nice. American liberationists did not surge into life thinking of the other chap's point of view or making constant efforts to be fair, moderate, cool and ladylike. They succeeded by being prejudiced, unfair, immoderate, uncool and devastatingly unladylike and they came up with the only symbolic image of the movement so far (em) bra-burning. A small and risible thing, perhaps, but their own.

About Tweedie


In alphabetical order.

  • She [Tweedie] opens her case with an account of her own experience — she married three times and twice it was rotten — and goes on to list, throughout the ages, the devastation perpetuated in the name of love. ...
    I disagree with some of her book. She chronicles a horrific list of cruelties and repressions practiced in the name of love and she infers that it is the exception rather than the rule that people know how to love one another.
    She must be wrong. What about all those millions of human beings who, long before the welfare state, despite misery, hunger and disease, mostly managed to care for each other with charity and tenderness? I don't know why any of us should presume that we're here to do anything very special, except procreate ...
  • From the word go, Tweedie, 'the doyenne of feminist journalists bringing the hottest of bulletins from the front line of the sex war' (ibid) [See note below] was both partisan and subjective/ Although reserved about detaikls of her life, especially the tragedy of her children, she mined other experiences. Her style, too, was the radical opposite of the remote discoursew which passed for objective journalism. She wrote as she spoke and the words jumped off the page, full of colloquialisms and inner dialogue.
  • Her weekly column became an icon of all that was hairy and terrifying to men who found the women's movement a threat to their security. She was parodied, ridiculed and attacked. Mostly, though, she became a focal voice of women all over Britain who wrote to her in their thousands and took courage from her to look at the truth about their lives. ...
    Her radicalism never wavered but her honesty demanded that she explore the ambivalences feminists like her were scarcely able to confess to themselves, let alone to the world.
    The result was "Letters From A Faint-hearted Feminist", a new series of columns in which issues of central feminist ideology were put through the same critical wringer as the unthinking patriarchal orthodoxies that had been in her earlier columns. Could not you wear high heels with a boiler suit? Were beautiful clothes a gorgeous prison, or a legitimate choice for independent women? Was monogamy inevitably a road to servitude?
    The cleverness of those columns was Jill's ability to admit to ambivalence, to weakness and to changing her mind without compromising her beliefs in equality, independence and the destructiveness of stereotypes. In their way, they were a bridge between the revolutionary battlefields of the 70s and the next generation who rightly took their freedoms for granted and saw no reason whatever to agonise about boiler suits or PhDs.
  • Our model is the amazing Jill Tweedie, a former columnist on the Guardian. Her close friend Polly Toynbee told me that after a diagnosis of motor neurone disease – the condition that drove Diane Pretty to battle for the right to die – Jill calmly acquired the medication needed for a sure and safe despatch. She booked herself into a hospice for what she told her family was a short respite and took her tablets whilst she was still capable of self administration, but in a setting where it would be professionals who would find her body rather than those close to her.
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