But recently, I decided to have a look through my database and see how many other hardy, long-lived women from my time period remained alive and to honor them with a post of their own. I was rather surprised to discover nearly three dozen writers on my list who are certainly or possibly alive. But first, I want to pay my respects to those authors who have only recently been lost.
|Mary Stewart (1916-2014)|
On May 20, 2014, readers around the world mourned the loss of Mary Stewart (1916-2014), the perennially popular author of romantic suspense and fantasy. Her Merlin series of fantasy novels were bestsellers for decades, and many of her earlier romantic suspense novels were reprinted in 2011 in charming new paperback editions by Hodder & Stoughton.
|Elizabeth Jane Howard (1923-2014)|
Shortly after the new year, on January 2, 2014, fans also mourned the loss of acclaimed novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard, whose first novel was The Beautiful Visit (1950), but who is best remembered by many fans for her multi-volume Cazalets series, comprised of The Light Years (1990), Marking Time (1991), Confusion (1993), Casting Off (1995), and one final volume, All Change, published in 2013 only a few months before her death.
|A youthful Doris Lessing (1919-2013)|
2013 saw the loss of four more authors from my list. Most notably, of course, 2013 saw the passing of Doris Lessing, the only British woman to be honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature, who began her publishing career with the 1950 novel The Grass Is Singing. Lessing is still perhaps best known for 1962 novel The Golden Notebook, about a politically-involved woman attempting to navigate between and ultimately unite the various strands of her identity.
|Molly Lefebure (1919-2013), looking cheerful for someone who|
spent much of her time working in a morgue!
Lessing was 94, just a bit older than Molly Lefebure, whose memoir Evidence for the Crown (1954), about her work in the London morgue during World War II, was recently filmed for television as Murder on the Home Front. She also published biographies of Coleridge (1974), his wife (1986), and their children (published posthumously in late 2013).
|Elizabeth Mavor (1927-2013)|
I was also saddened last year to have to add a death date for Elizabeth Mavor. Mavor, who was 85, is best known for her fascinating biography The Ladies of Llangollen (1971), about Eleanor Butler and Sarah Ponsonby, two 18th century women who eloped together in 1778 and lived together as, for all intents and purposes, a married couple for more than 50 years—well over two centuries before any such legal entity as a same-sex marriage came into existence! Mavor also edited a selection from Eleanor Butler's journals, A Year with the Ladies of Llangollen (1987), but in addition wrote four novels—Summer in the Greenhouse (1959), The Temple of Flora (1961), The Redoubt (1967), and A Green Equinox (1973).
|Gwendoline Butler (1922-2013)|
And finally, in 2013 mystery fans mourned Gwendoline Butler, who also used the pseudonym Jennie Melville and wrote police procedural novels—including a series featuring a female Chief Superintendent, Charmian Daniels—Victorian and Edwardian historical mysteries, and gothic romantic thrillers. Emily Melton of Booklist described Butler a few years ago as "one of today's most underrated mystery writers," one who "constructs superb stories with byzantine plots, tantalizing suspense, and dark psychological overtones." Butler was 90.
ALIVE AND KICKING
But now on to those writers who are certainly or possibly still in the land of the living. The "possibly" comes in because there are so many women on my list for whom information is sparse, and it's difficult to know if I'm merely lacking details. I've put question marks in the date ranges for those writers, and with my usual tendency toward overinclusiveness I'm including all who would be 105 or less as of this writing (the age at which—quite impressively—Elizabeth Jenkins died in 2010). If anyone reading this has additional information about any of these writers, I'll certainly appreciate it. Oh, and if information about an author is so scarce that I'm unable to find either birth or death information, then I'm not including them here, though there is of course the possibility that a few of those women could still be happily with us as well.
|Youngster Jane Gaskell, born in 1941|
The youngster in this group is Jane Gaskell, who published her first novel in 1957 at the ripe old age of 16, and is still barely middle-aged. Penelope Farmer is not far behind in youth or precociousness, having published her first story collection in 1960 at the age of 21.
All the women are listed below, and all are, of course, already included on the main list. May they live long (or, perhaps I should say, even longer) and prosper!