The reported facts of Fay Weldon’s biography vary among sources, apparently depending on Weldon’s motive in providing the information. Her life story echoes a theme of her fiction—the power of and extent to which women can re-create themselves as a form of control over their lives. Despite the uncertainties, most sources agree on a few facts about Weldon’s life.
Fay Weldon was born in 1931 in the village of Alvechurch in Worcestershire, England, and was named Franklin Birkinshaw, a name apparently selected by her mother based on numerology. The family moved to New Zealand while Weldon was young, and her parents divorced when she was five years old. Weldon has claimed that living in New Zealand allowed her to experience a less class-conscious society than England’s, an experience that has influenced her thinking and her writing. Because of her parents’ divorce, she grew up surrounded by women: Her mother, grandmother, and sister made up the rest of the household. Weldon has said that she was around men so little until she went to college that she did not realize that most of the world was not run by women. The focus on communities of women is clear in her drama. Weldon grew up in a family of writers. Her mother wrote fiction under the pen name Pearl Bellairs; her grandfather wrote articles for Vanity Fair and published adventure novels. She was a voracious reader from childhood.
Weldon moved to London with her mother when she was a teenager. After high school, she attended St. Andrews University in Scotland, where she claims she was admitted and allowed to study economics only because the administration thought she was a man because of her name. After graduation, she returned to, London where she held various writing jobs, married briefly, and gave birth to a son. Whether the son was born before or during the marriage is uncertain based on various biographical accounts. Weldon’s experience as a single mother supporting herself and her child through low-paying jobs influenced her politics and her later writing.
In the early 1960’s, she married Ronald Weldon, with whom she had three sons. After working as an advertising copywriter, she began publishing plays and novels in the mid-1960’s. Weldon separated from Ronald Weldon in the late 1970’s; he died during their divorce proceedings, and Weldon married Nicholas Fox in the 1990’s.