Fay Weldon is a major contemporary writer on women’s issues, noted for short fiction and novels as well as for plays for stage, radio, and television. She was born Franklin Birkinshaw on September 22, 1931, in Alvechurch, Worcestershire, England, to Frank Thornton Birkinshaw, a doctor, and Margaret Jepson Birkinshaw, a writer of romantic novels. Her maternal grandfather and an uncle were also writers. Weldon was reared in New Zealand. When she was five, her parents were divorced; she spent the rest of her childhood in an all-female household, consisting of her mother, her grandmother, and her sister, and then was educated at a girls’ school. After returning to England, Weldon attended Hampstead Girls’ High School, London. In 1949 she went to St. Andrews University in Fife, Scotland, and received her master’s degree in economics and psychology in 1954. In the 1950’s Weldon worked as a report writer for the British Foreign Office, spent some time as a market researcher for the London Daily Mirror, and then became an advertising copywriter. After a brief, disastrous marriage in 1958, in 1960 she married Ronald (Ron) Weldon, an antique dealer, painter, and jazz musician; their marriage lasted until 1994. Weldon subsequently married poet Nick Fox.
Although Weldon had worked on novels in the 1950’s, her career as a successful writer should be dated from the year 1966, when three of her plays were produced on British television. Her first novel, The Fat Woman’s Joke, which was published a year later, grew out of the teleplay The Fat Woman’s Tale. Witty, satirical, and conversational, it set the pattern for her later works, which have consistently dealt with women’s problems as seen through women’s eyes. In 1969 Weldon’s first play was produced in London; it was followed by six others during the next decade. Meanwhile, she continued to write novels, short stories, and numerous teleplays, including an award-winning episode of the popular series Upstairs, Downstairs. In the 1970’s she also wrote a number of radio plays; in 1973, she won the Writers’ Guild Award for one of them, Spider, and in 1978, she won the Giles Cooper Award for Polaris. In every genre she was praised for skillful plot development, witty and realistic dialogue, and an...
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