The First Lady of Fleet Street
Married Englishwomen had legal control of their property by 1893 but, regardless of class or status, their earnings and actions were controlled by men. It is this, as much as intelligence and talent, which makes Rachel Beer’s career in journalism unique. The 1887 marriage of Rachel Sassoon to newspaper proprietor Frederick Beer, both from prominent Jewish families, positioned her for a lavish social life leavened by philanthropy. Rachel enjoyed both; but by 1897, poking her nose into Frederick’s business led to a rewarding full-time job. The first woman to edit a national newspaper in Britain wasn’t limited to women’s subjects; she addressed national and international political issues. In 1901, Rachel abandoned her career while Frederick battled tuberculosis and died. After a prolonged state of grief, Rachel’s mental health declined. Declared mentally incompetent in 1903, she lived in privileged isolation until her death. Rachel Beer’s career—her authority—conflicted with contemporaneous standards, which made her a role model for professional equality. The First Lady of Fleet Street is recommended for anyone interested in London at the turn of the 20th century.