Winifred Holtby

Genres - Drama

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British author Winifred Holtby is remembered today for her novel South Riding, which has been filmed twice. Born in 1898, she was the daughter of David Holtby, a Yorkshire farmer, and Alice Winn. Her mother played a very large role in running the household, especially as her father's health declined early in the new century, and Winifred -- educated at home -- was encouraged by her mother to express herself in writing. Although she did attend college briefly, her studies were interrupted by the First World War, in which she served in the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps. She met Vera Brittain after her return to England and the two began a relationship that was to last the rest of their lives. Both aspired to literary careers, but Holtby had success first, as a novelist, journalist, and columnist. Her first book was Anderby Wold (1923), and she worked closely with the labor movement and wrote a column in the journal The Schoolmistress. Holtby was also very visible as a feminist. Her work was much loved by the public, and her novels, such as The Land of Green Ginger (1927), were notable for their rich depictions of the people and locales of the Yorkshire countryside in which she grew up. She wrote and organized against social injustice across the globe, even embracing the cause of blacks living in South Africa in the 1920s, and also occasionally cast a satiric eye on British institutions. Holtby's health declined in the 1920s, owing to a chronic heart condition, and she succumbed to kidney failure in September 1935, living just long enough to complete her best work, South Riding. Set in a fictional part of Yorkshire, the book was an instant success and was filmed under director Victor Saville in 1937, with Ralph Richardson and Edna Best. Another movie adaptation was made in 1974, and it remains Holtby's best-known book. Her relationship with Brittain, who went on to be an author of even greater renown (and also served as Holtby's literary executor), was depicted in the latter's 1940 memoir Testament of Friendship.