Psycho-stalking Eglantyne Jebb
Hello – I have just been planning my first public talk about the book and someone told me that people are generally much more interested in what goes on behind the scenes in writing a biography, than your actual subject… I hope there is some truth in this because my biography of Eglantyne wears its research on its sleeve a bit – that is to say I feature marginally in the book, especially at the start and end, and popping up occassionally when I needed to change the pace of the read – the result is you get to hear a little about my research as I did it. I wouldn’t have written it this way, of course, if I didn’t think there was a pretty good sub-plot going on there – so here is some of it…
As I said in my last blog, I first came up with the idea of writing about Eglantyne when I was a fundraiser at Save the Children in the 1990s. What really grabbed me was finding a rather crumpled leaflet down the back of a box in the old archive.
The leaflet featured a horrific photograph of a starving Austrian infant; a 2 1/2 year old whose legs look more feeble than my 13 month old baby’s do today, because her physical development had been arrested as a result of malnutrition. Pencilled in the top right-hand corner of the leaflet was the single word ‘suppressed!’. This is in Eglantyne’s handwriting, neat but hurried, the exclamation mark recording her personal indignation at the British government’s decision to restrict public awareness of the human cost of their policy to continue the economic blockade to Europe after the armistice. I knew then that Eglantyne’s was going to be a gripping story.