I am excited to feature renowned broadcaster, writer and historian Tessa Dunlop in the next of my Fabulous Females series. 2018 is the year of the female and the interviews are intended as a celebration of the achievements of some extraordinary women. Tessa encapsulates that sentiment perfectly, having dedicated the last year of her life to writing a book that does just that.
There have been significant changes over the last century since women were awarded the vote and Tessa’s book The Century Girls looks at those changes through the eyes of six extraordinary women who haven’t just witnessed them, but lived them. Born in 1918 or before, the book is a touching personal memoir of their experiences during the past hundred years of British history.
It is a story that cannot fail to resonate with any of us who have family members who lived during this great period and reading it reminds me of the many days when as a teenager myself I would listen enthralled to the stories of my own grandparents. The book is a stark reminder of how far women have progressed over the last century. Equally, it is evocative and warm and strikes at the very heart of what makes us proud to be British.
Tessa faced her own personal tragedy whilst writing the book and aside from the love of her friends drew strength from the company and support of her six ladies who have in their own way helped her view adversity in a different light.
She is the first of my Fabulous Females to have already written her own autobiography and as a historian it will no doubt come as little surprise that her motto for live is an iconic Churchill quote. In her own words this is what Tessa has to say.
- Who is or was your role model?
Ha! Am I allowed to cite a Queen without sounding too pretentious? I’m not even a royalist as it happens.. (no more Kate Middleton and her post-partum glow pleeese!) But I have a massive crush on Queen Victoria’s brightest boldest granddaughter Queen Marie of Romania. In fact she began life in Eastbourne as an English Princess and was married off aged 17 to a very plain German crown prince of little-known (pretty backward) Romania. So a hard core start to her adult life but she made a real fist of it – was a great patron of the arts- had some pretty radical ideas regarding dress and home furnishings and a large brood of children (they didn’t all share the same Dad – like I said her husband was very plain) and best of all she was an amazing champion for her misunderstood controversial country – Romania. She became an international pin-up during WWI in her forties (another reason to love her!) and is having something of a second coming after the communists did a fairly comprehensive job of burying her legacy.
- What motivates you?
A busy schedule, fear of failure, creative drive and the need to earn money in no particular order!
- What are the values you hold dearest in life?
Crikey I think they change with age… I value honesty, kindness and well applied intelligence. I frequently fall short of my own expectations of others though..tut.
- What has been your biggest challenge so far and how did you overcome it?
Infertility and the loss of a longed for IVF baby to listeriosis. I got through it with the support of amazing empathetic friends who let me talk out the pain on a repetitive loop and by keeping going with IVF which meant because of the cost keeping going with my work (a vital structure when you are in pain).
- What is your proudest moment?
Golly – I don’t know. Pride is a weird emotion. It can hit you over the smallest of things – like baking a cake or my daughter’s thoughtfulness – big things like launching a book generally leave you so frazzled that when you are in moment you forget to feel proud.
- What motto do you live by?
Sorry for the cliche but I think its a Churchill quote – when you’re going through hell – KEEP going!
- What advice would you give to your teenage self?
Worry less – you are designed to sustain blows, they will make you not break you.
- Who gave you the best advice and what was it?
I’ve spent the last year writing a book about the most amazing centenarian women and one of them told me ‘you can’t worry about what you don’t have! …simple but brilliant!
- How would your friends describe you?
Social, unpredictable, left field, garrulous, political, feminist.
- What makes you laugh out loud?
- What would your autobiography be called?
I have written one – it’s called “To Romania With Love”
- What does being a modern woman mean to you?
Having choices and trying not to regret decisions and cutting corners. A hundred years ago women had far fewer choices, so there was less scope for mistakes and regret.
- What would be your desert island essential?
The internet – obviously!
- What makes you feel fabulous?
A really good haircut and colour.
- In your own words, “A fabulous female is ….
….a supporter of other fabulous females”.
Tessa Dunlop is Author of The Century Girls, The Final Word from the Women who’ve Lived the Past Hundred Years of British History, Simon and Schuster. If you are interested in finding out more about Tessa you can do so here.
Personal : www.tessadunlop.com
Twitter : @Tessadunlop
Instagram : tessa_dunlop
Editor’s Note: All my Fabulous Females receive a personal invitation from me to be featured.