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Charlotte Franken Haldane (1894–1969)

Author of The Last Great Empress of China

Includes the names: Charlotte Haldane, Charlotte Franken Haldane

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Charlotte Franken was born in London to Jewish immigrants. In 1906, the family moved to Antwerp when her father, Joseph Franken, a German-born fur trader, opened a branch of his business there. Charlotte was planning to attend Bedford College to study languages when her father's business failed. She enrolled instead in a shorthand and typing course at a London business school, and became a secretary. At the outbreak of World War I, Joseph Franken was interned as an enemy alien; he was eventually released and allowed to emigrate with his wife to the USA. Charlotte stayed in England and sought to become a writer. Her first story, Retaliation: A Revenge by Hypnotic Suggestion, was published in 1916. In 1918, she married Jack Burghes and had a son. In 1920, Charlotte began working as a freelance journalist for the Daily Express and eventually was given a full-time job. She also wrote for the political magazine Time and Tide. Many of her articles focused on the role of women. In 1924, she interviewed the biologist John (J.B.S.) Haldane, and the two became close friends. Charlotte tried to obtain a divorce from her husband but the case received scandalous publicity, causing Haldane to be dismissed from his job at Cambridge University for "gross immorality." The couple married in 1926. Charlotte Haldane continued to write for the Daily Express and The New Statesman. She also wrote books about women's issues such as Motherhood and Its Enemies (1927) and several novels. Charlotte was a member of the Labour Party and like J.B.S., became deeply concerned about the emergence of fascism in Germany and Italy. During the Spanish Civil War, she travelled to Spain and gave her support to the Republican cause. However, following a trip to the Soviet Union, Charlotte Haldane became disillusioned with communism, while J.B.S. remained a believer. The Haldanes separated in 1942 and divorced in 1945. In 1942, Charlotte joined George Orwell at the Eastern Service of the BBC and recorded programs about Russia and China. She also contributed articles for the Daily Herald, the Evening Standard, and the Tribune. Charlotte Haldane published her autobiography, Truth Will Out, in 1949. Later books included Marcel Proust (1951), The Gallyslaves of Love (1957), Mozart (1960), Daughter of Paris (1961), The Last Great Empress of China (1965) and Queen of Hearts: Marguerite of Valois (1968).
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