JK Rowling has revealed the “slowly evaporating sense of self-esteem” she felt after being stigmatised as a single mother on benefits while writing her first Harry Potter novel.
The best-selling author said today that she had been defined “in the eyes of many” by something she had “never chosen”. Rowling, the president of the Gingerbread advice and support group for single mothers, wrote that the break-up of her marriage nearly 20 years ago had left her – a graduate who had always been in full-time employment – on benefits and taking odd jobs at a local Edinburgh church.
“I remember the woman who visited the church one day when I was working there who kept referring to me, in my hearing, as The Unmarried Mother,” Rowling wrote on the Gingerbread website.
“Assumptions made about your morals, your motives for bringing your child into the world or your fitness to raise that child cut to the core of who you are.”
Rowling, who remarried in 2001, said that despite the “sudden, seismic and wholly unexpected shift” that came with the Harry Potter publishing phenomenon, she still remained a single mother first, in the public eye. “There was still no escaping the Single Parent tag; it followed me to financial stability and fame just as it had clung to me in poverty and obscurity,” she said.
She also attacked the ongoing stigmatisation of single parents who “desperately want to get back into the job market”.