Novelist Shirley Conran made a dame in Liz Truss’s resignation honours list

The 91-year-old is best known for her books including Superwoman and Lace.

Ellie Iorizzo
Friday 29 December 2023 22:54 GMT
Author Shirley Conran has been honoured (Andy Butterton/PA)
Author Shirley Conran has been honoured (Andy Butterton/PA) (PA Archive)

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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British author and journalist Shirley Conran has been given a damehood in former prime minister Liz Truss’s resignation honours list.

The 91-year-old, known for her best-selling books including Superwoman and Lace, has been made a dame for her services to mathematics education as founder of the Maths Anxiety Trust.

The honour comes alongside fellow author and journalist of steamy fiction Jilly Cooper, chiefly known for her Rutshire Chronicles, being given a damehood in the New Year Honours list.

Born in London, Dame Shirley trained as a sculptor and painter and worked in textile design until she was 30, serving as a member of the Selection Committee of the Design Council for eight years.

She became a design consultant for the Daily Mail newspaper and then the home editor, before taking over as women’s editor and launching Femail. She would later become the women’s editor for the launch of the Observer magazine and a columnist for Vanity Fair magazine.

Dame Shirley began writing books after she was diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) in her late 30s and could no longer work full-time.

In 1975, she wrote acclaimed non-fiction book Superwoman, recognised as a feminist practical guidebook, while her first novel titled Lace was published in 1982.

The book was turned into a TV miniseries in the US starring Bess Armstrong, Brooke Adams and Arielle Dombasle.

Her other novels include Savages, The Revenge, Crimson and Tiger Eyes.

Aside from writing, Dame Shirley has a long history of consumer campaigning, which began in 1998 when she founded Mothers In Management which aimed to improve working conditions and flexible practices for working mothers.

In 2001 she founded The Work-Life Balance Trust, a charity which lobbied for flexi-hours for men and women, and she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2004 for services to equal opportunities.

It was also in 2004 that Dame Shirley’s campaigning for maths began, after she failed to find a good maths textbook for her god-daughter and decided to write her own maths course.

In 2009 she founded Maths Action, an organisation with the aim of improving maths performance in Britain, and five years later she published Money Stuff, a maths course that follows the GCSE syllabus.

In 2018 Dame Shirley founded the Maths Anxiety Trust to “raise public awareness and understanding of the condition known as Maths Anxiety and to find solutions”.

She previously said she funds her campaign work for maths in the UK from her best-selling books.

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