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IWD: University podcast celebrates Rebel Women

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Published on 08 March 2022

Eileen O’Shaughnessy artwork
Eileen O’Shaughnessy artwork

This International Women’s Day the University of Sunderland is celebrating one of the city’s most inspirational women in a special podcast.

In the episode Angela Smith, Professor of Language and Culture at the University, discusses the Rebel Women of Sunderland Project and delves into the life of one rebel woman in particular: poet, journalist and anti-Fascist activist Eileen O’Shaughnessy.

Listeners can hear about Eileen’s connection to Sunderland, her marriage to English novelist George Orwell and how she influenced some of his most famous works.

Angela said: “The reason I think Eileen is such a fascinating character is partly because she has been virtually invisible in our understanding of one of this country's most influential writers: George Orwell. 

“A lot of critics in the past have commented on how his writing improved and offered a deeper psychological understanding of his characters after 1936. What no one has done up to now, is connect this with Eileen and their marriage in 1936: she studied for a Masters in Psychology, and typed Orwell's manuscripts, adding her own comments to these.”

Angela added: “Eileen was an accomplished writer herself, in prose and poetry. 

“Her poem, written to mark the 50th anniversary of Sunderland Church High School in 1934, looked forward another 50 year from the dystopian Europe of the 1930 and the rise in Fascism to a brighter future. 

“The poem was called Century's End: 1984. It is now thought that this is the source of the title of Orwell's most famous novel – Nineteen Eighty-Four – and that it was also inspirational to the storyline of that novel.”

Rebel Women of Sunderland: Eileen O’Shaughnessy is now available on iTunes and Spotify.

Angela was interviewed by popular television programme Songs of Praise about the Christian faith of some of the women included in the Rebel Women project.

The episode broadcast on BBC One on Sunday (March 6th) but is still available to watch on iPlayer.