Doreen Bates is a truly remarkable woman: ahead of and unvanquished by her time.
Born in Plymouth in 1906, she was posted to Belfast as a Tax Inspector in 1941, where she survived the Belfast Blitz, documenting it meticulously for the Mass Observation project, as “Diarist 5245”, and in her own private journals.
A selection of Doreen’s diaries were published by Viking in 2016 as Diary of a Wartime Affair, and deserve to take their place as one of the essential chronicles of the twentieth century. Brimming with soul, passion, candour and wit, they are an extraordinary read, giving a vivid insight into the life of a woman unvanquished by her time. Edited in an act of great love and generosity by her children, they detail the minutiae of her daily life in the 1930s and 40s, in love with her married boss.
In this event, Lucy Caldwell will be in conversation with Dr Margaret Esiri, daughter and editor of Doreen Bates. Lucy will talk of encountering Doreen Bates in the course of her research into the Belfast Blitz, and of writing her as a character into the forthcoming novel, and Margaret will talk of her memories of her mother, of how her mother’s unconventional life shaped her own, and about editing the diaries. Lucy and Margaret will present extracts from the diaries, including exclusive, unpublished extracts from Doreen’s struggles as a single mother to twins during the wartime years, and discuss the extent to which the societal pressures and issues Doreen faced are still relevant to women today, for both Margaret’s generation and Lucy’s, in the balancing act of working motherhood.