Marj from Oz would make fair dinkum Recorder editor

BEST part of a thousand ladies graced the recent fifth annual Women s Forum for Society and Economy, many of them hefty hitters in their particular fields. The forum s focus is on improving females chances of influential roles in commercial and civic lif

BEST part of a thousand ladies graced the recent fifth annual Women's Forum for Society and Economy, many of them hefty hitters in their particular fields.

The forum's focus is on improving females' chances of influential roles in commercial and civic life.

And there's me thinking they've not done half-bad at that for a good while already; viz the lately retired MI5 boss. Her forthcoming memoirs may rattle a cage or two, I suspect.

It was my good fortune over the years at the Recorder to work with numerous excellent female colleagues, several of whom progressed to responsible jobs on the nationals.

But in its century plus history the Recorder has yet to have a female editor (of which, more later).

When I started in 1949, editor Basil Amps was firmly against employing women, despite being an avid Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers fan. With a staff of three, plus me, keeping it male wasn't a problem for him.

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Ironically, around that time a Miss Gupta was planted among us for a few months, under a government initiative with newly independent India.

Delicately feminine, the poor girl must have had sleepless nights over what had to be a bemusing few weeks for her.

What on earth could she make of an office with one decrepit typewriter over which the reporters fought and often, forgetting her presence, swore mightily in the process?

Or of the teenage novice whose education had been as basic as was hers extensive?

In our joint ignorance of newspapering, Miss Gupta and me became confidantes.

She asked in advance if mum would like flowers or sweets as a thank you, and when I said sweets she giggled: "Just like my mum."

Miss Gupta did a lot of giggling that afternoon not least over dad's baffling of her with the lingo he'd picked up off Great War Ghurkha compatriots.

I like to think the visits Miss Gupta spent with us helped as much as ever did the Recorder, in giving an insight to the Brits' way of things.

Within a decade, female journos were an accepted Recorder feature.

Typically, ever-objective Basil was soon convinced that was all for the better, although it took ages for him to stop addressing them as Miss.

Lively Kiwi newcomer, Jenny, asked me jocularly if it meant the editor was into the schoolgirl fantasy. I said definitely not - but I was.

Next day, Jen duly flaunted a pleated grey tennis skirt, advising all it was for my deviant benefit. Spin-off of that exchange was the profiles Jenny did on local tennis tyros, which were invaluable when the cricket was rained off.

It's no skin off anyone's back now for me to relate how another female Antipodean could have been the Recorder's first woman editor.

Mature, single, Marjorie was red hot on council and politics - cricket, too. By then group editor Basil saw editor potential and got me to sound out Marj on the quiet.

"The pair of you are always talking cricket, so nobody will think anything of seeing you gassing together," he said shrewdly.

Marjorie flushed so crimson about it I protested everyone would suspect me of making her an improper suggestion. Turned out I had, in a way.

For Marj was going home to Oz to wed a sheep farmer, whose letter of proposal she pulled out and, wet-eyed proudly showed me. I was the first to know.

Till then I could only imagine plain, companionable, capable Marjorie tearful at some Ashes debacle. Even Basil's eyebrows raised that love was in the air for 40-something Marj.

Would have been a fair dinkum editor, too.

Not so perhaps another Aussie female reporter, who remains nameless. She once disrupted the newsroom's busy pre-press late night working when, stoned out of her mind, she ambled about it with a headlock on diminutive photographer Stan.

It almost took his ears off, as well as making him late for a needed picture.

That bruiser allegedly later married a very well heeled (and presumably head-locked) guy.

The forum's ladies would applaud, I'm sure.

No mugs were they, having this year's forum at elegant, fashionable Deauville?

Beats Blackpool!

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