Naomi Mitchison


Novelist, Poet, Campaigner for womens rights and Birth control

Naomi May Margaret Mitchison, CBE (Born in Edinburgh) was a Scottish novelist and poet. She was appointed CBE in 1981.

Naomi was educated at the Dragon School, Oxford, where she was the only girl. She began a science degree at the University of Oxford, but gave this up to become a VAD nurse during the First World War. After catching scarlet fever, she restarted her science studies as a home student at what is now St Anne's College, Oxford.

Mitchison was a prolific writer, completing more than 90 books in her lifetime, across a multitude of styles and genres. These include historical novels such as her first novel The Conquered (1923) a story set in 1st century BC Gaul during the Gallic Wars of Julius Caesar. Mitchison also turned to fantasy such as Graeme and the Dragon (1954); science fiction such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman(1962); non-fiction such as African Heroes (1968), together with children's novels, poetry, travel and a three-volume autobiography.

Undoubtedly her most controversial work, We Have Been Warned was published in 1935 and explored sexual behaviour, including rape and abortion. The book was rejected by various publishers, was extensively rewritten to make it more acceptable to publishers, and was still subject to censorship. 

Mitchison was a committed Socialist in the 1930s. She visited the Soviet Union in 1932 as part of a Fabian Society group, and expressed some misgivings about the direction of Soviet society. She acted a spokeswoman for the island communities of Scotland, and became an advisor to the Bakgatla tribe of Botswana. Mitchison was a Life Fellow of the Eugenics Society. She was also a vocal campaigner for women's rights, advocating birth control, and was also active in local government in Scotland (1947–1976). Her own lack of knowledge about birth control led to her interest in the causes of birth control and abortion. Mitchison helped found the first birth control clinics in London. Today, she is best known for her advocacy of feminism and her tackling of then-taboo subjects in her writing.

Continuing to write into her eighties, she died at Carradale at the age of 101.

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