• Categories: 20th Century

Who knew she was also a glider pilot, a politician, a traveller campaigner?

A recent visitor to our Heroines market stall in St Albans told us about the other sides of the Dame.
Barbara Cartland is well known for writing 73 romance novels in one year alone, selling upwards of 2 billion books and being very, very pink….even her computers were pink… But there was far more to the Queen of Romance than, well, romance.

Her early days weren’t all fun and games- her grandfather killed himself and this was followed soon after by her father’s death on a Flanders battlefield in World War I. However, her enterprising mother opened a London dress shop to make ends meet and to raise Cartland and her two brothers, Anthony and Ronald, both of whom were eventually killed in battle in 1940.

She wrote far more than pretty pink romances; opera, risqué plays which she also produced, racy books and journalism.
From her Hatfield house, Dame Babs decided to help out the local traveller community to ensure they got decent education and medical treatment, and they renamed their site Barbaraville in honour of their pink protector.
But that’s not all. The Dame pretty much came up with an idea for towing gliders, and she thought of long-distance tows in 1931 and did a 200-mile (360 km) tow in a two-seater glider. The idea led to troop-carrying gliders. In 1984, she was awarded the Bishop Wright Air Industry Award for this contribution.

She was publicly opposed to the removal of prayer from state schools and spoke against infidelity and divorce, although she admitted to being acquainted with both of these moral failings, having had several husbands and plenty of…friends.
In 1955 she was elected a councillor on Hertfordshire County Council as a Conservative and served for nine years. During this time she campaigned successfully for nursing home reform, improvement in the salaries of midwives, and the legalization of education for the children of Gypsies. She also founded the National Association of Health, promoting a variety of medications and remedies, including an anti-aging cream and a so-called “brain pill” for increasing mental energy.