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About Julie Summers
Julie Summers was born in Liverpool but grew up in Cheshire. Her first book, Fearless on Everest, published in 2000, was a biography of her great uncle, Sandy Irvine, who died on Everest with Mallory in 1924. Her grandfather, Philip Toosey, was the man behind the Bridge on the River Kwai and her biography of him appeared in 2005. Fascinated by how people cope with extreme situations, she has turned her attention on the effect of the Second World war on non-combatants - the women and children. Recently she published Fashion on the Ration, a book that looks at what we wore during the Second World War. Her book Jambusters, the story of the WI in wartime, has inspired ITV's brand new 2015 drama series HOME FIRES, featuring Samantha Bond, Francesca Annis and many others.
She describes herself as a biographer and historian but the most important thing for her is to be a story teller. www.juliesummers.co.uk
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Titles By Julie Summers
Away from the frontlines of World War II, in towns and villages across Great Britain, ordinary women were playing a vital role in their country’s war effort. As members of the Women’s Institute, an organization with a presence in a third of Britain’s villages, they ran canteens and knitted garments for troops, collected tons of rosehips and other herbs to replace medicines that couldn’t be imported, and advised the government on issues ranging from evacuee housing to children’s health to postwar reconstruction. But they are best known for making jam: from produce they grew on every available scrap of land, they produced twelve million pounds of jam and preserves to feed a hungry nation.
Home Fires, Julie Summers’s fascinating social history of the Women’s Institute during the war (when its members included the future Queen Elizabeth II along with her mother and grandmother), provides the remarkable and inspiring true story behind the upcoming PBS Masterpiece series that will be sure to delight fans of Call the Midwife and Foyle’s War. Through archival material and interviews with current and former Women’s Institute members, Home Fires gives us an intimate look at life on the home front during World War II.
Mallory and Irvine. One of the great mysteries of mountaineering is whether they reached the summit of Everest in 1924 before disappearing some 26,000 feet up on the brutal north-east ridge. For 75 years the mystery has remained unsolved. Julie Summers set out to learn about Sandy Irvine, the mysterious great uncle who perished. She has uncovered previously unknown letters and photographs, which show his determination to reach the summit, come what may. An expedition is being mounted to find Irvine's body. And there is the hope that the cine camera that Irvine had with him might be near the body. If it is then according to Kodak, who supplied the film, the cold will have ensured that any images can still be viewed. And if Mallory and Irvine had succeeded in reaching the summit then there could be film to prove it.
In September 1939, just three weeks after the outbreak of war, Gladys Mason wrote briefly in her diary about events in Europe: 'Hitler watched German siege of Warsaw. City in flames.' And, she continued, 'Had my wedding dress fitted. Lovely.'
For Gladys Mason, and for thousands of women throughout the long years of the war, fashion was not simply a distraction, but a necessity - and one they weren't going to give up easily. In the face of bombings, conscription, rationing and ludicrous bureaucracy, they maintained a sense of elegance and style with determination and often astonishing ingenuity. From the young woman who avoided the dreaded 'forces bloomers' by making knickers from military-issue silk maps, to Vogue's indomitable editor Audrey Withers, who balanced lobbying government on behalf of her readers with driving lorries for the war effort, Julie Summers weaves together stories from ordinary lives and high society to provide a unique picture of life during the Second World War.
As a nation went into uniform and women took on traditional male roles, clothing and beauty began to reflect changing social attitudes. For the first time, fashion was influenced not only by Hollywood and high society but by the demands of industrial production and the pressing need to 'make-do-and-mend'. Beautifully illustrated and full of gorgeous detail, Fashion on the Ration lifts the veil on a fascinating era in British fashion.
Dressed For War: The Story of Audrey Withers, Vogue editor extraordinaire from the Blitz to the Swinging Sixties is the untold story of our most iconic fashion magazine in its most formative years, in the Second World War.
It was an era when wartime exigencies gave its editor, Audrey Withers, the chance to forge an identity for it that went far beyond stylish clothes. In doing so, she set herself against the style and preoccupations of Vogue’s mothership in New York, and her often sticky relationship with its formidable editor, Edna Woolman Chase, became a strong dynamic in the Vogue story.
But Vogue had a good war, with great writers and top-flight photographers including Lee Miller and Cecil Beaton – who loathed each other – sending images and reports from Europe and much further afield – detailing the plight of the countries and people living amid war-torn Europe. Audrey Withers’ deft handling of her star contributors and the importance she placed on reflecting people’s lives at home give this slice of literary history a real edge. With official and personal correspondence researched from the magazine’s archives in London and in New York, Dressed For War tells the marvellous story of the titanic struggle between the personalities that shaped the magazine for the latter half of the twentieth century and beyond.