Born in 1892, Rebecca West was born Cicily Isabel Fairfield and, in preparation for her role as a socialist feminist, took her adopted name from the spiky heroine in Henrik Ibsen’s play Rosmersholm.
In 1947, Time magazine called West ‘indisputably the world’s number one woman writer’ and she was equally distinguished as a novelist, literary critic, travel writer (becoming particularly associated with Yugoslavia), and as a journalist who covered the Nuremberg trials. Wells wrote about many of the great themes of the century - from communism to fascism, and from apartheid to feminism. She had a long relationship with H.G. Wells, and was an indefatigable socialiser, with friends including such unlikely figures as Warren Beatty and Frankie Howerd.