Reviews and synopsis
Winston’s American Mother
If you would like to discuss Jennie Churchill at your Reading Group here are some suggested areas for discussion.
After a three day romance in 1874, Brooklyn-born Jennie Jerome married into the British aristocracy to become Lady Randolph Churchill. At a time when women were afforded few freedoms she was a cornerstone of high society and a behind-the-scenes political dynamo.
However it was Jennie’s love life that marked her out causing scandal in its day and earning her the epithet ‘more panther than woman.’ She was sexually fearless at a time when women were supposed to be sexually vapid. Yet, in other ways, Jennie was deeply loyal to her husband. When he was dying of syphilis, she took him on a round the world trip to conceal his violence and mania he returned in a straitjacket with only weeks to live.
After Randolph’s death her great project became her son Winston with whom she was entwined in intense mutual dependency. Jennie died suddenly in 1921, after a dramatic fall downstairs, having tripped over high heels. Although Winston was not to become the nation’s leader for another two decades, he had already acquired from his mother an unshakeable faith in his destiny.
With unprecedented access to private family correspondence newly discovered archival material and interviews with Jennie’s two surviving granddaughters, Anne Sebba draws a vivid and frank portrait of her subject.
She repositions Jennie as a woman who refused to be cowed by her era’s customary repression of women. Neither a bad mother nor a sexually predatory wife, Jennie Churchill was creative and passionate, determined to live life to the full.