Catherine Cookson was born in 1906, the illegitimate child of an alcoholic mother. She was brought up by her grandparents and grew up thinking her mother was her sister. She left school at 13 and worked as a servant and then in a workhouse before she took up writing.
Cookson’s first novel, Kate Hannigan, was published in 1950. More than 100 books followed, making her one of the most prolific of British writers. Her genre was historical dramas which drew much of their inspiration from the harsh life she saw around her, and many of these have been adapted for film, stage, TV and radio.
Cookson’s humble beginnings made her frugal with her money, even after she had become a multi-millionaire. Still, she gave generously to good causes giving over £800,000 to the University of Newcastle. In recognition of this generosity, a building in the university medical faculty has been named after her. She died in 1998, sixteen days before her 92nd birthday.
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