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Definition: Brittain, Vera Mary from Chambers Biographical Dictionary


English writer, feminist and pacifist

She was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire. After studying at Oxford she served as a nurse in World War I, recording her experiences in her best-known book, Testament of Youth (1933, republished 1978). As well as writing a number of novels, she made several lecture tours in the USA, promoting feminism and pacifism. In 1925 she married George Catlin, professor of politics at Cornell, and wrote the sequels, Testament of Friendship (1940) and Testament of Experience (1957). Her daughter is the English politician Shirley Williams.

  • Brittain, V and Reid, J S (eds), Selected Letters of Winifred Holtby and Vera Brittain (1960).

Summary Article: Brittain, Vera (Mary)
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

English socialist writer. During World War I, she was a nurse to troops overseas from 1915 to 1919, as told in her book Testament of Youth (1933); Testament of Friendship (1940) commemorates English novelist Winifred Holtby.

Brittain was born in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, and studied at Oxford University. After World War I she worked as a freelance journalist. During the 1920s she was active in the feminist ‘Six Point’ group. She married political scientist George Catlin (1896–1979); their daughter is the politician Shirley Williams, aspects of whose childhood are recorded in her mother's Testament of Experience (1957).

Brittain's other works include the novels The Dark Tide (1923), Not Without Honour (1924), Account Rendered (1944), and Born (1925) (1949). Lady into Woman (1953) is a history of women from Victoria to Elizabeth II.

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