23rd September 1943

Death of the Jersey-born ‘it’ girl

Elinor Glyn was the original ‘it’ girl. She was born Elinor Sutherland in St Helier on 17 October 1864 and found fame as a novelist and script writer. Although born in Jersey, Elinor spent the first eight years of her life in Ontario, after the death of her father, but returned to the island when her mother married for a second time.

Journalist and novelist

She didn’t start writing until her mid-thirties, initially for magazines and, soon after, novels. She quickly found success when she put her hand to a series of steamy (for the time) romances and has been credited with inventing the term ‘it’, as in ‘it’ girl, to describe someone that others find irresistibly attractive, of either gender, either physically or mentally. In general, a person with ‘it’ qualities will be so self-assured that they won’t care what other people think about them, perhaps because they know, deep down, that they are admired.

The Liverpool Daily Post of 24 September, reporting her death the day before, described her as the “founder of the modern sex novel [who] wrote more than thirty books”. The previous day, the Aberdeen Evening Express had reminded readers that “Three Weeks, written in Venice from imagination, shocked the world of our grandmothers and caused a storm. It was considered so ‘daring’ that many denounced it as immoral”.

To Hollywood

So successful were these books that, aged 55 and a widow herself, she moved to Hollywood and wrote the screenplay for her book ‘It’, as well as contributing to the scripts of almost 30 other films. This progressed into a directing role, in both Hollywood and back in the UK for MGM and other well-known studios.

In between times, she travelled widely, often when researching books, and spent the First World War working as a journalist. Per the Liverpool Daily Post, she “carried out propaganda work in Paris and made several visits to the front line. On the battlefield of the Somme, she wrote one of her most serious works, ‘Destruction’, in a single night”.

She died in a London nursing home on 23 September 1943, having moved to the home three weeks earlier. Newspaper reports stated that she had been growing steadily weaker and been unconscious for her final day. She was cremated, although she held a strong belief in reincarnation throughout her life so, presumably, believed that her death was merely a transition.


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