Maureen Duffy

Maureen Duffy

Biography

Maureen Duffy is a contemporary British novelist, poet, playwright, non-fiction author and activist.

Childhood

Maureen Duffy was born in in Worthing, Sussex, in 1933. She grew up in a working class household where her mother instilled in her the belief that education was something that could never be taken away from you, no matter how the tides might turn. Duffy took a degree in English from King’s College, London in 1956.

Career

Duffy had an ambition to be a poet, and at 17, won her first poetry prize. While studying at Kings College she completed her first full-length play Pearson which won her an invitation to join the Royal Court Writers Group in 1958 whose members included Edward Bon, Ann Jellico and William Gaskill, amongst others.

After graduating from Kings College, Duffy worked as a teacher between 1956 and 1961 in Naples and London, while also editing editions of poetry journals.

Duffy is the author of 34 published works crossing fiction and non-fiction. Her works include nine collections of poetry and 16 plays for stage, screen and radio.

Duffy, together with Brigid Brophy, founded the Writers Action Group in 1972, through which a sustained campaign was led for Public Lending Right (annual payments for authors based on the number of library loans of their printed books), which was passed into law in 1979.

Duffy is a founding member of the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society, which she chaired for 15 years and for which she remains president. She represents the International Authors Forum at the World intellectual Property Organization and held senior positions in the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain. 

Activism

Duffy ‘came-out’ in the early 1960s and worked with the Homosexual Law Reform Society, which was leading the fight to implement the Wolfenden Report’s recommendations to decriminalise homosexuality. Duffy would write and be involved with the Minorities Research Group and Arena Three magazine, the first lesbian journal in the UK, although she found her place socially within Kenric, the west-London lesbian social group.

In 1966 The Microcosm was published – her first openly lesbian work. The novel narrates the lives of women in and around the famous and legendary Gateways club in London’s then-enclave of bohemia, Chelsea.

In the 1970s Duffy wrote for Sappho, the longest running lesbian feminist journal in the UK. In 1977 she published her poem The Ballad of the Blasphemy Trail which lambasted the case of blasphemy brought against Denis Lemon and the publication he edited, Gay News, by Christian campaigner Mary Whitehouse.

Duffy remains a vocal LGBTQ and animal right activist.

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Arena Three: Britain’s first lesbian magazine

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Steven Dryden looks at how Britain’s first lesbian magazine came about and its impact on society.