After a three-day romance 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 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 an intense mutual dependency. Jennie died suddenly in 1921 after a dramatic fall downstairs, having tripped over her 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.
Anne Sebba is a biographer, journalist and former Reuters foreign correspondent. She has written five books including the best-selling Mother Teresa, Beyond the Image and Laura Ashley, a Life by Design. She lives in London.