The late Vera Chapman, 1898-1996, who has written a number of books, was the founder of the Tolkien Society.
Vera Chapman (née Fogarty, also known as Belladonna Took) was born on 8th May 1898 in Bournemouth, and lived with her family in South Africa until going up to Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford just after the First World War ended. She was one of the first women to matriculate as a full member of Oxford University, and almost immediately scandalised the college by going for a walk with her then fiancé unchaperoned. Shortly after graduating, she married a clergyman and moved to Africa where he worked as a missionary.
In 1969, stung by the appropriation of Tolkien's works by the wilder fringes of the hippie movement, she placed an advertisement in the New Statesman announcing the formation of the Tolkien Society of Great Britain. At the inaugural meeting she became its secretary, a position she held for six years, seeing the T.S. grow from a group small enough to fit in her flat to a firmly established society. In 1972, she met J.R.R. Tolkien at a publisher's party and persuaded him to become the society's honorary president.
In 1975, she wrote her first novel, proving to us all that it's never too late to start. "The Green Knight" was quickly followed by two other Arthurian novels, now published together as "The Three Damosels", and later novels including "The Wife of Bath" and two children's books.
She was a regular attendee at Tolkien Society events until her 90's, when her health finally started to fail her. She managed to make it to the Centenary Conference in 1992, and after that was rarely seen. She died in 1996, shortly after her 98th birthday.
She was an excellent storyteller - I don't just mean the books she wrote, she had a fine fund of anecdotes about life in Oxford in her youth. A couple of examples - meeting her fiancé shortly after the end of World War One, and walking up and down the river Cherwell talking. They soon discovered that they had both altered so much, they hardly knew each other any more, and agreed to break off the engagement. Vera was promptly summoned to the Principal's office to explain just why she had been seen walking with a young man unchaperoned - fortunately the principal was a very understanding woman.
On another occasion, she didn't quite have the courage to be the first woman in college to cut her hair short, so found a way of pinning it up that made it look as though it were short. This style was almost immediately squashed by the comments of older students.
The day they matriculated, all the young women were expected to turn out looking extremely smart as they were the first ever women to be admitted to the University. Vera had bought a new pair of shoes for the occasion - alas, they squeaked, and she was told to change them for older but quieter ones.
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