Madeline Linford, pioneering journalist on the Manchester Guardian


This blog is dedicated to the journalism of Madeline Linford, whom I  came across for the first time  in 2012  in the course of  researching a history walk on Manchester Women. Intrigued by her story I did  some further research   and discovered that  she  was the first woman on the staff of the Manchester Guardian, had written hundreds of articles on many subjects, edited the first column for women from 1922 to 1939   and was also  a picture editor on the paper  in the 1940s.

When she died at the age of 80  in June 1975  The Guardian in its obituary described her as :

…one of the most remarkable newspaperwomen of her time, the creator in the Manchester Guardian of the first women’s page for the ‘intellectual’ woman, and probably, the first woman  to become pictures editor of a national newspaper.

Yet she is barely remembered, while the Guardian itself seems to have little interest in  commemorating her work.

I am therefore transcribing (somewhat laboriously)  her articles which you can find under different headings, reflecting the wide range of her writing from 1916 to 1965. It amounts to tens of thousands of words, a lifetime’s work  by Madeline in fact, written over fifty years.

Madeline never wrote her autobiography, but she did write some reminiscences of her  early years and time at school  which her  nieces and nephew have been kind enough to share with me.

Early years and school

Madeline  Alberta Linford (to give her her full name)  was born on 16th  January  1895 in Kilmacolm,  Renfrewshire.  Her parents were Albert Wallace Linford and Annie Mary Harrison Nash, whose roots lay a long way south,  in Southampton in fact, where both of them were born. Her father had no less than seven sisters.   According to a review of  her novel Broken Bridges  in the Hampshire Advertiser her grandfather ran the South Western Hotel. 

All through my early life I was pursued by the story of my birth… An aunt who was staying in the house to keep my sister and brother decently distracted was more impressed by the setting of this bleak nativity than she was by the eventual baby.  It was so cold that people walked abroad with travelling rugs over their coats: milk froze in front of the kitchen fire: every water pipe for miles round was stubbornly ice-bound. “

Her father was a traveller for a brewery and   later  became a manager at the firm. The family moved  from Glasgow to  Kilmacolm, a small  village which grew  in size and became  a dormitory village  after the railway had  linked it to Glasgow, Paisley and Greenock in 1860.  Madeline had two older siblings, Elsie and Arthur, and a younger brother, Vivian.

I am told that up to the age of five I was both pretty and charming, and from that time, a child of fiendish temper and plain looks. Psychologists might say that the birth of V. was responsible, the old baby resenting the welcome given to the new, but I cannot remember having any strong feeling about him, either one way or the other, until he grew old enough to be another menace to my peace.  For a long time he was much less objectionable to me than the elders, E. and. A.  That was the period of nurseries in a secluded part of the house and leaving children to fight it out.  Teasing was believed to be as wholesome for the young as orange juice is to day and at this E. and A. were experts.  Sister E., I think, was probably actuated by a lack of mental outlets and by a wish to assert seniority:  Brother A. by the sadism which is more or less inevitable in small boys.

When Madeline was seven the family moved to Manchester, where she attended a kindergaten.

We lived in a large suburban house, with unused attics where my friends and I acted plays.    There were stables, with a bad-tempered horse and an even worse-tempered coachman, and above a splendid loft full of hay.

I was a passionate reader, mainly of fairy tales and the easier kinds of poetry… My own colouring and the shortness of my hair were a great disappointment.   For a long time I prayed every night that I might wake up golden-haired with large blue eyes.  The Little Mermaid who sacrificed her hair to win the love of a prince seemed to me to have got things entirely out of proportion.

In October 1907, aged 12, Madeline became  a pupil at St Catherine’s  school in  Bramley, Surrey, entering form iiib.  The school (which is still in existence)   was  founded by local clergy and gentry  in 1885 as  a  boarding school  “for the daughters of the middle classes in which there shall be given a sound and liberal education with Religious teaching  and training according to the principles of the Church of England.”  It  opened  with 11 boarders and six day pupils.  By 1911, according to the  census return, it had  89 pupils, ten  teachers, two matrons and  12 servants.

A sense  of  what the school  was like when Madeline was there can be gleaned from the memories of Rhoda Higlett (1893-1995),  who was sent to the school in 1903, aged 10.   In 1984 she was interviewed by Elisabeth Reed for a publication marking the school’s centenary. Rhoda recalled that there was a strong religious ethos with two services each day and, in addition, communion on Thursdays and Sundays. The dormitories were furnished with a wash basin and dressing table for each bed, the maids carried in the water for washing. The headteacher, Mrs Russell-Baker, who held the post from 1887 to 19 25,  was seldom seen by the pupils as she concentrated on running the school and did not teach. On 11th  April  1907 the school was struck by lightning during a storm (“The Bramley Fireball” according to the local newspaper) and caught fire, rendering several of the dormitories uninhabitable for a time.

In her second year Madeline caught pneumonia, followed by measles, both  the English and  German varieties.

These misfortunes battered me down and for rest of the year I was unhappy, unpopular and lazy, my flamboyant Inferiority Complex filling me with uncertainties.  News from home was bad, too.  My father had a complete mental breakdown and I never saw him again….I had Best Friends among my contemporaries: I lived entirely according to herd law, ruled by the slogans of the moment.  I fell in love with the English mistress and for two years the thought of her patterned my days.  She played with my adolescent emotions in a way that I now see to be highly reprehensible, but it apparently did me no harm.  To her teaching I owe a great deal.  From the day I left school, I scarcely thought of her.”

The school was Anglo-Catholic:  religious devotion  was ever present in the lives of the young women:

 We had our own chapel and a chaplain who was about as poor at the job of ministering to children as any man could well be.  He was dull, shy and aloof.  In spite of him, the headmistress made religion the most vital thing in our lives.  It was emotional, beautifully decked, always thrust into our consciousness.  We absorbed it thoroughly. No one dreamed of questioning its demands on us in the way of constant services, subscriptions to foreign missions and no sweets in Lent.  We went to our Confirmations as devoutly as young postulants taking the veil.  All the dormitories were named after women saints: through every part of the building the flowery chapel, at the end of its long passage, spread its benignly austere touch. 

There are a number of references to Madeline (or “Maidie” as she was known as)  in the school archives. In July 1910 she was given a prize in the Book Studied Alone category. On 23rd November 1910 she was confirmed in the school chapel by the Bishop of Guildford, along with 25  fellow pupils and 2 maids.  In December 1910 she gained a distinction in Religious Knowledge and English  in the Cambridge Local Examinations.  In October 1911 Madeline   shared the Musgrave  Memorial  Prize for Religious Knowledge with fellow pupil Blanche Hicks,  gained a distinction in  Religious  Knowledge in the Junior Cambridge  Local Examinations,  and also won the English  prize.   On 2nd December 1911 she took part in the school drama  performance, playing Antonio  in an extract from “The Merchant of Venice.”  That same month she was admitted to the St Catherine Missionary Guild.  In December 1911 she achieved a distinction in English in the Cambridge Local Examinations, taking the sixth place in England. These were the last examinations Madeline sat since  she left the school later that month, aged 16.

It  was whilst  she was at school that Madeline acquired her lifelong  love of cinema.  In an article for the Manchester Guardian published in May 1919 –  “Twelve Years Ago and Now” –   she recalled that she spent:

…many enchanted hours in a picture-house owned by the gentle town of Guilford, where the programme always contained ten films and the best seats cost threepence,  with tea and biscuits thrown in – almost literally thrown in – at matinées.

In those  days the projection of films was extraordinarily bad. Possibly the operators were really skating instructors who had been taken over with the hall, and, like it, insufficiently adapted to their new functions. At any rate, the passage of a film across the screen was almost inevitably a lamenting, wheezy journey of  upheavals and  jerks and sudden flashes. The films themselves were  of poor quality and extremely well-meaning. In the orthodox  programme of ten or a dozen subjects three-quarters were comedies or dramas and the rest such educational pills as “Habits of the Ant”  or “Peeps at Picardy.”  On the lighter side choice lay between the two rigid alternatives of morbid sensationalism and blatant vulgarity, and it was very seldom that a film  found another pathway for itself. Ordinarily they were rapid and ridiculous and trashy, and only by their ingenuous immaturity were they saved from being  pernicious.”

In an article for the  school magazine   Madeline recalled going to see a dozen  films on  just one day during Coronation Week in 1911.

Madeline remained in contact with the school after she left;   there are regular references to her in the school magazine’s round up of news from former pupils up until 1935.

 May 1913 issue – “Maidie Linford, who has been having secretarial training at home, has just been given a post on the staff of the Manchester Guardian.”

 May 1914 issue – “Maidie Linford is getting on extremely well in the Manchester Guardian Office. She has been promoted to the Editorial Department as Secretary to the News Editor.”

 November 1914 issue  – “Madeline Linford was ill and obliged to be away from her work for eleven weeks with rheumatism and neuritis. She then had to go to Buxton for treatment, which did her a great deal of good.”

November 1915 issue  – “Maidie Linford is still in the Manchester Guardian Office, and loves her work. She says that it is so interesting, and brings her into contact with so many clever people.”

November 1916 issue – “Maidie Linford is on the staff of the ‘Manchester Guardian’ and very busy, and besides her ordinary work  she does a good deal  of reporting  and dramatic criticism, and writes a good many articles. When Mrs Baker was at Buxton in the summer Maidie went over and had lunch with her.”

November 1917 issue.  “Maidie Linford  is busy in the office of the ‘Manchester Guardian’ —the only girl on the editorial staff. She writes a theatre critique once a week, film notices twice a week, and is responsible for all the women’s domestic or fashion articles.”

March 1921 issue  “Maidie  Linford,  who is on the Staff of the Manchester Guardian, was chosen by the authorities to go out to the chief cities of Central Europe to report on the administration of the Fund for Starving Children, raised mainly through her articles in that paper.”

June 1922 issue –  Madeline’s  address is given as 95 Claude Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy,  Manchester.

 June 1923   issue –  “Madeline Linford  as usual, is very busy with her ‘Manchester Guardian’ work and also novel writing. Her first book, ‘Broken Bridges,’  is being published in August or September.

November 1925 issue   –  “Madeline Linford   still very busy with her newspaper work (The Manchester Guardian) and her books. The three already published, ‘Broken Bridges,’ ‘Roadside Fires,’ and ‘Mary Wollstonecraft,’ have all done pretty well, both in England and America; and she is writing another, which will probably be published in the spring.”

 Madeline  also contributed three articles to the magazine in June 1927, November 1929 and October 1935 in which she looked back to her school days with great affection. She disclosed that  in her desk at the Manchester Guardian she kept “two hatbands—one crimson and the other white—a little book of school photographs and a few reports plaintively reiterating ‘could do better ‘ and ‘does not try.’”

The religious devotion which the school  tried to instil,  did not last long after Madeline left. Back in Manchester, with a parish church of hearty broadness and common sense, I lost the emotional appeal of religion and with it all the rest.  I made a feeble struggle, but my lovely devotional flower was too delicate. It had no roots.

As noted above, whilst Madeline was away at school her father suffered a mental breakdown and by   the time of the 1911 census he was  a resident patient in Haydock Lodge, a private “Lunatic Asylum“ (as they used to be known).  which was on Lodge Lane in  Newton-le-Willows, Lancashire. The asylum had been opened  by George Coode in 1843  in a property formerly owned by the Legh family of Lymm.  In 1911  there were 132 patients, 31 servants, 22 nurses and  16 attendants.

His illness had a profound affect on the family:

The big house, with its wide garden and loft, was exchanged for a small semi-detached villa, crowded with our lavish furniture and with photographs of Father.  We children were not spared the realities of the situation which faced us: poverty and bereavement tolled their melancholy strains all through the little house.  Once I went upstairs and found V., who was then eight or nine, crying in bed.  He explained that he had been thinking of all the pretty things we had and wondering what would happen to them when we went to the workhouse.

The Linfords were supported by their relatives, particularly  her seven aunts and her Uncle Hal:

 He was married to the eldest and most dominant sister and he was a retired sea captain with plenty of leisure and unbounded kindness of heart.  Without his help, I doubt if Mother could have struggled against the first horrors of that time.  All through those five years he came from London to take her on each monthly visit to the mental home.  He advised her on every detail of her altered life and never, so far as I can remember, interfered with her authority over us.  I hope that someone thanked him before he died for all that he did then.

Madeline’s father never left the asylum: he died there  on 9th  June 1913, aged just 52. The Linfords were now living at  13 Oak Avenue in Chorlton, Manchester.

My father passed out of my life when I was thirteen and so what memories of him I have are childish and probably of little account.  From them, from photographs and from what I have heard from other people, I can piece together a man who was good looking, clever without being cultured, sociable, selfish and popular,  He rather dwelt apart from his children until they grew old enough to play bridge and piano accompaniments and that stage I never reached.  We saw little of him during the week and at Saturday and Sunday middle-day dinners, it was understood that Father did not care much for juvenile prattle

The Manchester Guardian

photograph of Madeline

Madeline in the 1920s  (courtesy of her family)

Madeline arrived at the paper’s legendary (and sadly long since demolished) offices on Cross Street, Manchester in the spring of 1913 – not as a journalist  (for there were no women journalists  working on the staff of the  paper at that time, nor had there ever been) – but as an assistant in the display advertisement department.  In 1914 she was then “lent “ to W. E. Crozier – then news editor, later the paper’s editor –   as his personal assistant and by 1916 was working in the editorial department.  Madeline   remained the sole  woman in the editorial department until 1944 when Mary Crozier joined the staff. According to Mary Stott, she found her isolation among a staff of brilliant men “exhilarating and tremendous fun.”

How exactly Madeline began writing for the newspaper remains a mystery that she never troubled herself to explain in anything she wrote.   It seems likely that with so many men  joining the forces, a woman with a  keen mind  and a sharp pen was for once noticed – and given a chance. Her first pieces in the newsaper in 1916 were uncredited but from 1917 her by-line “M.A.L” was used in most cases.

The theatres and cinemas that  she went to almost  every day at this time   – the Deansgate Picture-house, the Gaiety Theatre, the   St James Theatre,  the Peter Street Picture-House and others   – were all conveniently situated  just a few minutes walk from the newspaper’s offices on Cross Street. In a film review  published in March 1920 Madeline described the conditions at the Peter Street picture-house:

It is an uncomfortable place.  If you choose the cheaper seats you are  led down interminable stairs to them,  and you see badly when you get there.  In the dearer seats you dig your knees into the back of the person  in front and the person behind digs his knees into you.  There is a little wind blowing round the corners, and from a fastness on the left a telephone bell pings for  long stretches at a time, and no one else seems to hear it.  Only the real connoisseur of the movies, the austere-minded seeker after merit goes there.

As well as the   theatre and film reviews,  she also wrote   a series of articles in 1919 on the development of cinema as an industry and as an art form.  In 1919 Madeline also began reviewing novels, and by the mid 1930s was writing the annual round-up of the best novels of the year.

In 1921 she moved from Oak Road to 95 Claude Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy where she remained for a number of years and in 1924 acquired a telephone from the Post Office – her number was Chorlton 1128. Some years later she moved to 552 Wilbraham Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, where she lived in a large two bedroom flat on the ground floor of a large Victorian house. The flat was just a few door away from her brother, Vivian (whom Madeline called “Pea” or “Pot”), and his three children, Rodney, Mary and Alison.

According to Rodney, “She was a constant part of our lives. All three of us grew up knowing her really quite well. Being the oldest I got more spoiled than the rest! She would catch the last bus home after putting the paper to bed, and then she had to walk half a mile from where the bus stopped. She told us stories of during the war dodging into shop doorways to avoid the shrapnel because when the Germans came over to bomb Liverpool the anti-aircraft guns would fire like crazy at them – mostly missing – and the biggest danger to civilians was the shrapnel. ” (The H10 anti-aircraft battery was located on Turn Moss Playing Field, a few minutes walk from where Madeline lived). Rodney also recalls that Madeline had reams of blank paper in her flat. “For some reason as a young boy I thought this was a treasure trove and I asked if she would leave it to me in her will. She gave all of us some money when she died – not a huge amount – but enough for me to make downpayment on my first house. “

Visits  to post-war  Europe

In 1919 the Manchester Guardian  raised money for the Society  of Friends’ work  in Europe, where there was enormous want and need after the  end of the First World War. The editor,  C P Scott,  dispatched Madeline abroad in December 1919 to see how  the money was being spent.

 She  visited  France, Austria and  Poland in the course of two months,  and sent back vivid reports of the desperate plight of  many of the people in those countries, afflicted  by the fighting,  poverty, disease and  starvation.  Some of the Friends’ Mission also succumbed to disease.  This was a world away from  the comforts of Manchester. Typically for the period she made no reference to her own privations whilst travelling. In those days journalists did not put themselves in the story. When Mary Stott interviewed her  some 50 years later,  Madeline recalled:

 The White Russians and Bolsheviks were still fighting in Poland and typhus was raging. Three members of the Friends Mission died of it.  Going to Warsaw I was locked in a first class compartment with a man for 11 hours. There was no heat or light on the train and it went dark very early. It never occurred to me to be nervous either for my virtue, which didn’t matter all that much, or the fact that I was carrying a good deal of money on me which would have been a fortune in Polish currency at the time. We arrived at Warsaw at 2am and I had to wake up French soldiers sleeping on the platform to get them to interpret for me.   On the journey from Warsaw to Vienna the train was so packed I sat for 24 hours in my compartment with only a half-pound block of chocolate to eat. I did think about investigating the sanitary facilities, but believe it or not, I did not stir.

Madeline made a second trip in 1921, revisiting Austria and Poland.  After her return John Sanderson, Assistant Secretary of the Friends’ Emergency and War  Victim’s Relief Committee, wrote a letter of thanks to C P Scott:

I have received a letter from Miss Linford telling me of her return to Manchester after the very arduous tour which she recently undertook through the various fields of our work.

The articles  which you have published from time to time from the pen of Miss Linford, have been of very considerable service to us in our efforts to aid the distress which is all to prevalent  in Central and Eastern Europe. It is not merely the traceable financial results from these articles  which we value, but the effect they had had on public opinion. We appreciate too the very generous way in which you have opened your columns to comparatively unpopular material, and are conscious how very much we owe to you in this respect.

More particularly, however, at this moment  we do wish to express to you our gratitude for the publicity you have given to our schemes of relief in arranging for Miss Linford to make a tour of our fields in central Europe., and on behalf of the Committee I have to convey our very hearty thanks for your helpful and substantial interest. 

Manchester Guardian editorial board 1920

Madeline pictured in the 1920s with the rest of the Manchester Guardian editorial board (copyright Manchester Guardian archive)

The Women’s  Page:  1922 to 1939

In 1922 she was asked by C P  Scott to edit a weekly column aimed at women readers. Many years later she recalled in an article for the Guardian  entitled “The First Page”  that:

 It was for those days a very bold venture. Women’s  pages  were not well thought of  by serious journalists, being mainly fluffy, ephemeral, and a sop to advertisers. There must have been many grave discussions and much misgiving before the directors, headed by C P Scott…decided to sanction it. Of this I heard nothing. I was just told that it would start on such and such a day, that it would consist of three columns, and that I was to give birth to it and nurture it. The directors had, indeed, little choice when they picked me as, until nearly the end of the Second World War, there was no other woman on the Manchester editorial  staff.  My briefing was lucid and firm. The page must be readable, varied, and  always aimed at the intelligent woman.. I saw her as an aloof, rigid, and highly critical figure, a kind of Big Sister, vigilant for lapses of taste, dignity and literary English. On this last point  my instructions were also explicit. There must be no concessions to popular jargon. …Words like “perambulator” were to be given all their syllables and none of the terms loved by fashion writers “chic”, “modish”, “ensemble” – could be allowed. So into an uncharted sea, with a young and very nervous pilot, the Women’s Page set forth.

Madeline recruited a talented set of contributors, which included Vera Brittain, Leonora Eyles, Winifred Holtby, Evelyn Sharp and Ellen Wilkinson,  as well as a number of men, including  Howard Spring. According to Mary Stott (editor of the Women’s Page in the 1960s and 1970s) , Madeline rarely met her writers in person.  She often wrote for the column herself on a  variety of subjects including the Manchester sales, Christmas cards, Victorian baby clothes,  buying a trousseau,  and holiday souvenirs from abroad. With little secretarial help, she answered all the reader’s queries herself. No-one at the newspaper asked to see the copy before publication. 

In the autumn of 1939 she wrote a series of articles on   how the war was affecting women;  or rather  on how it as affecting the middle-class  women in the Manchester suburbs who  comprised the paper’s readership. She touched on subjects such as the  price of  stockings,  buying blankets, the blackout and  the problem of the gas-mask case:

So far through this warm, dry, and lovely autumn the gas mask has been carried easily enough, but with umbrellas, waterproofs,  cloaks, and bulky fur coats  not far ahead there is the problem of only two hands and a  great deal to do with them. Everyone carries parcels now to ease the delivery arrangements of the shops. So enterprise has produced the combined handbag and gas mask case. This is made   in leather of various kinds at prices from about twenty-five shillings upwards. Some types accommodate the cardboard box; in others the mask slides naked into a compartment of its own, safely confined and easily accessible by means of a zip fastener. All of them provide space for the necessities and oddments that every handbag is expected to hold. 

The column was axed at the end of 1939, but returned after the war. 


In his centenary history of the Manchester Guardian,  published in 1922,  William Haslam Mills does not mention Madeline, even though she had been working  for the newspaper for nearly ten years by then.

Madeline  made the occasional  radio broadcast for  the BBC’s Manchester station (2ZY). On  7th August  1928 she made a broadcast in the series “Writers of the North,” reading a chapter from her novel A Home and Children, which was set in Cheshire. On 31st  December 1929 she made a broadcast in the series “Women  in the North: a survey of 1929.”

On  5th  January 1932 Madeline attended C P Scott’s funeral  which his own newspaper described as “a remarkable demonstration of respect on the part not only of the city but of persons and associations of national and international standing.” The service took place in Manchester Cathedral  which was packed, even many ticket-holders could not get in. Madeline is listed in the  “Press “ section along with many colleagues from the Manchester Guardian from the editor down to the representatives of mechanical departments . As usual she is the sole woman amongst the men:  her address is listed as 95 Claude Road, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester.

In  May 1933 she judged a competition organised by the Manchester Amateur Photographic Society to take pictures of domestic pets, awarding the first prize to Mr. G. B. Geary for a study of a parrot. Madeline  gave a short address which was mainly devoted  to the “Sent by a Reader”  feature of the Manchester Guardian and answered a number of questions.


In addition to her work on the Manchester Guardian Madeline  wrote a biography of Mary Wollstonecroft, published in 1924,  and also five novels:  Broken Bridges (1923), The Roadside Fire (1924), A Home and Children (1926)  Bread and Honey (1928) and Out of the Window (1930)., all of which were extesively reviewed. She also wrote a number of short stories , published both in the Manchester Guardian and in  a number of magazines. 

Madeline’s mother died in 1935. 

 Even now I cannot say the words “my mother died” naturally: they come with an effort, as when a bandage is pulled from the tender skin of a scar.  Her death caused many changes in my life, both material and mental.  I ceased being a daughter at home and, for the first time, had full charge of myself.  I lost the only responsibility which was not personal or professional – that care of an aging woman which, like all human responsibilities, is both a burden and a happiness. With her, too, I lost that bulwark to self-confidence, maternal affection which unlike other loves, is certain and changeless though, in her case, far from uncritical. 


The Second World War

In the autumn of 1939  she wrote as a series of articles on how the  Manchester Guardian woman  reader  – a woman  with a reasonable income living in the suburbs – was coping with the war.   She wrote little  else for the rest of the war,  for the simple reason  I imagine that she was just  too busy with her  work as a picture  editor and in Civil Defence 

Madeline had  joined the Women’s  Voluntary Service in January 1939. In the wake of the Munich crisis in the autumn of 1938, it was generally accepted that war with Nazi Germany was inevitable and extensive preparations began to be made to protect the civil  population from the effects of bombing.    Many years later in 1959 she wrote about her war-time experiences in an article called “A Fanfare of Trumpets”:

For the first few months I pottered about collecting salvage, not much less belligerently  active than the real combatants  at that time. With the catastrophes of June 1940 the volunteers were called on. I went to a report and control centre, first beneath  Police Headquarters in South Street, and later in the basement of the Town Hall.  “You people will never stick it,”  said one of the paid workers whom we were displacing. “When the bad weather comes, you’ll all stay at home.”

I should like to put it on record that  during my five years at Main Control I can remember no W.V.S. member absenting herself for a trivial  reason. Women came from the bombed wreckage of their  homes  and at times of bereavement and anxiety. They walked from the suburbs when transport failed. Three weeks holiday were allowed in the year, but at Christmas and other festivals  the job went on as usual.  Many of us, like myself,  had livings  to earn  and linked part-time and professional work with sandwiches and ferocious  Civil Defence tea. We were mainly employed as telephonists with long quiet spells of  purely routine reports leaping into a crescendo of activity after a raid. In the interludes we knitted, did crossword puzzles and sold War Savings stamps, all of us sitting around a long table with headphones at the ready,  slung round our necks.

Soon we were wearing the green and burgundy uniform which is now so familiar and honoured. In those days we paid for the various garments and, when clothes rationing started in the middle of 1941,  gave coupons for them. The uniform was not easily acquired then. A W.V.S.  had to have shown herself a diligent worker  and the sort of person who would do it no discredit. I was proud of mine, and like nurses and Salvation Army, found that it edged me through police cordons, barricaded streets,  and the many awkward situations of a blacked-out city.  The overcoat was  in those days of inadequacy  and poor materials the warmest garment I possessed.

So for nearly five years the volunteers, working in shifts throughout each day and night, manned their station,  with usually only one male senior officer in charge.  We got to know each other very well and to share the monotony  and the occasional feverish rush with a surprising lack of friction. I suppose that in our cellar we were too much conscious of the great issues of the war to be easily diverted into complaint or recrimination. At any rate the atmosphere I remember was cheerful  and accepting, though the conditions under which we worked were often uncomfortable  and some of our companions uncongenial.

Then it all ended  and I  noticed without much surprise that no civic authority thanked us for what we had done.

Post-war and retirement

Editorial Board meeting with Madeline

 Madeline ( sitting on the right)  pictured at a meeting of the editorial board, chaired by A P Wadsworth , editor of the Manchester Guardian, 1944-1956 (copyright Manchester Guardian archive)

After the war Madeline continued her work  as Picture Editor.  In 1946 she and Mary Crozier co-authored an article  on “Pictures and Features” for  a volume of appreciation of C P Scott, published by Frederick Muller.  They recalled that it wasn’t until 1910 that photographs first appeared in the Manchester Guardian, after that half-tone pictures appeared regularly, although drawings were still used as well. By 1914 the paper had its own  staff photographer and also received pictures from news agencies.

Under the editorship of W. P. Crozier the illustrations side was widely expanded. Crozier had his own prejudices — including a fondness for architecture and archaeology and a dislike of performing animals in circuses — but apart from these he liked to have as many pictures as space would allow. He regarded them as embellishments to news pages and broadened their scope to cover nearly every part of the paper. Only the Leader Page was left without its illustration, for pictures of unusual importance occasionally appeared on the page opposite — an innovation rather painfully revolutionary to diehards both within the office and outside it — and single-column portraits were used to brighten the uncompromising stretches of company meeting reports.

The editor,  A P Wadsworth,  sent memos to Madeline (A. P. W to M.A.L. ) in connection  with the pictures from time  from time:

6th October 1946. I should think  our own photo’ of C.P.S at his desk would be the best for them. In the letter you had better point out what what CP said  was, ”comment is free, but facts are sacred.”

20th December 1946. I wonder if we have this picture, or something like it, of the American rocket bomb. I rather forget.

8th March 1949. We have settled the matter of the photograph of Lord Alexander, but we has better be careful not to use any of Mrs. Albert Broom’s photographs in future. I don’t suppose, however, that we have any more in our files,

10th March 1949. We ought really to have said that the Stephen Bone picture of Francis Dodd was reproduced by permission of the Manchester Art Gallery. Baxandall has been complaining.

22nd April 1949. The increase in size will not make much difference to the picture space except to give us a 2 column on the Sports page  (p.3) on Tuesdays and Fridays. This should be as near a sports subject as possible. We may, however, need to have some pictures in hand to meet the exigencies of make-up  and perhaps to fill in space when co[y is late or falls off. We shall have, I think, to do rather more planning of the pictures ahead so that we shall  not be caught short of often with only indifferent stuff available. Recent experience suggests that Stuttard can by no means always be relied on to produce first-rate pictures. There is a possibility that on some 10 page days we could venture on a four column picture.

I would suggest further that you let either P. J.M or me know in advance what the programme of pictures for the night is and also send in the proposed captions. At present  one has not the slightest idea what is going into the paper until the proofs come down just before 9 o’clock. Before the war there was rather more cooperation I think  but, of course, during the war it didn’t matter much as we had so few pictures.

I’m sure we must do more ordering of pictures in advance and it would be useful if you were to send a note of any arrangements you are making for future events

2nd August 1951. I think we shall have to be on guard against having too many conventional holiday pictures. Is it possible to have something a little more out of the way with actual holiday people on them? (“Did you see that photograph in the ‘Guardian’  if Mrs. Smith’s children watching the Punch and Judy at Llandudno”)

I think it might be useful especially when you are thinking of having a half-page collection of pictures to show what you suggest to P.J.M. In these competitions two heads are often a great help.

14th February 1952. Dear M.A.L., There is sure to be great rush tomorrow and a lot of anxiety about getting the pages away early enough. I think it would be a good thing to have two  heads on the show. I have asked P.J.M. to keep an eye on the pages and the getting of the photographs in. Milne will have his night staff in very early and we have made arrangements  to get whatever photographs are transmitted to the Evening News. It will probably be a rather trying day.

7th November 1952. I am rather bothered about the picture captions …I  think you had better arrange that before a caption goes up for a picture that relates to something or somebody in the night’s news, it should be checked by Dixon or the sub-editor concerned to make sure that the description is correct.  Agency photograph descriptions are often unsafe,

9th January 1953. I think we shall have to watch picture captions rather closely. There were 29 figures in the picture of the French Cabinet and only 20 names eg front row: 7 man but only 6 names, 4th row: 4 faces with 3 names. How on earth is anyone going to identify anybody?

One of the few memos written  by Madeline  that has survived was in connection with the picture library which she was clearly  concerned to ensure was run properly with no pictures going astray.  She wrote to A P Wadsworth in  some irritation:

19 January 1951. I discovered by chance tonight that ten pictures are being taken out of the files for Markwick’s use. I have any idea for what purpose they are wanted  or for how long. As the trouble will be mine if any of them should be needed for the paper – several are portraits – during their wanderings, I do feel that I ought to be told about such borrowings.

He replied the same day, somewhat dismissively: 

 19th January 1951. Since we  have the blocks I do not think you need worry overmuch about the photographs being borrowed  for  office purposes  for a  fortnight.

Her other responsibilities  included  editing   what had become known as “the back pager,” an opinion column from guest columnist on the back page, in connection with which she  received memos from  A P Wadsworth: 

 29th January 1947. Please try to keep the back page article to its normal length– to the fold. It has been over-stepping the mark several times lately.

15th February 1949. If you get an article from Col. Spencer Chapman I should be glad to see it. He is the author of a very good book and I suggested to him that he might like to send us something for the back page.

13th April 1952. I was sorry to see we headed a back page  ”By Professor T. H. Pear” . There is a very old rule, which ought to be adhered to, against the use of Professor in by-lines.

Madeline also  seems to have resumed  editing  the Women’s Page  after the war, judging by this memo from the editor:

7th January 1947. I  don’t think I should use  Mrs. Hargreaves for women’s page articles if I were you. We shall not be able to  give these articles often and they ought to be  really good and of definite news value, like fashion stuff. Mere writing round obvious things, such as M.R.H  does, is not really good enough. We must try to get some first-class London fashion stuff fairly soon, even if we can only give short pieces now and then.

Finally  Madeline  also seemed to be editing the arts reviews as well,  as evidenced by this memo, which seems to show that the paper was going through some kind of crisis toward the end  of 1950: 

16th November 1950. From Monday next our allotment  of space for editorial matter will be reduced every day. I must ask you to reduce the allotted space for theatres, films, music and art notices by a little, say 20%

In addition to her newspaper work  Madeline  was the   first President  of the Manchester Women’s  Press Group which  was set up in 1944. The group’s first Secretary was Nora  Jean Wiles of the Daily Dispatch, who later also served as President. The Group held meetings in Austria House, Manchester. In June 1944 they gave a dinner  at the Grand Hotel  for  editors, officials of the National Union of Journalists and other male colleagues. Some fifty guests attended. In March 1945 the women journalists  were addressed by Mrs Gothard, editor of the Birkenhead News

After forty years  at the newspaper, Madeline retired from the  Manchester Guardian  in 1953, stating at her farewell dinner: “I am very sorry to say goodbye to a great many of you”. She wrote to A P Wadsworth on 2nfd November of that year:

Many thanks for sending the Bedside Guardian. It was very kind of you to remember me in my seclusion. It seems to be an extremely well-chosen selection, full of good things, and I hope that it will be very successful. 

So far I  haven’t found a suitable flat in Windermere, but my sister and brother-in-law  are moving this month into a house in Bowness  and they, on the spot, will be able to keep a tighter look-out than I can from this distance.

 Madeline eventually  found a suitable  place to live  and  moved to Windermere, where she  rejoined the W.V.S:

..our main purpose is to be able to run Rest Centres  for any evacuees that a future war would send us. There are also the happier interests of peace-time. We staff canteens for the out-patients wards of hospitals, collect and distribute clothes  for the needy, help at old peoples’ colds, and feed  Civil Defence workers during their exercises.

Madeline was also  active in voluntary organisations  such as the United Nations Association,   and continued to contribute occasional pieces to her old newspaper on subjects such as begging, tourism  and “The Matron’s hat”.  

Her  final  piece, published on 27th  September 1965 in the “Women Talking” column,  was about her encounter with  a  pair of twins on a railway platform, who happened to be little black girls,   and a television programme she had watched about racial tensions  between  neighbours  in  a street in Leeds. At the end of the piece she wrote:

“The whole programme struck me as brutal. It was always painful to see a helpless person baited and in this case the odds were heavily against the mother and boy, overwhelmingly out-talked by their three white persecutors. There was also the inescapable belief that this kind of thing can do nothing but harm. What chance is there for friendliness  and tolerance in that street after so much bitterness has been uncovered? Will the coloured woman ever forget that her neighbours publicly condemned her as unlikeable and dirty and will they be able to shake off the feeling of shame that must surely now trouble them?

So I am glad to remember the little girl on the station, to whom the most important thing about her friends was their twinship, their colour not worth mentioning.”

In 1971 Mary Stott, editor of the Women’s Page on The Guardian since 1957,   visited her to interview her for an article which was published   under the title “The Prime of Miss Madeline Linford”:

Miss Madeline Linford is a quiet, elderly, retired lady living in a quietly furnished first floor flat in quiet road in Windermere In a well-proportioned living room where  there is a collection of Royal Copenhagen  figurines…Miss Linford goes often to coffee mornings and out to afternoon tea, and takes lunch every day with friends at a small restaurant where they get special rates because they are regulars. She is a little bowed, a little stiff in her movements,  and beginning to shed some of her committees and become hooked on television…

The ‘Guardian’ lay on the sofa. “No. I haven’t shed it. I read it with great interest and affection and I always stand up for it.  I watch to see how many people  are reading it…The ‘Guardian’ takes a more left wing view than I do. But it doesn’t matter”.

Madeline was visited  by her nephew and nieces.  Rodney remembers going up  on his own  to stay with her at half-term and going hiking in the hills. “There was no television, so the amusement  was jigsaw puzzles and lunching with the other old ladies in the Postern  Gate Cafe in Windermere. She was a dear soul, I was very fond of her  and  she was very generous to me during my days at Oxford.” He also recalls that Madeline told him about her trips to Europe  as a young journalist on behalf of the Manchester Guardian

Mary and Alison both  confess that they  were  a little afraid  of her when they were small. Mary says she could be quite daunting. “One had to mind one’s Ps and Qs, especially  in the ambiance of Windermere ladies and cafes and things. It was quite a  trial to be taken out  for a  meal when you were  only about six, and learning to sit still and use the right  cutlery. So I was a little in awe of her. She used to love listening to Mrs.  Dale’s  Diary on the radio which was awful for a small child to have to listen to. We were always being told off for making a rumpus and chasing each other around the sofa. I was a  little bit wary until I grew up.”

Alison remembers that Madeline did very little cooking,   which is why she went out to cafes for her meals. “She might do us a boiled egg for a light lunch. We remember one memorable occasion when she presented us with a Battenberg cake, which was a  treat (except I don’t like the marzipan round it) but it was mouldy! Of course, Mary and I,  being quite young,  didn’t know how to deal with this, and just ended up having girly giggles. I always  felt rather guilty about that, because  I hope she didn’t think we are laughing at her –   she wasn’t the sort of lady you would ever laugh at. We always thought she was very clever, she was very hot on using the right English, the right words and grammar and pronunciation. Now living in Kendal I  feel I am in the right place and I  always thank Aunty Madeline for introducing  me to the Lakes. Like Rod, I went up to stay with her on my own when I was about ten, going by train,  and I  just remember the impact of that lovely, fresh Lakeland air, having come from a childhood in Manchester where  we had smogs and very unhealthy air. From that day on I always loved the air up here ,  it was always my ambition to live up here, and I’ve done it,  so I owe a lot to Aunty!”

As well as the Lake District Madeline also  introduced Alison to theatre. “She used to take  me on the 532 bus, which was the bus that went past our house, and go to the Library  Theatre. I’ve had a love of theatre ever since. There are lots of warm memories, not any bad memories of Aunty” 

Madeline outlived all her siblings and died on 16th June 1975  in Bay View Nursing Home, Windermere Road, Grange over Sands, Cumbria. When they were  sorting through her things, her nieces found a ring which  might have been an engagement ring: there was a family story that she might have had a relationship with an American  on one of her trips to  Europe. Alison has the ring,  while Mary has her collection of   Madeline’s Copenhagen  figurines. 

My thanks to Rosemary and Richard Christophers  for their help with  Madeline’s time at St Catherine’s school:  to  Karen Jacques,  Janette Martin,  and the  staff at the Manchester Guardian archive at  John  Rylands Library, Manchester for their assistance  with research:  and  to Madeline’s  nieces and nephew –  Mary Simm, Alison Jones and Rodney Linford –  for sharing with me   the  fragment  of autobiography written by Madeline  and their  family pictures and for our enlightening discussion on Zoom. 

Michael Herbert


Madeline’s  work:   1916 to 1965


Her journeys in Europe 1919-1920


Her journeys in Europe in 1921


Drama criticism


Film criticism


Literary criticism


Manchester in the Second World War


Travel writing


Miscellaneous journalism 1921-1965


Her articles in St Catherine’s School  magazine