Esme Langley

Esme Langley

Dr Esmé Ross-Langley (née George) was born 26 August 1919 in Guisborough, Yorkshire, the only child of Ivy George. She died on 20 August 1992 in St Albans City Hospital of complications following a stroke.

Esmé was a courageous free-thinking writer who, in her quiet and determined way, made a major contribution to the social evolution of women in Britain. She is best known as the founder of the Minorities Research Group and Arena Three (magazine).


She was born in Yorkshire and spent a happy and active childhood in Preston, Lancashire. She especially enjoyed cycling and swimming;a childhood hero was Johnny Weismuller in the Tarzan films.At school Esmé loved languages, English in particular;she learnt Latin, French and Germanand wanted to study Greek toobut there were no classes available to her at the time.Later she studied
Italian, Spanish,
Swahili and Chichewa;just before her final illness, at the age of 72, she was studying
Russian.After passing her Matriculation (University entrance) in 1935Esmé abandoned formal education and at the age of 16 moved to London,found a boyfriend and through necessity learnt how to live a frugal life.

World War II

Esmé served in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS) during World War II,teaching typing and shorthand. Her typing speed and accuracy were phenomenal.While grateful that her typing prowess kept her in work,she was irritated by employers who ignored her other skills. [ Sylvester Stein's blog] where he writes: I had a formidable secretary once, Esme Langley-Ross, with a formidable IQ, who was so on top of the job that she would hector me as to the logic and the grammar of what she was taking down almost before I said it.] For example she enjoyed puzzles, especially difficult crosswords like [ Ximenes] and [ Azed] ,but when she applied to join the Bletchley Park teamworking on the German Enigma cipher,her military unit would not release her.It was inevitable that she would become self-employed.After she was released from the British Army, Esmé was penniless and pregnant.Being determined and resourceful, she embraced life as a single parent. Her bookWhy should I be dismayed(1958) - Ann Bruce (aka Esme Langley) - Faber and Faber - NO ISBN Available] was recommended reading for social workers at the time.


Esmé got a job with the BBC Monitoring unit at Caversham Park near Readingand spent several happy years exploring languages and playing squash and chess with the Russian monitors there. She had another two children, by a Yugoslav journalist,but never wanted to live with him.In 1956 she arranged a mortgage, bought a house in Bromley, Kentand filled it with lodgers.There she met an African called Tchum and they considered marriage;in the end Esmé decided against it because of thelikely prejudices against her existing and future children.As an independent thinker she resented prejudices like thisand was not afraid to speak her mind.

Arena Three

Esmé was a strong supporter of minorities of all kinds.In 1963 after learning new skills working for Sylvester Steinon the London Property Letter,she founded her own magazine publishing enterprise, the Minorities Research Group,from her basement flat in Hampstead.She published Mainland (for the homeless) which floppedand then Arena Three (magazine) (for lesbians) which took over her life for many years.

Music and Letters

After decades of smoking, Esmé had chronic bronchitis and emphysema.For health reasons she moved in 1986 from Hertfordshire to Torrevieja, Spain,and pursued her hobbies of Mozart, writing and gardening for her remaining years.


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