Friday 24 November 2017

Mary Kenny's colourful and controversial life

Next week sees the publication of controversial columnist Mary Kenny's memoirs, Something of Myself and Others, and there should be a lot of interest in seeing how she portrays herself, her rollercoaster life and the many personalities who crossed her path.

Mary's street reputation paints her as the most famous turncoat in Irish feminist history; closely followed by her reputation for a similarly dramatic religious conversion.

In 1970, she was a founder member (along with Nell McCafferty, Mary Robinson and others) of the radical Woman's Liberation Movement. Five years later, she turned on her youthful self, questioning the benefits of divorce and advising women to stay home with their babies if they wanted to. This caused ferocious division among her fellow feminists. Aged just 26, she was the witty, insouciant editor of the women's page on the Irish Press, which became the focus and sounding board for the new movement.

THE BIG STORY LIVING SECTION

However, once she married British journalist Richard West and had two children, her attitude changed radically.

"Having children affected me in a big way. I thought it was something that just fitted into your life. It wasn't," she has said.

A staunch, even right-wing, Catholic who has a confessed horror of anything too rigid or legislated, she has interviewed Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, Natalie Wood, Gloria Steinem, Marlon Brando and Gregory Peck, had tea with Princess Grace and drinks with Margaret Thatcher.

A one-time alcoholic who no longer drinks, she is known for her jaunty, eccentric personal style as much as her eloquent and outspoken views, and the many phases of Mary have been played out in public with an honesty and conviction that have won her both friends and detractors, although definitely more of the former.

In this week's Living, there is an exclusive extract from the memoir – it's a searingly honest account of life as a carer to her husband, Richard.

Sunday Independent

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