He­len Franks

BORN LON­DON, APRIL 5, 1934. DIED LON­DON, MARCH 23, 2008, AGED 73.

The Jewish Chronicle - - OBITUARIES -

ALIVELY JOUR­NAL­IST and later a suc­cess­ful au­thor, He­len Franks carved a suc­cess­ful ca­reer in news­pa­pers and mag­a­zines when women were still a rar­ity in the me­dia.

Spe­cial­is­ing in so­cial change and health is­sues, she also taught cour­ses and work­shops, took part in cam­paigns, and was an early user of the web.

Born He­len Swayger, she grew up in Soho and was evac­u­ated with her school to Ox­ford in the Sec­ond World War, re­turn­ing to Lon­don to live with her par­ents in Hack­ney.

When she started to work in pub­lish­ing in the early 1950s, she took the then dar­ing step of mov­ing into a bed­sit in Bayswa­ter, West Lon­don.

Her first job was with Cham­ber’s En­cy­clopae­dia. She then moved to mag­a­zines, Good House­keep­ing fol­lowed by Wo­man, and main­stream week­lies.

In 1960 she mar­ried con­sult­ing en­gi­neer, Arthur Franks, at the West­ern Syn­a­gogue, Craw­ford Street. The cou­ple joined Hamp­stead Syn­a­gogue.

In the 1960s and 70s, as daily pa­pers com­peted with television news, they turned to for­mats and ideas which had been de­vel­oped by mag­a­zines, a sit­u­a­tion which He­len, now a free­lance with a young fam­ily, was ideally placed to ex­ploit.

She gar­nered a wide read­er­ship through writ­ing in the women’s pages of The Guardian and, later, The In­de­pen­dent, Times and Ob­server.

She also de­vel­oped a niche as a med­i­cal jour­nal­ist, con­tribut­ing to ti­tles such as Fam­ily Cir­cle, Home & Freezer Digest, Marie Claire and Good House­keep­ing, and dis­cussing al­ter­na­tive medicine for the over-50s in Choice and on the web­site lat­er­life.com.

She did her re­search thor­oughly, gath­er­ing ma­te­rial through pen­e­trat­ing but sen­si­tive in­ter­view­ing and adding her own ob­ser­va­tions, in­tu­ition and ex­pe­ri­ence. From 1997-2000 she taught free­lance jour­nal­ism at the City Lit­er­ary In­sti­tute.

In the 1970s and 1980s she was ac­tive in Women in Me­dia, a cam­paign group op­pos­ing sex dis­crim­i­na­tion and stereo­typ­ing in the me­dia.

This led her to write books on chang­ing so­cial mores, which in­cluded Prime Time (Pan, 1981), on women’s lives be­tween the ages of 30 and 50; Good­bye Tarzan (Allen & Un­win, 1984), on men in a post-fem­i­nism world; and Mummy Doesn’t Live Here Any More (Dou­ble­day, 1990), on rea­sons why women leave their chil­dren.

Warm-hearted, with strik­ing looks and an easy man­ner, she en­joyed com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple who, in turn, found it easy to speak to her.

Dur­ing her long and happy mar­riage she wel­comed friends and fam­ily to their West Hamp­stead home and Sus­sex re­treat. Her health de­te­ri­o­rated af­ter a fall at the age of 71.

She is sur­vived by her hus­band; two daugh­ters, Han­nah and Ju­lia; son, Steven; and five grand­chil­dren.

He­len Franks: ver­sa­tile jour­nal­ist

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