Margaret Storm Jameson was born in Whitby in 1891. Her father and grandfather were successful shipbuilders. She studied at University of Leeds and was elected Secretary of the Women's Representative Council.
Jameson became a socialist at university and was a strong advocate of women having the vote. She also raised funds for the families of union members who took part in the strike that took place in the tailoring industry in Leeds in 1911.
After obtaining a first-class degree in English at the University of Leeds she moved to London in September 1912 and found employment at the Working Women's College in Earls Court. She wrote later that: "I believe that there exists in the intellect of the working class a vigour and freshness that may well bring forth a new Renaissance. For generations crushed under the industrial slavery, I believe that it will move when it does move, with a mighty bound."
Jameson became active in politics and joined the National Union of Women Suffrage Societies(NUWSS). In 1913 she took part in the Women's Pilgrimage to show the House of Commons how many women wanted the vote. Members of the NUWSS set off in the middle of June, and during the next six weeks held a series of meetings all over Britain. An estimated 50,000 women reached Hyde Park in London on 26th July. According to her autobiography, she bit a policeman, during the demonstration.
On 15th January 1913, Jameson married Charles Douglas Clarke, a fellow student at University of Leeds. They lived in a small flat in Shepherd's Bush. According to the author of Margaret Storm Jameson: A Life (2009): "They were very poor, she lunched regularly on plums, and they squabbled bitterly. She tried to commit suicide with an overdose of phenacetin, and he was deeply unsympathetic. She fell ill at the end of the year and went home to her parents in Whitby, while he moved in with his Quaker parents in North London."
Jameson had two articles published in New Age. The first was an attack on the work of George Bernard Shaw. She criticised his plays for their "poor characterisation" and for the "half-baked ideas" that had come from his membership of the Fabian Society. The second article dealt with the unfairness of marriage laws. Jameson also wrote an article for The Egoist that explored the political ideas of Emma Goldman.
Soon after the outbreak of the First World War, Storm Jameson's father joined the Royal Navy and became captain of the Saxon Prince. In the spring of 1916 the ship was sunk off the Irish coast and Jameson was taken prisoner and sent to a military camp at Hamburg.
Her brother, Harold Jameson, although only seventeen, joined the Royal Flying Corps. By 1916 he was a 2nd Lieutenant and had been given the DCM: "for conspicuous coolness and gallantry on several occasions in connection with wireless work under fire." Later that year he won the Military Cross for attacking a German kite balloon under heavy fire. He was killed in January 1917 after being shot down while over No Man's Land.
As Martin Ceadel, the author of Pacifism in Britain 1914-1945 (1980) has pointed out: "Her sense of outrage at the Great War in which so many of her contemporaries, including her brother, had been killed suddenly erupted into overt pacifism... Brooding upon the depressing consequences of the war, she felt an acute sense of guilt at having supported it, and turned her book into an outspoken anti-war polemic.... By the end she had gone so far as to declare herself a pacifist." After the war she joined the Women's International League. Other members included Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Chrystal Macmillan, Sylvia Pankhurst, Charlotte Despard, Helen Crawfurd, Mary Barbour, Agnes Dollan, Ethel Snowden, Ellen Wilkinson, Selina Cooper, Margery Corbett-Ashby, Helena Swanwick and Olive Schreiner.
Her first novel, The Pot Boils, was published in 1919. Her marriage to Charles Douglas Clarke came to an end and in January 1924 she met Guy Chapman. He later commented: "She was wearing a heavy coat over a faded pink knitted dress, and a hat which did not suit her, and she smiled at me. She was rather lovely, with long cool grubby fingers, and she held herself badly: she made me think of a well-bred foal, unbroken and enchantingly awkward. Something she said at that first meeting, I forget what, made me laugh with pure pleasure."
They soon began a relationship. The couple married on 1st February 1926. Later she wrote: "We went to places, obscure ruined monasteries, small provincial art galleries, the house in which a dead philosopher spent his life, salt marshes, trout streams, some turn in a rough nameless road which offered a view of a smiling valley and a line of hills, because, although he had not seen them, he knew they were there. He made all other company a little dull."
Storm Jameson continued to write novels, including a trilogy about a family of Yorkshire shipbuilders: The Lovely Ship (1927), The Voyage Home (1930) and a Richer Dust (1931). Other books include Women Against Men (1933), Company Parade (1934), Love in Winter (1935), and None Turn Back (1936). Jameson also published poems, essays, biographies and several volumes of autobiography including No Time Like the Present (1933).
In September 1932 Storm Jameson became close friends with Vera Brittain. The two women had both lost brothers during the First World War and as a result became committed pacifists. Jameson reviewed Testament of Youth in the Sunday Times and said that as a representation of war from a woman's perspective "makes it unforgettable".
Storm Jameson became involved with the British section of the International Union of Revolutionary Writers. At a meeting in January 1934 it was decided to publish a new Marxist journal. The Left Review first appeared in October 1934. Contributors included Storm Jameson, Edgell Rickword, Tom Wintringham, Ralph Fox, John Strachey, Sylvia Townsend Warner, Montagu Slater, A.L. Lloyd, Hugh MacDiarmid, Amabel Williams-Ellis, A. L. Morton, Nancy Cunard, F. D. Kingender, Valentine Ackland, W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender, Edward Upward, Cecil Day-Lewis, Randall Swingler, Jack Lindsay, Margaret Storm Jameson, Naomi Mitchison, Winifred Holtby, Henry Hamilton Fyfe, Eric Gill, Herbert Read and George Barker.
On 7 July, 1934, the British Union of Fascists held a large rally at Olympia. About 500 anti-fascists including Storm Jameson, Vera Brittain, Richard Sheppard and Aldous Huxley, managed to get inside the hall. When they began heckling Oswald Mosley they were attacked by 1,000 black-shirted stewards. Several of the protesters were badly beaten by the fascists. Jameson argued in The Daily Telegraph: "A young woman carried past me by five Blackshirts, her clothes half torn off and her mouth and nose closed by the large hand of one; her head was forced back by the pressure and she must have been in considerable pain. I mention her especially since I have seen a reference to the delicacy with which women interrupters were left to women Blackshirts. This is merely untrue... Why train decent young men to indulge in such peculiarly nasty brutality? There was a public outcry about this violence and Lord Rothermere and his Daily Mail withdrew its support of the BUF. Over the next few months membership went into decline.
Jameson also became friendly with Richard Sheppard, a canon of St. Paul's Cathedral. He had been an army chaplain during the First World War. A committed pacifist, he was concerned by the failure of the major nations to agree to international disarmament and on 16th October 1934, he had a letter published in the Manchester Guardian inviting men to send him a postcard giving their undertaking to "renounce war and never again to support another." Within two days 2,500 men responded and over the next few weeks around 30,000 pledged their support for Sheppard's campaign.
In July 1935 Sheppard chaired a meeting of 7,000 members of his new organization at the Albert Hall in London. Eventually named the Peace Pledge Union (PPU), it achieved 100,000 members over the next few months. The organization now included other prominent religious, political and literary figures including Storm Jameson, Arthur Ponsonby, George Lansbury, Vera Brittain, Wilfred Wellock, Max Plowman, Maude Royden, Frank P. Crozier, Alfred Salter, Ada Salter, Siegfried Sassoon, Donald Soper, Aldous Huxley, Laurence Housman and Bertrand Russell.
Jameson was also concerned with the emergence of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany. In an article for Time and Tide on 6th June, 1936 she called for the Labour Party to work with the Communist Party of Great Britain to create a Popular Front movement. "The reanimation of the Labour Party - by (1) a change in its constitution. The statement that the Labour Party is ruled by the Trade Unions is delusive. As constituted, it is ruled by a narrow oligarchy of Trade Union leaders, as much out of touch with their rank and file as is the executive of the Labour Party with the Party rank and file. (2) An alliance, on the basis of an exactly defined programme, with the progressive Liberals, I.L.P. and Communist Party, as distinct from a shabby vote-catching agreement between leaders - is a preliminary step towards the only form of Popular Front worth voting for. Apart from a People's Front, what indeed is there to hope for in the political future? And without it, what hope of averting the eventual triumph of reaction by the default of the Labour Party?"
Storm Jameson remained a member of Peace Pledge Union until Adolf Hitler ordered the invasion of France in May 1940. She wrote: "I had joined Dick Shepherd when he started it, in October 1934. Then, I was absolutely certain that war is viler than anything else imaginable... I don't think that now."
Jameson published a second volume of autobiography, Journey from the North in 1969. For many years Jameson was president of the International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists and Novelists (PEN).
After her husband's death on 30th June 1972, Storm Jameson edited A Kind of Survivor (1975), a selection of Chapman's autobiographical writings.
Storm Jameson died in 1986.
The cherished and precious independence of ours - for which we fought, bit policemen (yes, this I did, in Hyde Park, of a fine Saturday afternoon in the year before the Great War), cut off our hair, grew it again, drove omnibuses, entered Parliament, and walked all day in the rain, carrying a change of clothing, with bare knees and untidy hair - must it be marked down to a doubtful bargin?
Margaret Storm Jameson... sense of outrage at the Great War in which so many of her contemporaries , including her brother, had been killed suddenly erupted into overt pacifism while writing memoirs of her early life - "an otherwise polite book that had every chance of pleasing by its polite simplicity", as she later described it. Brooding upon the depressing consequences of the war, she felt an acute sense of guilt at having supported it, and turned her book into an outspoken anti-war polemic.... By the end she had gone so far as to declare herself a pacifist.
She (Storm Jameson) was wearing a heavy coat over a faded pink knitted dress, and a hat which did not suit her, and she smiled at me. She was rather lovely, with long cool grubby fingers, and she held herself badly: she made me think of a well-bred foal, unbroken and enchantingly awkward. Something she said at that first meeting, I forget what, made me laugh with pure pleasure.
A few organized women, such as the members of the Women's International League, are working nobly and continuously. One or two women writers - Miss Storm Jameson, for instance, whose brilliant No Time Like the Present was one of the outstanding books of 1933 - constantly urge upon their readers the waste and futility of war.
In 1932 what lying gaping mouth will say that it was worthwhile to kill my brother in his nineteenth year? You may say that the world's account is balanced by the item that we have still with us a number of elderly patriots, army contractors, women who obscenely presented white feathers. You will forgive me, if as courteously as is possible in the circumstances, I say that a field latrine is more useful to humanity than these leavings.
Her engagement with the pacifist movement, and indeed with PEN itself, was taking her further into Left-wing circles. Amabel Williams-Ellis, who described Jameson as being in the early 1930s "a political mentor of mine" was now enthusiastically fellow-travelling down the Communist road that her brother had already taken. John Strachey, having declined to follow Mosley into the British Union of Fascists in 1932, would soon be joining with Victor Gollancz and Harold Laski, to found the Left Book Club (1936). Working alongside the Communists was, Amabel wrote in her memoirs, a key step towards Left unity, a view shared, she said, by the Webbs and Shaw: "I was one of those who found it possible and necessary to work with the Communists... the failure of the German Left to unite was for me a terrible precedent". She belonged to a group that met in a pub in Fitzrovia and included Edgell Rickword, Ralph Fox, Hugh MacDiarmid, Bert Lloyd, and Tom Wintringham; this group set up the Society for the Defence of Culture and the Revolutionary Writers group, and then founded Left Review, of which Amabel was an editorial board member. For the first number, which appeared in October 1934, she wrote a report on the First Soviet Writers' Congress in Moscow, where she was the only British delegate (she didn't, according to later critics, understand much of what was on the agenda). She was actively involved in setting up the 1935 London Congress of Peace and Friendship with the USSR, and the "awed fellow-writer'"at whom Jameson raised an eyebrow when she approved of Soviet writers being ordered to write in praise of a factory was probably Anabel." The red-haired novelist Sophie Burtt in the internment camp of In the Second Year, viciously beaten by the women guards in a sadistic little scene, is certainly her.
Eyebrow-raising against repression in the USSR was at this stage as much as Jameson was prepared to do. There was far worse going on in the West, and in June 1934, she listened with chill terror to Dorothy Thompson's account of the Night of the Long Knives. A month later, on 7 July, like others on the left, including Aldous Huxley, Vera Brittain, and Dick Sheppard, all like herself future founding members of the Peace Pledge Union, she attended the meeting at Olympia organised by Oswald Mosley.
A young woman carried past me by five Blackshirts, her clothes half torn off and her mouth and nose closed by the large hand of one; her head was forced back by the pressure and she must have been in considerable pain. I mention her especially since I have seen a reference to the delicacy with which women interrupters were left to women Blackshirts. This is merely untrue.... Why train decent young men to indulge in such peculiarly nasty brutality?
The reanimation of the Labour Party - by (1) a change in its constitution. The statement that the Labour Party is ruled by the Trade Unions is delusive. As constituted, it is ruled by a narrow oligarchy of Trade Union leaders, as much out of touch with their rank and file as is the executive of the Labour Party with the Party rank and file. (2) An alliance, on the basis of an exactly defined programme, with the progressive Liberals, I.L.P. and Communist Party, as distinct from a shabby vote-catching agreement between leaders - is a preliminary step towards the only form of Popular Front worth voting for.
Apart from a People's Front, what indeed is there to hope for in the political future? And without it, what hope of averting the eventual triumph of reaction by the default of the Labour Party?
If this country... is got into another Great War I shall take every means in my power to keep my son out of it. I shall tell him that it is nastier and more shameful to volunteer for gas-bombing than to run from it or to volunteer in the other desperate army of protestants. I shall tell him also that war is not worth its cost, nor is victory worth the cost.
The impulse that turned so many of us into pamphleteers and amateur politicians was neither mean nor trivial. The evil we were told to fight off was really evil, the threat to human decency a real threat. I doubt whether any of us believed that books would be burned in England, or eminent English scholars, scientists, writers forced to beg hospitality in some other country. Or that, like Lorca, we would be murdered. Or tortured and then killed in concentration camps. But all these things were happening abroad, and intellectuals who refused to protest were in effect blacklegs.
Germany's invasion of France resolved Jameson's hesitations over her pacifist commitment. Along with many others, including Louis Mumford and Bertrand Russell, she resigned her PPU membership in May. Vera Brittain remained, and later joined the PPU Executive. As British forces were being evacuated from Dunkirk, Ould and Jameson persuaded the London Executive Committee on 31 May 1940 to issue the "Appeal to the Conscience of the World" that Jameson had drafted the previous September. Dated 24 May 1940, and sent out to all Allied countries, it urged respect for the enemy alongside defence of freedom of speech and the free movement of ideas, and told writers "to repeat, if necessary to die repeating that any word, any act, any treaty which debases the dignity and freedom of the common man is evil and to be rejected."Centres in neutral countries were specially adjured to remember their responsibilities. The Macmillan office in New York distributed the appeal throughout America, and it appeared in local and national journals and newspapers from Washington to Tennessee. In The Nation, published in New York, it figured prominently on 27 July 1940 on a page full of letters challenging American isolationism.