Newspapers fund plaque to commemorate first female Fleet Street editor
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Newspapers fund plaque to commemorate first female Fleet Street editor

Rachel Beer was born to the sephardi Sassoon family and is best known for steering The Observer's coverage of the Alfred Dreyfus affair

Rachel Beer (Guardian News & Media Archive)
Rachel Beer (Guardian News & Media Archive)

The final resting place of Fleet Street’s first female editor Rachel Beer has been restored and marked with a marble plaque.

The effort was funded by the newspapers which Beer edited until 1901, The Observer and Sunday Times.

The Times columnist Ann Treneman first discovered Beer’s grave at Tunbridge Wells municipal cemetery while researching a book in 2013 and has since led efforts to honour her achievements.

The grave was restored during the lockdown but Treneman could not visit the cemetery until recently. “I was very pleased to see it especially after the lockdown, and I was able to travel. I am proud to have played a part in something that I think is a permanent marker of respect for her achievements,” she said on Thursday.

Credit: Ann Treneman

The new plaque reads: “Rachel Beer, editor of The Observer and The Sunday Times in the 1890s. The first female editor of a national newspaper.”

The Fleet Street veteran was born in India in 1858 to the sephardi Sassoon family and brought up in England. She converted to Christianity before marrying her Christian husband Frederick Beer, causing a rift with her family, who disapproved of her conversion.

She is best known for steering The Observer’s coverage of the Alfred Dreyfus affair. The Jewish French artillery officer was accused of passing state secrets to the Germans and convicted of treason in 1895, before being later exonerated.

Beer became editor of the Sunday Times after it was purchased by the family in 1893. Her husband also owned The Observer, which she edited during his decline in health.

Sunday Times editor Emma Tucker hailed Beer as “hugely important part of Fleet Street’s history” and said she was pleased the marker “notes her pioneering contribution to journalism.”

The Observer editor Paul Webster said: “The remarkable achievements of Rachel Beer have been fittingly celebrated with the addition of a beautifully designed marker to her restored resting place in Tunbridge Wells. The Observer remains proud of this extraordinary woman’s accomplishments and is grateful that she now has a fitting memorial.”

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