Joanna Cannan


Joanna Cannan by Howard Coster 1940 © NPG

Joanna Cannan (1896-1961), was the youngest daughter of a distinguished Oxford don and inherited Scottish grit and determination from her mother. Often left to themselves‚ ‘playing out romantic dramas based on favourite books’ (DNB), the Cannan girls grew up to be self-reliant and bookish: May (Wedderburn Cannan) was a well-known First World War poet. Joanna hoped to go to the Slade but in 1918 married Captain Harold Pullein-Thompson and moved to Wimbledon. From 1922 onwards she became the joint family breadwinner, publishing a book a year until she died. In the 1930s the Pullein-Thompsons bought a house near Henley for their four children and numerous animals. Here Joanna wrote 300 words every morning in the sitting-room (emerging to find lunch cooked): novels, including Princes in the Land (1938), detective novels and the first pony book, a genre which her daughters Josephine, Diana and Christine were to make very much their own.

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