Bradford in Blue Plaques: Malachi Whitaker

April 21, 2016 Bradford Civic Society

Bradford in Blue Plaques: Malachi Whitaker

Malachi Whitaker 

Nominated by Valerie Waterhouse, editor and journalist 

“Christened ‘Olive Marjorie Taylor’, Malachi Whitaker was born at 9 (now 25) Clara Road, Wrose, on 23 September 1895 – which is where her blue plaque lives today. 

“The daughter of a bookbinder, Malachi left Belle Vue Girls’ School aged 13 and went on to marry mill worker Leonard Whitaker in 1917. They lived in several different parts of the Bradford district, but eventually settled on Westfield Lane, Idle. It was here that Malachi’s career took off, after sending a story to the prestigious Adelphi magazine. 

“Malachi chose her pen name after going through the Bible three times and finding no indication that the prophet was not a woman. Between 1929 and 1934 she published four volumes of short stories with Jonathan Cape, as well as dozens of stories in literary magazines. Many of her stories were inspired by her early experiences, including ‘Unleashed’, set in her father’s bookbinding workshop, and ‘Old Abraham’, sparked by members of the congregation at Bolton Villas United Reformed Church Sunday School.

“In the 1920s, Leonard and Malachi would move into historic Bolton Old Hall (not far from the Clara Road blue plaque) – which went on to become Malachi’s favourite Bradford home.

“In 1937, she co-wrote a novel, The Autobiography of Ethel Firebrace, with her friend Gay Taylor, and in 1939, she authored a memoir, And So Did I. In 1946 and 1949, two volumes of previously published stories came out. 

“For the final 27 years of her life, Malachi Whitaker published nothing. The reasons have yet to be fully unravelled, but changing tastes after the Second World War and personal circumstances certainly played their part. She spent her time travelling, reading, learning to play different musical instruments, and writing hundreds of letters. She died in Skipton in January 1976, aged 80.”