Marie Joseph was brought up in a family so filled with stoicism, that they would have made the Spartans seem like a bunch of raving hypochondriacs. My aunt had high blood-pressure, chronic bronchitis, and a heart that didn't beat as it should; but she would get up at 7 o'clock every morning and cook our breakfast, coughing herself purple over the gas-stove, and sending me, and her own daughter Muriel, off to school with sore throats, pains in our legs - which she always dismissed as 'growing-pains' - our necks bared to the cold Lancashire winds, because she said scarves over-heated the body.
This is the opening paragraph of Marie Joseph's autobiography, One Day at a Time. Marie was born on May 21st 1920 in Blackburn Infirmary. Her mother Maria Maize Downs, formerly McTrusty was from Maryport in Cumbria and of Irish origin. She married Walter Collis on June 27th 1914, a former policeman, he was called up as a reservist at the outbreak of war and was posted missing, presumed dead, in September 1914. In 1918 Marie married Harold H Downs from Hull. She lived at 169 Whalley Range. She died in the Infirmary giving birth to Marie at the age of 32.
Marie went first to live with her Grandmother Elizabeth, who had married the family's lodger Cornelius Macshane. At the age of seven, when her Grandmother died, Marie went to Ribble Street to live with her aunt Elizabeth Gertrude, who had married Fred Wilson. She went to school at St John's and won a scholarship to the High School. She became a class representative and excelled at English and Drama. She passed her school certificate in 1936, but was unable to contemplate higher education, joining the Civil Service instead and working as a clerical officer for Post Office Telephones at Griffin Lodge in Blackburn.
In 1942 Marie married Frank Joseph. Frank was a navigator in the RAF and away for many years during the war. Their first daughter was born in 1945. Shortly afterwards Marie developed rheumatoid arthritis and had to have many operations, including three knee replacements. After the war the family moved from Cherry Tree to Stanmore in Middlesex. They had two daughters Marilyn and Catherine. It was in 1960 at the age of 40 that Marie had her first story published in The Lady. Hundreds of stories followed ,and in 1975 her first novel, The Guilty Party was published.
It was Marie's account of her struggle with arthritis, One Day at a Time, which brought her fame. It was serialised on BBC Radio's Woman's Hour and translated into many languages. Marie published a further 13 novels. She made the best seller lists with all her last six novels. Seven of her books were shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists' Association Award and she finally won it with A Better World Than This. Marie drew on her Lancashire background for her books and was acclaimed as the 'new Catherine Cookson.'
Despite her illness Marie wrote three hours every day and did detailed research into the historical background of her novels. Her writing career ended after the death of her eldest grand-child Alison in 1988. In 1996 Marie suffered a stroke and died at her home later that year.
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