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Eileen O'Shaughnessy

Eileen Maud O'Shaughnessy (September 25, 1905 - March 29, 1945) was the first wife of Arthur Eric Blair (better known as George Orwell).

O'Shaughnessy was born in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, in north east England, the only daughter of Marie O'Shaughnessy and Lawrence O'Shaughnessy, who was a customs collector.

She attended Sunderland Church High School. And in the late 1920s she attended university at Oxford where she attained a degree in psychology.

O'Shaughnessy was also an amateur poet. She met Orwell in 1935 and married him the following year. Soon after their marriage she joined Orwell when he went to fight in the Spanish Civil War, returning the following year after he was wounded by a sniper.

In 1944 Orwell and O'Shaughnessy adopted a son called Richard. Tragically, she died in the spring of 1945 in Newcastle upon Tyne whist undergoing routine surgery.


It is believed by some scholars that Eileen had a large influence on Orwell's writing. Most controversially it is suggested that Orwell's classic novel 1984 may have been influenced by one of O'Shaughnessy's poems, which she wrote in 1934 [1]. Although this theory cannot be proved.

The poem in question was written about the Sunderland Church High School which she had attended, to celebrate it's 50th birthday, and to look ahead 50 years to the school's centenary in 1984.

Although the poem was written before she met Orwell, their are striking similarities between the futuristic vision of O'Shaughnessy's poem and that of Orwells 1984. Including mind control, and personal freedom eradicated by a police state. She is also believed to have helped Orwell write Animal Farm.