British novelist and activist Erin Pizzey is famous for starting the first ever women’s refuge in the modern world. And she describes herself jokingly as “hopelessly dyslexic“!


She was born in China where her family were British diplomats. In World War II they were captured by the Japanese but released into safety. They proceeded to spend the next decade moving to far corners of the world.

Pizzey was in and out of schools a lot due to her behaviour. She had an at-times violent home life, and at school her reading difficulties were often punished by teachers who thought was was being lazy or dumb. She in turn acted out – once putting a wasp’s nest in a particularly mean teacher’s desk! – and was expelled from a few international schools. The 1950s were a different time, and children often received no help when they struggled.

When she returned to London as an adult, she turned to her lifelong pioneering charity work of helping battered women and children. She set up the first women’s refuge in 1971, and proceeded to spend much of her life supporting these vulnerable women and children around the world.

She found a passion for writing novels in later life, and is still writing today. She claims that “spell check saves my life”!

Sarah Forrest is a Literacy Specialist for the Easyread System, an online program for children with dyslexia, reading difficulties, auditory processing issues and more. Get a free 10-day trial at