Painting depicting Mae, the Queen Of Soho, and a bald customer combing his

West End Girls : Working girls and their maids

Soho 1948. A glamorous West End Girl charms a naive young barmaid into her service. This is the maid's true account of life in the decadent underbelly of postwar London.

On this website, you can read book extracts and explore Barbara's interesting world.

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West End Girls by Barbara Tate

Barbara Tate : 2 June 1927 to 12 November 2009

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Bronze bust of Barbara Tate, artist

Barbara sadly and unexpectedly passed away on Thursday 12 November 2009. Her friend and editor of her upcoming book about her sojourn as a Soho working girl's maid, Richard Gallagher, delivered a fitting eulogy at her funeral service:

"I was asked to say a few words about Barbara and was honoured and pleased to accept even though I only met her a couple of years ago. As one of the people who have been working with her on her memoirs – which for those of you who don’t know is a memoir of her time in Soho in the fifties – I feel I know the young Barbara and the elderly Barbara but, no doubt a lot of you know the adult Barbara I never got to meet apart from through her wonderful paintings.

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Soho and Leicester Square

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Pencil drawing :Eccentric shuffles

In the late 1940's, Barbara visits Soho and Leicester Square for the first time. As a painter, her description of post war Soho is vivid, almost tactile, and tinged with the wonder of a young and innocent girl whose dreams are finally turning into reality. Little did she know what kind of reality . . .

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Barbara's first job in Soho

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Pencil drawing :Not the usual

Before Barbara ventured into Soho for the first time, she worked in a factory that painted all sorts of objects that were all the rage amongst the increasingly optimistic post war working classes. As the business became more successful, her boss's unsolicited and lewd advances became more and more insistent,  finally forcing her to seek her fortune somewhere else. As her curiosity would have it, she decided to look for a job in Soho. And found one, almost immediately . . .

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Rabbits, a fat, cantankerous old maid

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Pencil drawing :Good looking maid

Like many others before and after her, Barbara's first job in Soho was as a barmaid in a basement pub with a dubious but generally well-behaved patronage. One night a couple of women entered the bar, one a gorgeous blonde and the other, her companion, a grotesque character. This meeting were to change Barbara's life for ever. Here is Barbara's description of the fat old women . . .

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A prostitute learns to fight dirty

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Pencil drawing :A quick learner

Barbara learnt very quickly that the Soho underworld does not resemble a refined upper class drawing room. In the two years that she lived in Soho, she witnessed, and was herself subject to violence, intimidation, backstabbing,  petty crime, gangsters and swindlers. Indeed, one particularly funny episode was key to her being employed as Mae the prostitute's maid. This happened while Barbara was still moonlighting as a barmaid in a dingy Soho basement pub. Here, in her own words is a description of how Faye was taught to fight dirty by an all-too obliging geezer in the pub . . .

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