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Ida Cook was born at 37 Croft Avenue, Sunderland. Together with her sister Mary Louise Cook, she rescued Jews from the Nazis during the 1930s. In 1965 the sisters were honoured for their rescue work and named among the 'Righteous Gentiles' in Jerusalem, thus joining Oskar Schindler among others.
After attending the Duchess' School in Alnwick the sisters took civil service jobs in London and developed a passionate interest in opera. They came to know some of the greatest singers of the century – Amelia Galli-Curci, Rosa Ponselle, Tito Gobbi and Maria Callas. They also came to know the Austrian conductor Clemens Krauss, and it was his wife who asked the sisters in 1934 to help a friend to leave Germany. Having accomplished this, the sisters continued the good work, pretending to be eccentric opera fanatics willing to go anywhere to hear a favourite artist. The sisters made repeated trips to Germany, bringing back jewellery and valuables belonging to Jewish families. This enabled Jews to satisfy British requirements as regards financial security – Jews were not allowed to leave Germany with their money. Using many techniques of evasion, including re-labelling furs with London labels, the sisters enabled twenty nine people to escape from almost certain death.
The Cooks' own finances were precarious and Ida left the civil service and became a prolific writer of romantic fiction under the pseudonym Mary Burchell. She became a hugely popular Mills & Boon author and her success guaranteed the sisters an income after the war. Much of this went to refugee relief and other philanthropic causes.
Ida Cook wrote over a hundred romance novels, many of which were translated. She helped to found and was for many years president of the Romantic Novelist's Association. She wrote a memoir ‘We Followed our Stars’ in 1950, ghosted the life of Tito Gobbi and published many articles on musical subjects.
Ida passed away in 1986 and will continue to be remembered by Mills & Boon writers and readers alike, for her significant contribution to the romance writing community.