Scope and Contents
The papers listed here include a miscellany of personal and biographical records, papers from Elsa's time at Girton College, and the manuscripts of four of her plays.
Biographical / Historical
Elsa Care Barker was born in London on 19 June 1905, the daughter of Frederick Charles Barker, originally from Caerphilly, composer and conductor, and Lydia Care, also a musician, who was leading contralto at the Carl Rosa Opera Company in the 1890s. Elsa’s play about a ballerina who gave up ballet to look after her family was inspired by her mother, who had similarly given up her opera career.
Educated in Highgate Hill (where she wore, from the age of five, a 'Votes for Women' button) and at the North London Collegiate School for Girls, Elsa came to Girton with an exhibition to read Modern Languages (French and German) in 1924. She gained a first in Parts I and II of the Tripos in 1926 and 1927 respectively. She returned to Girton as a College Supervisor in German, 1932-35.
In 1926 Elsa Barker married Jalal Din Malik from Lahore. They met in Cambridge: he studied at Trinity College, taking his BA in 1929. She was encouraged by him to read law and she was called to the Bar circa 1934. Early in the Second World War, in 1940, she became Senior Enforcement Officer at the Ministry of Food and remained there until 1952.
Elsa Malik's main ambition was to be a successful playwright. She wrote a number of plays, the first of which was accepted for London production and was also produced by the Festival Theatre in Cambridge in the 1930s but was banned by the Lord Chamberlain. It was later produced by the Arts Theatre Club. She wrote several more plays (eight in total?): one was performed at Q Theatre, Kew, circa 1954, and another at the Intimate Theatre, High Wycombe, circa 1957. She felt that the theatre was male-dominated and biased against women. Though philosophical on the subject, she submitted some of her later plays under pen names (Elliot Brookes and A F C Auster).
Elsa Malik also taught at the City of London School for Girls, circa 1955 - 1956. She learned to fly at the age of 55 and gained a pilot's licence circa 1960.
Elsa Malik died on June 1st 2005, just short of her 100th birthday. [Biographical details drawn from the Girton Register, from Omar Malik's biography of E M at GCAS 2/6/2/3/8, and from his obituary of Elsa in the Girton Review 2005.]
[The following information concerning Elsa Malik’s addresses in north London, provided by her son Omar Malik in April 2014 and July 2017, has been used in attempting to date the plays. 66 Highgate Hill was Elsa’s mother’s house: Elsa grew up there and it was her main address before she married, and at intervals thereafter. 59 Moreland Court was Elsa’s married home for a period within the years 1927-38 (probably early-mid 1930s). 60 Highgate Hill was the family home 1946-71, bought after Elsa’s husband came out of the RAF at the end of the war.]