Jack Monroe (born 17 March 1988) is a British food writer, journalist and activist known for campaigning on poverty issues, particularly hunger relief. Monroe has published a blog and several books of "austerity recipes", and has campaigned alongside various British charity organisations. Monroe initially rose to prominence for writing a blog titled A Girl Called Jack (now renamed Cooking on a Bootstrap), and has since written for publications such as The Echo, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, and The New Yorker. Monroe identifies as non-binary.
17 March 1988|
Southend-on-Sea, United Kingdom
Early life and career
Monroe was born in Southend-on-Sea to David Hadjicostas, MBE, and Evelyn (née Beatty) Hadjicostas, a former nurse. Monroe's father is of Greek-Cypriot heritage; he was in the British Army for seven years and in the fire service for thirty years. He was awarded an MBE in 2007 Birthday Honours for services to children and families. Monroe has three siblings.
Described as coming from a working-class background, Monroe passed the 11-plus examinations and attended Westcliff High School for Girls, a grammar school in Westcliff-on-Sea, before leaving at age 16, "bullied and disillusioned", with insufficient GCSEs to progress to A-level (either 4 and a half or 7, according to different sources).
Monroe left home and began working in a chip shop, before going to work as a call handler for Essex County Fire and Rescue Service. After having a child, Monroe was unable to arrange the work around childcare responsibilities, and was unable to negotiate adjustments to their working pattern to make continued employment feasible. Monroe resigned the post after serving between 2007 and 2011. It was at this point that Monroe chose to use Jack as a forename – "Jack" being short for "Jack of all trades", their nickname.
Monroe came to prominence in the media through writing the blog A Girl Called Jack, sharing cheap recipes created as a single parent with a young child, and aiming to provide family meals for less than £10 per week. In December 2015, the blog was renamed to Cooking on a Bootstrap.
In 2012, Monroe became a weekly columnist for The Echo, a south Essex daily newspaper, and in February 2013, was taken on by the same as a trainee reporter – the timing was fortunate, as they were having difficulty affording nursery fees. Monroe was later retained as an unpaid columnist for The Huffington Post, before signing a publishing deal with Penguin Group. The book deal, reported as worth £25,000, resulted in housing benefit being cut off and Monroe came close to being evicted, which led to moving into cheaper accommodation. Despite working every day, they were unable to make ends meet. By January 2014, finances had improved, and Monroe was able to move into a small two-bedroom flat with their son.
Monroe formerly wrote a twice-monthly food and recipe column for The Guardian and additionally contributed a number of political columns, as well as being featured in The New York Times and The New Yorker. Monroe has written several budget cooking recipe books.
In 2013, Monroe appeared in a six-week advertising campaign for Sainsbury's supermarket. Monroe accepted the equivalent of the living wage for the six weeks that the campaign ran and donated the remainder of the fee to charities including a food bank.
Speaking in 2014, Monroe described life as having "changed beyond recognition", but said that they are still affected by their experience of poverty. The University of Essex announced in May 2015 that it would be awarding Monroe an honorary degree. Monroe appeared on BBC television's late night political programme This Week in June 2015.
In 2015, Monroe won the Women of the Future Award in the media category. Monroe was "surprised", saying "I'm not sure I'll even be a woman in the future". The award was won after Monroe came out as non-binary, which created some controversy. The subsequent "gender debate" angered Monroe and they questioned the headlines of some newspapers, saying "Because of my trans identity, I'm attacked for accepting a real woman's award."
Campaigning and politics
Monroe has been an active campaigner for a number of causes in the UK, particularly those concerned with poverty and hunger, campaigning alongside organisations such as Unite, The Trussell Trust, Child Poverty Action Group and Oxfam.
Monroe was a supporter of the Labour Party, and appeared in a Labour campaign video in October 2013. They left the party in March 2015 after disagreeing with its rhetoric on immigration, and became a member of the Green Party of England and Wales.
In November 2014, Monroe said on Twitter that David Cameron "uses stories about his dead son as misty-eyed rhetoric to legitimise selling our NHS to his friends". The Daily Mail journalist Sarah Vine (wife of the senior Conservative politician Michael Gove) criticised Monroe for using the death of Cameron's son for political purposes and "choosing" a life of poverty. The Independent described this as a "caustic attack", and Monroe replied on Twitter that the column was "homophobic, transphobic, deadnaming [and] ignorant".
In the 2017 United Kingdom general election, Monroe intended to stand in Southend West as a candidate for the National Health Action Party, but withdrew after receiving death threats and because of health problems caused by arthritis.
Monroe, who was assigned female at birth, is non-binary, and has spoken of beginning to identify as trans from an early age. Monroe kept their birthname while working at the fire service, concerned over "the potential for deadnaming and bullying in a not-particularly-tolerant organisation. Not a great place to be gay, let alone genderqueer." They also did not take part in a fire service passing out ceremony because protocol would have required them (then living as a woman) to wear a skirt. During this period, Monroe also had a brief relationship with a close male friend, which resulted in a son.
On leaving the fire service, Monroe adopted the forename "Jack". They began identifying to friends and family as a lesbian, and began a long-term relationship with a woman, which ended shortly after Monroe told their partner they were considering a mastectomy. Monroe was still careful at this point to downplay any suggestions of gender ambiguity, and in an interview in February 2014 described themselves as a "lefty, liberal, lezzer cook" who had reassured their parents that they identified as female. "I was like, no, I'm a little bit tomboyish, a little bit butch. But I have no immediate plans to transition." Monroe publicly came out as non-binary in October 2015.
In 2013, Monroe was ranked No. 19 in The Independent on Sunday's Pink List of influential LGBT people in the United Kingdom. In 2014, it was reported that Monroe and their son were living with Monroe's then-girlfriend Allegra McEvedy and McEvedy's daughter in London; the relationship ended in October 2015.
In 2017, Monroe won a libel case against newspaper columnist and television personality Katie Hopkins, after Hopkins suggested on Twitter that Monroe was supportive of vandalism of a war memorial, having confused Monroe with journalist Laurie Penny. Instead of apologising, Hopkins then labelled Monroe "social anthrax". The High Court awarded Monroe £24,000 in damages plus costs.
- Monroe, Jack (7 May 2014). "About Jack". Cooking on a Bootstrap.
- Monroe, Jack. "THIS IS WHAT MY LOCAL CHURCH ARE DOING ON MY BIRTHDAY I'M GONNA GO AND I DON'T EVEN HAVE A CAT". Twitter. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
- Jack Monroe (20 October 2015). "Being non-binary: I'm not A Girl Called Jack any more, but I'm not a boy either". New Statesman.
- Olivia Blair (19 January 2016). "Jack Monroe sues Katie Hopkins for vandalism accusation tweet". The Independent.
- "The safeguarding blog: ESAB Introducing...David Hadjicostas MBE – Essex County Fire & Rescue Service". essexsafeguarding.blogspot.co.uk. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
- "Death threats, sexism and online abuse...three Essex women tell us of the downside to overnight success on TV". The Echo. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
- "No. 58358". The London Gazette. 16 June 2007. p. 17.
- Joanna Moorhead. "The toughest love". the Guardian.
- Patrick Butler. "Jack Monroe: the face of modern poverty". the Guardian.
- "My 49p lunch with a girl called Jack". The Daily Telegraph. 4 March 2013.
- Monroe, Jack. "Please don't call me A Girl Called Jack. I have something to tell you". COOKING ON A BOOTSTRAP. 22 October 2015. Retrieved 23 October 2015.
- "Dear Richard Littlejohn – here are all the things you got wrong about me". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
- Fisher, Lucy. "Jack Monroe enjoys the taste of success but she won't let it go to her head". The Guardian. Retrieved 27 July 2015.
- Monroe, Jack (23 August 2012). "Unemployed Mum Sells Off Belongings – Essex Enquirer". A Girl Called Jack. Archived from the original on 2 February 2013. Retrieved 22 July 2013 – via Wayback Machine.
- Monroe, Jack (20 July 2013). "How to eat on £10 a week: the shopping list and the recipes". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
- "Jack is Essex girl at her best". The Echo. 1 November 2012. Part 1, Part 2.
- Owen, Pamela (19 May 2013). "Mum who fed son on £10 a week lands book deal for her breadline recipes". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
- Monroe, Jack. "Austerity bites". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 May 2014.
- Monroe, Jack. "Five recipes from Jack Monroe's new cookbook". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
- "Jack Monroe". The Guardian. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
- Smithers, Rebecca (15 December 2013). "Jack Monroe to front Sainsbury's ad campaign". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
- Monroe, Jack (17 December 2013). "Why doing a Sainsbury's advert doesn't make me a sellout". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 March 2017.
- "Honorary Graduands Announced". University of Essex. 12 May 2015. Retrieved 12 May 2015.
- Nelson, Sara C (26 June 2015). "Jack Monroe Clashes With Michael Portillo Over Child Poverty Amid 'Up The Duff' Benefits Row". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
- "Jack Monroe Wins Woman Of The Future Award After Coming Out As Transgender". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
- "We're all a bit non-binary inside. So why do we segregate by gender?". The Guardian. 29 October 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
- "Jack Monroe on coming out as transgender: 'I will always be on the girls' team'". The Standard. 9 November 2015. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
- "Child Poverty Action Group Ambassadors – Jack Monroe". CPAG.
- "Oxfam Policy and Practice Blog – Jack Monroe". Oxfam.
- Perraudin, Frances (17 March 2015). "Jack Monroe joins Green party". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- Roisin, O'Connor (18 March 2015). "Labour supporter Jack Monroe switches allegiance to Green Party". The Independent. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "Reaction to Jack Monroe Demonstrates How Women's Political Views are Still Dismissed". The Huffington Post. Retrieved 25 April 2015.
- Selby, Jenn (24 November 2014). "Jack Monroe: David Cameron 'uses stories about his dead son as misty-eyed rhetoric' to legitimise NHS privatisation". Retrieved 16 March 2017.
- "Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'". The Independent. London. 25 November 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
- Jack Monroe: Give half your votes to equality on 5 May – WE think that's fair #VoteWE (Video). Women's Equality Channel. 27 April 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016 – via YouTube.
- "Katie Hopkins libel-win blogger Jack Monroe to stand in Southend". BBC News. 21 April 2017. Retrieved 22 April 2017.
- "Jack Monroe abandons bid to become an MP". The Guardian. Press Association. 11 May 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
- Monroe, Jack (20 October 2015). "Being non-binary: I'm not A Girl Called Jack any more, but I'm not a boy either". New Statesman. Retrieved 31 October 2015.
- "Jack Monroe". 8 steps from shore.
- "The Independent on Sunday's Pink List 2013". The Independent on Sunday. 13 October 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- Lamont, Tom (19 October 2014). "OFM awards 2014 best food blog: Jack Monroe". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 November 2014.
- Judgment: Monroe -v- Hopkins, HM Courts and Tribunal Service 2017.
- Kennedy, Maev (10 March 2017). "Jack Monroe wins Twitter libel case against Katie Hopkins". The Guardian.
- "Writer Jack Monroe wins £24k damages from columnist Katie Hopkins over 'war memorial' tweets". The Daily Telegraph. 10 March 2017.
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