Shirley Conran (1932 – 2024)

“Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom.”

~ Shirley Conran

Author Shirley Conran died this week, at the age of 91.  Her husband of seven years was household name Terence Conran, and her two sons Jasper and Sebastian are successful designers.  She emancipated herself, and sought to help other women to do so.

Birth Chart

Shirley had the Sun in Virgo, intensified by a conjunction with its ruler Mercury.  She was a female warrior, with Mars sextile to her Sun.  But one of her greatest assets, astrologically, was a practical exact Grand Trine in the Earth element, composed of the Sun, Chiron and Saturn.  This was one of the keys of her brilliance.  She had an exact conjunction of Jupiter and Neptune in Virgo which contributed to her self-belief, but it was square to her Moon, so subject to fluctuations of mood.  With it would have been a sensitivity to ideals about female lives.  Mercury in her chart was sextile Pluto, so she was not a shallow thinker, despite some of her flippant remarks, which were possibly humorous life hacks.  Mercury conjunct her South Node points to a tendency in past lives to be a teacher and communicator.  Venus conjunct her Ascendant (from her 12th House) was very evident in her life: she was a model, and trained in painting and sculpture, Venusian occupations. Mars conjunct Pluto made her a powerhouse of energy (a “Superwoman” as in the title of her first book), although she fell prey to M.E. (which is often found with high achievers who may have adrenal or perhaps other forms of burn-out).  Saturn squaring Uranus shows personal earthquakes, and she did have a rollercoaster of a life in many ways.  But crises seem to have led to solutions. And Pluto with Saturn and Uranus formed a T-square, which may have triggered these crises during transits to these points.  She was a Rebel (Uranus trine her Ascendant) and liked excitement (Uranus conjunct Part of Fortune).

Life and Career

When Terence Conran died in 2020, I only wrote a few words about her:

“Shirley Conran was Terence’s second wife (of four), and achieved fame with her best-selling book “Superwoman” which I dutifully read in 1975!  It was packed with information about short-cuts to housework and the domestic arts.”

So I can’t rest on my laurels!  Her life and character merit so much more.

She was born in Hendon.  She was kicked out of home by an alcoholic father at 19 and left school, then found herself in a finishing school in Switzerland (a country associated with the sign of Virgo).

She married Terence Conran in 1955, meeting him when she waitressed at his coffee bar.  Their synastry included a lively debating sextile between his Mercury and her Mars; and a karmic sextile between his Saturn and her North Node.  But his Pluto position exactly reinforced her own exact square between Uranus and Pluto, a deep desire for change.  Some marriages are just about the children, and maybe this was one of them, for she left him in 1962.

She said, many years later, “Terence and I had a lot of fun together but, apart from the infidelities, life became just criticise, criticise, criticise from morning to midnight. It was very wearing.”

In the seven years they were together, they had Jasper and Sebastian.  Towards the end of their marriage, she would have had her first Saturn Return (in Capricorn, in her 6th House of Health and Working Conditions) which may have intensified the strain.  In the year she left, she will have been galvanised by Pluto on her Jupiter/ Neptune in her 1st House in Virgo.

In order to finance her new life as a single mother, she turned to journalism, though in the first two years the boys were looked after by her mother.  She became women’s editor of the Daily Mail in 1968, and launched the “Femail” section.

In 1970 her financial woes deepened when she fell prey to M.E. as mentioned previously.  Her transits that year included a debilitating opposition of transiting Neptune to her natal Chiron.  But this led to her writing self-help books.

Her profile increased in 1975 with the publication of her book Superwoman.  Although I read Superwoman, and was amused at the time by her time-saving tips for housewives, I must confess I did not read any of her novels, which yielded more financial success.  These started with “Lace” in 1982, her 50th year, part of the Chiron Return (in her 10th House) of Self-Healing.  Rachel Cooke, writing in the Observer today, praises this book, referring to it as one of her favourite books on friendship.  With her boys now studying design, Shirley finally found the financial freedom she craved to fulfil the lifestyle she wanted.  The late career as a novelist satisfies her Moon in Gemini in 10th House.

Terence Conran

I wrote in 2020:

“With 6 (over half his planets) in the Cardinal signs, he was quite definitely a leader. He certainly led the way in transforming our homes after the war, from traditional furnishing to a more modern look.  In his career, he was always a step ahead, finding new avenues for his talents, such as establishing restaurants.  His Sun was in Libra conjunct his ruler Venus, the sign you would expect to find in an interior designer.”

In 1964 he opened his  famous homeware and furniture shop Habitat, on the Fulham Road in Chelsea.  He had four marriages altogether, five children, thirteen grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

In his astro-obituary, I also wrote:

“On a personal note, we have a monument to Terence Conran in our own home.  In 1975, in setting up our first home, we bought a pine dining table from Habitat.  I know, they’re not fashionable now!  It wasn’t elegant; it was chunky and solid, but one of the best and most enduring purchases of our married life!  It is still going strong, 45 years later.” [now, as of 2024, 49 years later]

Jasper Conran

Jasper’s parents divorced when he was two years old.  Shirley’s 5th House of children is ruled by Jupiter, with Sagittarius being on the cusp, and Jasper is a Sagittarian.  But he and Sebastian take after Terence in being designers, and Jasper has a Libran Ascendant.  Although Shirley has the artistic nature of Venus conjunct the Ascendant, Libra which is also ruled by Venus, is specifically about design, as an air sign.  Jasper and Shirley were estranged for more than 10 years, after she made a tactless remark about his lifestyle (he is gay), but were reunited for his wedding in 2015, with a healing sextile from Jupiter to her natal Pluto (a long standing psychological issue).  Interestingly, his birthchart reveals the possibility of such an estrangement, in his natal square between the Moon (mother) and Uranus (estrangement).  Jasper is more well-known for fashion design, having design for the rich and famous, including Lady Diana.


Sebastian, the other designer in this family unit, is an Aries, and like his brother has been involved in his father’s business.  He started out working as a roadie for the punk band The Clash, designing clothes,  and promotional material. But Sebastian is more well known for industrial design.  He has described his father as “a very charismatic, very driven person” and though he worked for him for several years, he needed to break away to nurture his own talent.  The brothers have good, entrepreneurial connections in their charts, such as Sebastian’s Uranus trine Jasper’s Mercury, and Sebastian’s Mercury trine Jasper’s Jupiter, and Sebastian’s Jupiter conjunct Jasper’s Uranus.


You will have noticed a monetary theme running through her life choices.  Her Sun and Mercury were in Virgo in her 2nd House of Finance.  So when she got to grips with the detail of managing her money, her fortunes changed.

“I became fastidious about checking every penny I spent. I scoured every receipt for mistakes and kept a list of any money I got back from being overcharged, say, for a pub meal or a lipstick. The list was on a pink piece of paper pinned to the back of my basement flat front door.” she explained.

She became an advocate for women’s financial freedom from men, and set up charities such as the Work-Life balance Trust (2001) and the educational non-profit Maths Action (2009). In Liz Truss’s resignation honours list she was made a DBE for services to mathematics education as the founder of the Maths Anxiety Trust.

I hope I have done justice to her life and character – she definitely played her part in the emancipation of women dating back at least to the time that Germaine Greer published “The Female Eunuch” (1970).

“One of the funniest, sharpest people you could ever meet”

~ Rachel Cooke


Tomorrow (Monday 13th) begins with a conjunction between the Sun and Uranus at 23 degrees Taurus.  It’s a day when expectations can be overthrown!  It is a good day to demonstrate your originality and inventiveness, and in your leisure time begin a project which is highly creative or benefits society.   If you are operating from your Intuition, you could have a very successful day, but if you are lagging behind backfootedly, you may have a struggle to keep up.  Some tuning in early on may help with this.

In the evening, Venus sextiles Saturn, which is a constructive aspect, a re-affirmation of where you are going, especially in terms of relationship, or art.  In the realm of human relations, it is about steadiness and loyalty: cementing commitment.

Wednesday (15th) sees Mercury’s entry into Taurus, and the quality of the mental energy may become steadier and calmer than the fieriness of Mercury in Aries.  This placing is better for negotiation, which is something much needed at the moment in this climate of war, with a ceasefire in the Middle East still eluding us.  It stays in this sign until 3rd June,  Practical ideas will be the order of the day.  This could be a productive day and period, mentally.

Breakfast-time on Friday (17th) could be more stressful mentally, however, as Mercury makes a square to Pluto.  It is a square which requires you, among other things, to rise above negative thinking, or to get to the root of it.  There may be a setback or a reversal (even if a fragile ceasefire was under way), so make sure your actions in the morning are solid if you have a conflict to resolve in your own life.  Perhaps there is a twist in the plot.  You may encounter awkward communications or travel.  You may need extra ‘me time’ in order to separate yourself from worried pronouncements about the state of the world.  If you do engage in chatter, choose a worthwhile subject.

Brighter prospects for the end of the week, for late morning on Saturday (18th) Venus conjuncts Uranus at 23 degs Taurus, the same degree as Monday’s conjunction, so there may be a resonance between events at the beginning and end of the week, both centring on the principle of surprise (Uranus).  If  you are socializing, it could be an enjoyable occasion, culminating in some startling exchanges and exciting meetings.  It is a vibrant social aspect, which may carry an element of serendipity.  People may question your sanity, however, or you theirs.

And – can we say all’s well that ends well?  Saturday evening rounds off with one of the best aspects of the year, the Sun conjunct Jupiter, which occurs at 28 degrees Taurus (not far off the Pleiades, if you are tuned in to them).  Where there has been dejection, it is time to let in hope, or even celebration.  It will certainly be lucky for some.  Focus on what makes you happy, and make more of that.

The week in bullet points:

  • Tomorrow – surprise; followed by loyalty
  • Wednesday – practical negotiation
  • Friday – mental conundrums to deal with
  • Saturday – social excitement; and pure luck