Charlotte Franken, the daughter of Jewish immigrants, was born in London on 27th April 1894. Her father, Joseph Franken, was a fur dealer from Germany. In 1906 the family moved to Belgium when Franken opened a branch of his business in Antwerp.
Charlotte was planning to attend Bedford College for Women to study languages when her father's business suffered a financial collapse. Instead she enrolled in a shorthand and typing course at a business school in London. This led to work as a secretary at a concert agency.
Charlotte had a strong desire to become a writer and in October 1916 had her story, Retaliation: A Revenge by Hypnotic Suggestion, published in the Bystander magazine. On 30th July 1918, Charlotte married Jack Burghes, and soon afterwards gave birth to a son, Ronnie Burghes.
In 1920 Charlotte began working as a freelance journalist for the Daily Express until being given a full-time post by Lord Beaverbrook. Charlotte contributed several articles on the role of women. A feminist, Charlotte was particularly critical of women politicians such as Nancy Astor and Margaret Winteringham, who she believed had a disappointing record in the House of Commons.
In 1923 Charlotte interviewed Vera Terrington, the Liberal Party candidate for Wycombe. In the article that appeared in the Daily Express Terrington was quoted as saying: "If I am elected to Westminster I intend to wear my best clothes. I shall put on my ospreys and my fur coat and my pearls. Everyone here knows I live in a large house and keep men servants, and can afford a motorcar and a fur coat. Every woman would do the same if she could. It is sheer hypocrisy to pretend in public life that you have no nice things and not to display them in your home."
Terrington took objection to the way the story was presented in the newspaper. She particularly disliked the headline 'Aim If Elected - Furs and Pearls'. The Daily Express was sued by Terrington, who claimed that the article written by Charlotte made her look "vain, frivolous, and an extravagant woman". The judge ruled that Lady Terrington had not suffered "a farthings worth of damage" and she lost her case.
Charlotte also wrote for the political magazine Time and Tide. The journal's owner, Margaret Haig Thomas, had on the death of her father, David Alfred Thomas, attempted to take her seat in the House of Lords as Viscountess Rhondda, but was kept out after extensive legal proceedings. Charlotte joined in her campaign and in the Daily Express wrote that women should be represented in both houses of parliament.
In 1924 Charlotte interviewed the scientist John Haldane and best selling author of Daedalus, Or Science and The Future. They soon became close friends and in October 1925 Charlotte set up the Science News Service, an agency syndicating articles by them on the latest scientific discoveries. These articles appeared in national newspapers and helped to educate people about modern science.
In order to obtain a divorce from her husband, Charlotte arranged with a private detective to spend the night with John Haldane at the Adelphi Hotel in London. On 20th October 1925 Jack Burghes successfully obtained a divorce on the grounds of adultery. The case received national publicity and as a result Haldane was dismissed from Cambridge University for "gross immorality". The couple were married on 11th May 1926.
After her marriage to John Haldane Charlotte continued to write for the Daily Express and the New Statesman. She also wrote books about women's issues such as Motherhood and Its Enemies and the novels Man's World (1926), Brother to Bert (1930), I Bring Not Peace (1932), Youth Is A Crime (1934) and Melusine (1936).
Charlotte was a member of the Labour Party and like her husband was heavily involved in left-wing politics. She was particularly concerned about the emergence of fascism in Germany and Italy. In 1933 she travelled to Spain where she gave her support to the Socialist Party (PSOE) and the Communist Party (PCE) in the struggle with the Falange Española and other extreme right-wing parties.
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Charlotte supported the Popular Front government and was highly critical of the British government's non-intervention policy. Charlotte and her husband both joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and were active in raising men and money for the International Brigades. Her 16 year old son, Ronnie Burghes, also joined. She later wrote: " You cannot have your propaganda and deny to your first, most loyal convert, the right to accept and act upon it. He was only doing what, had I been his age and sex, I would myself have done."
Haldane was involved in organizing the system for the vetting and transportation of the British volunteers from Paris to Spain. She later wrote about these volunteers: "The vast majority were men of splendid types, honest and brave, who in greater or lesser degree were conscious of being engaged in a crusade to rescue democracy from the grip of Fascism. They were not all Communists nor members of their respective parties, although the leadership was always entrusted to Party members, most of whom set a high example in discipline and devotion to the rest. To them, and to all the poorly paid workers in the organisation, the material reward was trivial."
In May 1937 Haldane joined with Duchess of Atholl, Eleanor Rathbone, Ellen Wilkinson and J. B. Priestley to establish the Dependents Aid Committee, an organization which raised money for the families of men who were members of the British Battalion in Spain.
Ronnie Haldane was badly injured at Jarama and in August 1937 was forced to return to England. Later that year Charlotte visited Spain with Paul Robeson and Eslanda Goode and reported on the war for the Daily Worker.
After attending the World Congress Against Fascism in France in May 1938, Haldane was sent by the Daily Herald to report on the Communist International being held in China. In February 1939 Haldane was appointed editor of Woman Today, a journal for left-wing feminists. She also established the Women's Committee for Peace and Democracy.
On the outbreak of the Second World War Charlotte attempted to become a front-line war reporter. At that time there were no women war correspondents in Britain and she was turned down by the Daily Herald and the Daily Express. In August 1941 the Daily Sketch decided to employ her as a war reporter in the Soviet Union. Charlotte was shocked at the level of censorship taking place under Joseph Stalin. For example, Haldane discovered that the Russian people had not been told that England was being bombed by the Luftwaffe.
Disillusioned by events in the Soviet Union, Charlotte left the Communist Party of Great Britain when she returned to London in November 1941. She later wrote that membership of the party and affected her journalism: "I had lied, cheated, acted under false pretenses, obeyed and carried out orders from on high, denied all my inner ethical tenets and spiritual codes for the good of the cause, convincing myself that the end justified the means." Charlotte wrote about her experiences in the USSR in her book Russian Newsreel (1941).
In 1942 Charlotte joined George Orwell at the Eastern Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) and recorded eight programes about Russia and China. She also contributed articles for the Daily Herald, the Evening Standard and the Tribune.
During the Second World War Charlotte wrote a play, Justice Is Deaf. Set in the near future, the story involves a Communist takeover of Britain. The BBC refused to broadcast it for political reasons during the war as it was considered to be anti-Soviet. When it eventually appeared in 1950 it was condemned by the Daily Worker. The newspaper reported that "most Communists listened to the play with roars of laughter, but it is not a laughing matter, because, crude though this stuff seems to us, there are thousands whom the newspapers have already taught to believe that Soviet justice is like this."
John Haldane obtained a divorce from his wife in November 1945. He remained a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain but Charlotte continued to attack the rule of Joseph Stalin. In an article for the Sunday Times (27th April 1952) she argued that Stalinism was a modern form of Russian imperialism and that the Soviet Union was "a State tyranny which recognises no religion or moral sanctions and stifled every vestige of free personal activity and expression."
Haldane published her autobiography, Truth Will Out, in 1949. Other books by Haldane included Marcel Proust (1951), The Gallyslaves of Love (1957), Mozart (1960), Daughter of Paris (1961), The Last Great Empress of China (1965) and Queen of Hearts: Marguerite of Valois (1968).
Charlotte Haldane died of pneumonia on 16th March, 1969.