A Woman of Substance charts the life of Emma Harte, from kitchen maid at the beginning of the 20th Century, to respected business woman and Grandmother in the 1980's. From humble beginnings... See full summary »
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Nominated for 2 Primetime Emmys. See more awards »



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Series cast summary:
 Young Emma Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
 Major Paul McGill (3 episodes, 1985)
 Emma Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
 Laura O'Neill (3 episodes, 1985)
 Edwin Fairley (3 episodes, 1985)
 Joe Lowther (3 episodes, 1985)
 Adam Fairley (3 episodes, 1985)
Mick Ford ...
 Frank Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
Christopher Gable ...
 Arthur Ainsley (3 episodes, 1985)
Christopher Guard ...
 Gerald Fairley (3 episodes, 1985)
 Winston Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
Del Henney ...
 Jack Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
 Olivia Wainwright (3 episodes, 1985)
 Murgatroyd (3 episodes, 1985)
 Blackie O'Neill (3 episodes, 1985)
 Adele Fairley (3 episodes, 1985)
 Paula McGill Amory (3 episodes, 1985)
Joris Stuyck ...
 David Kallinski (3 episodes, 1985)
 Elizabeth Harte (3 episodes, 1985)
 Bruce McGill (3 episodes, 1985)
Megs Jenkins ...
 Mrs. Turner (3 episodes, 1985)
Harry Landis ...
 Abraham Kallinski (3 episodes, 1985)
 Henry Rossiter (3 episodes, 1985)


A Woman of Substance charts the life of Emma Harte, from kitchen maid at the beginning of the 20th Century, to respected business woman and Grandmother in the 1980's. From humble beginnings Emma Harte starts her business with a small shop, but over the next twenty years she expands her stores and invests in the growing textile industry in Leeds. By the time of World War 2, Emma is the head of a major retail and manufacturing empire, but she has struggled all her life to find love. After an illegitimate daughter and two marriages, she finally meets the love of her life, Paul McGill, but their affair is cut short by a tragic accident, leaving Emma with his daughter. In the 1980's Emma faces one of her biggest tests - her childrens attempt to remove her as head of her company, but Emma is far from the senile old woman they think she is - she is determined to stop them at all costs. Written by Stacey Mitchell

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | Romance


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Release Date:

25 November 1984 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Des Lebens bittere Süße  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


(5 episodes) | (DVD)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


As of 2010, 25 years after it was first screened, this is still the highest ever rated programme on Channel 4 in the UK - peaking at 13.84 million viewers on the third night - 4th January 1985. See more »


The transatlantic liner Queen Elizabeth on which Paul McGill says he is booked to go to the USA in 1939 was not completed until 1940 and did not enter commercial service until after WW2, about 1946. He may have meant the Queen Mary. See more »


Gerald Fairley: [late in the film, after Emma has purchased everything the Fairleys once owned] How can you cold-bloodedly set out to ruin someone?
Young Emma Harte: That was my plan, but you did it yourself, really. I just helped you along the way.
See more »


Followed by Hold the Dream (1986) See more »

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User Reviews

Girl power rules
11 January 2012 | by (Netherlands) – See all my reviews

A Woman of Substance is an entertaining, typically British mini series, which tells the story of a young woman empowering herself through hard work and hatred against a high class family that have always been indifferent and bossy to her and her poor relatives. She rapidly grows into a powerful business woman who ruins the hated family to the very last crumb.

A biography must always find a fine line: how 'old' can the actors grow and when to substitute characters with new players? They've done a marvelous job with 'Blackie' Neeson; he really looks like an old man at the end of the series, although his mannerisms completely oppose his former, playful self. And it must be added: gluing a beard and silvering his hair makes the job a lot easier.

Miss Seagrove didn't make it into old age, she got replaced by (a first-rate) Deborah Kerr. In the main story Emmy ages some 40 years, but in her fifties she still looks like the teenage lass from the beginning of the story. Here, old-fashioned haircuts and clothes don't help; Seagrove just has too youthful a face The acting is of a reasonable level. Seagrove does a fine job, with the exception of some cheesy moments and the instances where she talks to her young children

  • as if she doesn't know how to talk to kids. Although this could also

have been the director's fault. All in all, Seagrove is believable in her role, and she has one of the sweetest smiles I've ever seen...

The other dozen or so actors are okay but forgettable, except for two of them: Blackie, the happy-go-lucky everybody's friend and Gerald Fairley, Mr. Evil Impersonated; overacting has never been so effective!

3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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