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 »


Young Emma Harte: [to Gerald, after he has attempted to rape her early in the film] I mean to ruin you... all of you. The entire Fairley family.
See more »


Followed by Hold the Dream (1986) See more »

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User Reviews

loved just about every minute of it
1 February 2001 | by (nj,usa) – See all my reviews

I enjoyed this series from beginning to end. Jenny Seagrove was fantastic as the young Emma Harte. Deborah Kerr was magnificent as the older Emma Harte. It was wonderful seeing her again. Liam Neeson was great as Blackie. This is the story of the fictional Emma Harte, a Yorkshire girl who works her way up from lowly domestic servant to the head of her own mega empire. She outsmarts and outdeals some of the biggest tycoons in the world. She finds love and loses love, but never loses her Yorkshire country values. Unfortunately, she's the mother of a bunch of money hungry, backstabbing children who plot against her. Have no fear, she knows how to outsmart them. I won't reveal the ending. You've got to see it for yourself. It was awesome! The only part of this series that I didn't like was Barry Bostwick's portrayal of Emma's Australian boyfriend, Paul McGill. His accent was virtually non-existant. He should've played a Canadian. He was also a bit whimpy for the part. The role needed someone with more presence and strength. His performance was mediocre at best. I highly recommend this series and it's sequel, Hold The Dream. Rent them. You won't regret it.

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