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Travel writer and trans pioneer Jan Morris dies aged 94

LONDON, Nov 20 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Travel writer and transgender pioneer Jan Morris, who as a journalist broke the 1953 news of Edmund Hillary’s conquest of Everest, has died at the age of 94.

Her son Twm Morys in a statement on Friday said: “This morning at 11.40 at Ysbyty Bryn Beryl, on the Llyn, the author and traveller Jan Morris began her greatest journey. She leaves behind on the shore her life-long partner, Elizabeth.”

Morris, who first published under the name James, switched to Jan after undergoing gender reassignment in 1972 and was the author of more than three dozen books.

She ranked highly among travel writers, with Publishers Weekly once calling her “one of the most admired and imitated travel writers alive”.

Her books include “Manhattan ‘45,” about New York in 1945, “Venice”, the “Pax Britannica” trilogy about the decline of the British Empire, and “Conundrum” about her transition.

Born in Somerset, England, in 1926, Morris and her partner Elizabeth had five children - including the Welsh poet and musician Twm Morys - and had remained together since their 1949 marriage.

In a 2008 interview with Reuters, she said she had been “personally concerned with my own death for ages”.

“About 30 years ago I had our gravestone cut,” Morris said.

“It’s under the stairs at home, it has been there ever since. It’s got my own epitaph, which is ‘Here are two friends - Jan and Elizabeth Morris - at the end of one life.’”

Tributes to her life and work flooded social media on Friday.

“What a life, and what a writer,” said author and journalist Sathnam Sanghera on Twitter.

"Very saddened to hear the news of the passing of Jan Morris. Her beautiful writing touched so many of my worlds. A very special and lovely human being," tweeted Paul Jenkins, chief executive of The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, Britain's leading gender identity clinic. (Reporting by Hugo Greenhalgh @hugo_greenhalgh; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit news.trust.org)

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