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‘I wasn’t a tart’: First female founder of escort agency tells all in autobiography

PUBLISHED: 11:45 06 March 2015

Joan Ball has published an autobiography detailing her extraordinary career in match-making, despite being unable to read or write. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Joan Ball has published an autobiography detailing her extraordinary career in match-making, despite being unable to read or write. Picture: Nigel Sutton

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

A woman believed to be the first ever female founder of an escort agency has detailed her extraordinary match-making career in an autobiography – despite being unable to read or write.

Joan Ball, 80, of Highgate, spent the 1960s pairing up the capital’s singletons at the helm of three dating agencies, including one of the first to use early computers to match people’s personality traits.

She is also believed to be the first woman to establish an escort service – but Ms Ball insists that there was “no nonsense” under her watch.

In her self-published autobiography, Just Me, the severely dyslexic author, who can barely read or write, reveals that she would make clear to clients that “the girls are escorts and are forbidden to get involved with clients”.

“‘I’m an escort, not a tart’,” she told one gentleman using her Eros Escort and Guide Service who had propositioned her for sex.

“I wouldn’t have any of it,” Ms Ball, of the Holly Lodge estate, told the Ham&High.

“If I was running a call-girl service, I would have no stories, and what would I write about?

“I feel so sorry for the young women of today because they think that’s what they should be doing.”

She began her career in matchmaking at the age of 27, when she began working for a marriage bureau – an agency which introduced single people looking for marriage.

She soon decided that she could do a much better job herself.

So with help from her boyfriend Kenneth, she set about trying to found her own bureau.

But marriage was not the only thing singletons in 1960s London were clamouring for.

As a woman, she knew all too well that it was near impossible to attend functions and events without an escort.

And so in 1962, Ms Ball founded two agencies: Eros, and the St James Friendship and Marriage Bureau, which became one of the largest marriage bureaus in London.

“I’m very good at matchmaking,” said Ms Ball, known as Za to friends.

“I felt so many people got married for the sake of getting married.

“They often spent years with someone that they don’t want to be with, and then couldn’t leave.”

It was not for another two years that she began to use computers to easily match members on a database programme at her third agency: Com-pat Computer Dating Service.

However, the business did not really take off until 1970, when revolutionary technology allowed her to match a pool of more than 50,000 members.

It asked members to supply what they were looking for in a potential suitor before giving them the details of four other singletons who ranked highest for mutual compatibility based on their information.

“When I first looked into it, I thought ‘this is fantastic’,” said Ms Ball.

“I was so limited in matching people up. We had so many marriages, it was unbelievable.”

Ms Ball, who never married, began writing of her colourful life in an autobiography in 1975.

And after nearly 40 years, she finally published the work last summer after a friend offered to edit it for her.

It is available online through amazon.com as an e-book or in print.

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