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Women in the Arts: (Autograph Letter Collection)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 106 9/18
Held at: Women's Library
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Full title: Women in the Arts: (Autograph Letter Collection)
Date(s): 1791-1974
Level of description: fonds
Extent: 1 A box (1 volume)
Name of creator(s): Various
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

In a period in which the women's sphere was ideologically located in the home, their entrance in to the public sphere was seen as either a scandal or an object of mockery. However, while the fields of politics and commerce were largely closed to females, paradoxically, other positions in the public eye were not. Women writers and artists could be found from the Renaissance onwards and actresses in particular could achieve great fame for their work. However, women who entered into the public sphere in this way were generally considered to be outside of the normal rules of society even while being lionised by its members. This equivocal social position left them open to abuse, but at the same time meant that they could move freely around all sections of it while remaining at liberty to look after their own business and financial affairs in a way that a woman was not normally permitted to do. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the ambiguous status of such individuals with its benefits and limitations led a number of women involved in the arts to become acutely conscious of women's overall status. This led a number of them to become engaged in the campaign for the vote and for improvement of women's status. Groups such as the Actresses' Franchise League and the Artists' Suffrage League undertook collective action which others continued on an individual level throughout this period and into the second half of the nineteenth century as the campaign to improve women's status continued.


Scope and content/abstract:

The collection contains letters from women involved in the arts concerning their work, business matters, publicity, articles and general social correspondence. Correspondents include Sarah Siddons, Emily Faithfull, Fanny Kemble, Elizabeth Thompson, Isabella Dallas Glyn, Mary Davis, Fanny Stirling, Mrs Morritt, Lady Bancroft, Genevieve Ward, Lucy Kemp-Welch, Madge Kendall, Mrs Steele, Philippa Strachey, Ethel Coffin, Rutland Boughton, Marion Terry, Eva Moore, Sybil Thorndyke, Alys Russell, Lena Ashwell, Marie Tempest, Agnes Hill, Marie Lohr, Dame Ethel Smyth, Irene Vanbrugh, Ruth Draper, Ethel Warwick, Dame Laura Knight, Cicely Courtney, Lilian Braithwaite and Ninette de Valois.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. Available on microfiche only.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids:

Abstracts of individual letters in the autograph letters collection were written and held alongside the letters. This work was done from the 1960s by volunteers including Nan Taylor. In 2004 Jean Holder completed a 3 year project to list the letters, copy-type the abstracts, and repackage the letters to meet preservation needs. In 2005 Vicky Wylde and Teresa Doherty proof read and imported the entries to the Special Collections Catalogue.

The original card index of all correspondents, including date of letter and volume reference, is available on the microfiche.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Women's Library also holds records of the Actresses' Franchise League (2AFL) and the Artists' Suffrage League (2ASL). Other collections within Strand 9 which may be of interest include 9/07 Literary Ladies.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Finding aid created by export from CALM v7.2.14 Archives Hub EAD2002. Edited for AIM25 by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, December 2001; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:

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