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STEAD, William Thomas (1849-1912): (Autograph Letter Collection)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 106 9/11
Held at: Women's Library
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Full title: STEAD, William Thomas (1849-1912): (Autograph Letter Collection)
Date(s): 1885-1924
Level of description: fonds
Extent: 1 A box (1 volume)
Name of creator(s): Stead | William Thomas | 1849-1912 | journalist and author
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

William Thomas Stead (1849-1912) was born in 1849, the son of a Congregationalist minister. He attended school formally for only two years from 1891-3 but then became an apprentice office worker in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. From 1870 he began to send articles to the Northern Echo in Darlington and became its editor the following year. His reputation was established by a series of articles on Bulgarian atrocities in Turkey between 1876 and 1878. In 1880 he moved to London as assistant editor of the Liberal newspaper the Pall Mall Gazette, becoming acting editor in 1883 when his superior, John Morley, was elected to parliament as an MP. Under his editorship the newspaper established what Matthew Arnold called the 'New Journalism', introducing the use of illustrations, headlines, maps, and interviews to Britain for the first time. In 1883 he first met Josephine Butler at a mass meeting on behalf of the Salvation Army that took place just after her return from the Federation Congress held at the Hague in Sep 1883. He became a strong supporter of her and the campaign for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts. One of his articles, 'What is the Truth About the Navy' of 1884 forced the government to refit British naval defences. It was in 1885, however, that his four articles on prostitution London entitled 'The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon' were published and had a profound influence on the country as a whole. An immediate effect of the work was the introduction of the Criminal Law Amendment Act that raised the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen for the first time in Britain. However, Stead's investigative methods had left him open to prosecution - later in 1885 he and Rebecca Jarrett were brought to trial on a charge of abducting a child from her home without the knowledge of her father. He was jailed for three months. Other members of the press and public figures attacked his reputation, but Stead also received support from such as Cardinal Manning, Josephine Butler and Lord Shaftesbury. In 1887 he published 'Josephine Butler, a life sketch' (Morgan and Scott, 1887). Stead retired from daily journalism in Jan 1890, founding the monthly Review of Reviews, which he edited until his death, although his attempt in 1904 to start his own newspaper, The Daily Paper, failed almost immediately. During the 1890s, he also became involved with spiritualism and for four years edited a psychic journal called Borderland. In 1897 he published 'Letters from Julia' which he wrote 'under control' from the spirit world. He also later became part of the peace movement and became unpopular in many quarters due to opposition to the Boer War. Stead was travelling to America to take part in a peace congress at Carnegie Hall when he died when his ship, the Titanic, sank on 14 Apr 1912.


Scope and content/abstract:

The collection contains 30 letters written between 1885 and 1924. Correspondents include William Thomas Stead, Frances Power Cobbe, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Herbert Stead, the Governor of Holloway Prison, Mrs Stead, Mr W Shaen, Miss Kensington the Secretary of Girton College, Mrs Frederic Whyte; the materials also include W T Stead's 'Holloway' New Year Cards, 1885. The letters discuss the Criminal Law Amendment controversy, speeches, his term in jail and emotional state, theology, Leslie Stephens, Edmund Garrett Fawcett, women's suffrage and education, the Royal Commission of 1871, trips for working women and the loan of Millicent Garrett Fawcett's Stead letter collection to a biographer.

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 & volume reference, is available on the microfiche.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:

Further papers of WT Stead are held in the following repositories: Cambridge University: Churchill Archives Centre (Reference : STED), National Archives of Scotland (Reference : GD433), Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts (Reference : MSS Eng b 2068-69, c 5894-6032, d 2867-89), British Library, Manuscript Collections (Reference : Add MS 46287, Add MSS 41233-238 and Add MS 60777), Newcastle upon Tyne University: The Robinson Library, London University: British Library of Political and Economic Science (Reference : SR1003), British Library, Manuscript Collections (Reference : Add MSS 43907, 43913), Trinity College Dublin (Reference : MSS 6455-6909), British Library, Manuscript Collections (Reference : Add MS 44303), St Deiniol's Library (Reference : Glynne-Gladstone MSS 737), British Library, Manuscript Collections (Reference : Add MSS 45990, 46050-070 passim), Durham University Library, Archives and Special Collections: Palace Green Section (Reference : Grey of Howick collection), National Co-operative Archive (Reference : MM/96636/1-12), London University: Imperial College Archives (Reference : B/HUXLEY), London University: British Library of Political and Economic Science (Reference : BLPES/ILP/Section 4 passim), The Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland (Reference : DE4481/23-43), Society for Psychical Research, London University: British Library of Political and Economic Science (Reference : BLPES/MOREL/F8/133), Oxford University: Balliol College Library, Oxford University: Bodleian Library, Special Collections and Western Manuscripts (Reference : MS Eng misc d 182), National Library of Scotland, Manuscripts Division (Reference : MSS 10006-10131, 10509-10536 Passim), House of Lords Record Office: The Parliamentary Archives (Reference : Samuel papers), British Library, Manuscript Collections (Reference : Add MS 50549), House of Lords Record Office: The Parliamentary Archives (Reference : Strachey papers), Hove Central Library (Reference : Wolseley), Manchester University: Labour History Archive and Study Centre (Reference : LRC).

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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