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Strachey Family Papers

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 106 7BSH
Held at: Women's Library
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Full title: Strachey Family Papers
Date(s): 1656-1999
Level of description: fonds
Extent: 14 A boxes
Name of creator(s): Strachey Family namely:
Berenson | Mary | 1864-1945 |
Strachey | Rachel Pearsall Conn [Ray] | 1887-1940 | nee Costelloe | feminist activist and writer
Strachey | Barbara Halpern | b 1912 | writer
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Mary Berenson (1864-1945) was born in 1864 to Hannah Whitall (1832-1911) and Robert Pearsall Smith (d. 1899). Both were evangelical preachers in New Jersey and Philadelphia. In 1885, Mary married Francis Benjamin Conn Costelloe, a barrister, in London. They had two daughters, Ray (b. 1887) and Karin (c. 1889). After the death of Benjamin in 1899, Mary moved to Italy to marry the art historian Bernard Berenson in 1900 and Hannah, who had moved to London in 1888, took care of Ray and Karin in London. Later, Ray was to marry Oliver Strachey.

Rachel Strachey (1887-1940) was born in 1887 to Mary Pearsall Smith (later Berenson) and Benjamin Francis Conn Costelloe. Mary Pearsall Smith was the daughter of Hannah Whitall Smith, the American evangelist and religious writer. Rachel's sister was Karin Conn Costelloe (c.1889). After the death of her husband in 1899, Mary moved to Italy to marry Bernard Berenson in 1900 and her mother Hannah, who had moved to London in 1888, took care of Ray and Karin in London. Ray was educated at Kensington High School and then read Mathematics at Newnham College Cambridge (1905-1908). Her cousin, Ellie Rendel (1885-1942), daughter of Elinor Rendel, oldest sister of Oliver Strachey, was a close friend during her school and college days, and particularly when they became involved in the early suffrage activities. In 1909, Ray and Ellie went to Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia where M Carey Thomas, Ray's second cousin, was President. Ellie later worked for the National Union of Women's Suffrage Society (1909-1912) and for the Scottish Women's Hospital Unit in the Balkans (c.1916-1917). In 1911, Ray married Oliver Strachey, a civil servant. This was his second marriage. They had two children Barbara (1912-1999) and Christopher (1916-1975), who later became a computer scientist. Ray was a tireless campaigner for women's rights. She was a close friend of Millicent Fawcett, the leader of the law-abiding suffragists. In 1915, she was a Parliamentary secretary for the London Society for Women's Suffrage. During World War One, she was a Chair for the Women's Service Bureau and fought for women to be allowed to do all types of war work. From 1930-1939, Ray was the first Chair of the Cambridge University Women's Employment Board and also helped to found the Women's Employment Federation in 1935. She was editor of the feminist newspaper The Common Cause. Ray also stood for Parliament as an Independent candidate in 1915, 1922 and 1923, but was unsuccessful. She was the political private secretary to Viscountess Nancy Astor MP (1929-34). Ray had many publications including: The World at Eighteen (1907); Frances Willard. Her Life and Work (1913); The Cause, (1928); Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1931); Careers and Openings for Women (1935). She died on 16 Jul 1940.

Barbara Halpern Strachey (1912-1999) was born in 1912 to Ray and Oliver Strachey. Her brother Christopher (1916-1975) was a computer scientist. Barbara's education began at St Felix School in Southwold, followed by a period in Vienna during 1928-1929. She read Modern History at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford from 1930-1933. Whilst on a voyage to Australia in 1933, she met her first husband, Toby Hullit, a Finnish purser, and married him when they reached Adelaide. They settled in England and, in the following year, their son, Roger Sven Allen, was born. This marriage ended in divorce in 1935 and Barbara then married Wolf Halpern. Unfortunately, he was killed in an airplane crash in 1943. Barbara worked as a radio producer for the BBC for over forty years. She wrote articles and books including: 'Remarkable relations : the story of the Pearsall Smith family' (London : Gollancz, 1980); 'Ray Strachey - a memoir' in W Chapman and JM Manson, eds., Women in the Milieu of Leonard and Virginia Woolf: Peace, Politics and Education (1998). She died in 1999.

Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929) was born in Suffolk in 1847, the daughter of Newson and Louisa Garrett and the sister of Samuel Garrett, Agnes Garrett, Louise Smith and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. The sisters' early interest in the issue of women's suffrage and commitment to the Liberal party were heightened after attending a speech given in London by John Stuart Mill in Jul 1865. Though considered too young to sign the petition in favour of votes for women, which was presented to the House of Commons in 1866, Millicent attended the debate on the issue in May 1867. This occurred a month after she married the professor of political economy and radical Liberal MP for Brighton, Henry Fawcett. Throughout their marriage, the future cabinet minister supported his wife's activities while she acted as his secretary due to his blindness. Their only child, Philippa Fawcett, was born the following year and that same month Millicent Garrett Fawcett published her first article, on the education of women. In Jul 1867, Millicent Garrett Fawcett was asked to join the executive committee of the London National Society for Women's Suffrage and was one of the speakers at its first public meeting two years later. She continued her work with the London National Society until after the death of John Stuart Mill in 1874, when she left the organisation to work with the Central Committee for Women's Suffrage. This was a step which she had avoided taking when the latter was formed in 1871 due to its public identification with the campaign for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts. Fawcett, despite her support for the movement's actions, had initially believed that the suffrage movement might be damaged by identification with such controversial work. However, the two groups later merged in 1877 as the new Central Committee for Women's Suffrage and a new executive committee was formed which included Fawcett herself. Her influence helped guide the group towards support for moderate policies and methods. She did little public speaking during this period but after the death of her husband in 1884 and a subsequent period of depression, she was persuaded to become a touring speaker once more in 1886 and began to devote her time to the work of the women's suffrage movement. In addition to women's suffrage Millicent Garrett Fawcett also became involved in the newly created National Vigilance Association, established in 1885, alongside campaigners such as J Stansfeld MP, Mr WT Stead, Mrs Mitchell, and Josephine Butler. In 1894 Fawcett's interest in public morality led her to vigorously campaign against the candidature of Henry Cust as Conservative MP for North Manchester. Cust, who had been known to have had several affairs, had seduced a young woman. Despite marrying Cust's marriage in 1893, after pressure from Balfour, Fawcett felt Cust was unfit for public office. Fawcett's campaign persisted until Cust's resignation in 1895, with some suffrage supporters concerned by Fawcett's doggedness in what they felt was a divisive campaign. In the late nineteenth century, the women's suffrage movement was closely identified with the Liberal Party through its traditional support for their work and the affiliation of many workers such as Fawcett herself. However, the party was, at this time, split over the issue of Home Rule for Ireland. Fawcett herself left the party to become a Liberal Unionist and helped lead the Women's Liberal Unionist Association. When it was proposed that the Central Committee's constitution should be changed to allow political organisations, and principally the Women's Liberal Federation, to affiliate, Fawcett opposed this and became the Honorary Treasurer when the majority of members left to form the Central National Society for Women's Suffrage. However, in 1893 she became one of the leading members of the Special Appeal Committee that was formed to repair the divisions in the movement. On the 19 Oct 1896 she was asked to preside over the joint meetings of the suffrage societies, which resulted in the geographical division of the country and the formation of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. She was appointed as the honorary secretary of the Central and Eastern Society that year and became a member of the parliamentary committee of the NUWSS itself. It was not until the parent group's reorganisation in 1907 that she was elected president of the National Union, a position that she would retain until 1919. By 1901, she was already eminent enough to be one of the first women appointed to sit on a Commission of Inquiry into the concentration camps created for Boer civilians by the British during the Boer War. Despite this, her work for suffrage never slackened and she was one of the leaders of the Mud March held in Feb 1907 as well as of the NUWSS procession from Embankment to the Albert Hall in Jun 1908. She became one of the Fighting Fund Committee in 1912 and managed the aftermath of the introduction of the policy, in particular during the North West Durham by-election in 1914, when other members opposed a step that effectively meant supporting the Labour Party when an anti-suffrage Liberal candidate was standing in a constituency. When the First World War broke out in Aug 1914, Fawcett called for the suspension of the NUWSS' political work and a change in activities to facilitate war work. This stance led to divisions in the organisation. The majority of its officers and ten of the executive committee resigned when she vetoed their attendance of a Women's Peace Congress in the Hague in 1915. However, she retained her position in the group. During the war, she also found time to become involved in the issue of women's social, political and educational status in India, an area in which she had become interested through her husband and retained after the conflict came to an end. She remained at the head of the NUWSS when the women's suffrage clause was added to the Representation of the People Act in 1918 and attended the Women's Peace Conference in Paris before lobbying the governments assembled there for the Peace Conference in 1919. She retired in Mar 1919 when the NUWSS became the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship but remained on its executive committee. She also continued her activities as the vice-president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, to which she had been elected in 1902, for another year. After this she became the Chair of the journal, the 'Women's Leader', and appointed a Dame of the British Empire in 1925. It was in that year that she resigned from both NUSEC and the newspaper's board after opposing the organisation's policy in support of family allowances. She remained active until the end of her life, undertaking a trip to the Far East with her sister Agnes only a short time before her death in 1929.


Scope and content/abstract:

The archive consists of the papers of Mary Berenson, her daughter Ray Strachey and her granddaughter Barbara Strachey Halpern. It comprises letters and correspondence mainly concerned with personal and family news, typescripts and manuscript notes, press cuttings mainly relating to suffrage and equal pay activities, photographs of Ray Strachey and other members of the Strachey family, and some material relating to Ray's grandmother, Hannah Whitall Smith. Also a manuscript recipe book owned by members of the Strachey family and a file of material relating to Kathleen Halpin.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
English and French

System of arrangement:

The collection was divided into four major sections across five series: one each for the papers of Mary Berenson and Barbara Halpern, two accession of Ray Strachey's papers and 1 series of Strachey photographs. Acc 2000/11 and 2005/10's sections have been arranged into series which reflected the major activities of the creator eg. Family letters, writings and publications etc. Original order has been maintained for correspondence. The papers of a file entitled 'miscellaneous' were distributed to the most appropriate series. Acc 1987/02 was moved from 7PHS as these papers related to Ray Strachey and other family members, were added as an additional series of Ray's papers, a sub-series of Mary Berenson's papers and a series of photographs. Sub-series were arranged according to the major activities of the creator but original files have remained intact.

Conditions governing access:

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

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids:

The Women's Library Catalogue

Archival Information

Archival history:

This collection consists of papers from four provenances. One of these creators, Barbara Strachey Halpern, acquired the papers of her mother and grandmother. In May 2007 further papers relating to Ray were moved from 7PHS into this fonds. The recipe book is of unknown provenance, because it is unclear to which 'Miss Strachey' it belonged, it was added to the Strachey Family Papers archive in May 2006. 20 books donated with this collection were passed to TWL Printed Collections.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The collection was given to The Women's Library by Corinne Richards, as a gift, on 14 Mar 2000. The recipe book was located amongst Fawcett Library mixed papers of unknown provenance in 2005. The additional papers of Ray and the photographs were part of a deposit made by Barbara Strachey Halpern in 1987

Allied Materials

Related material:

The Women's Library holds the papers of Jane Maria Strachey (1840-1928) (7JMS); the papers of Joan Pernel Strachey (1876-1951) (7JPS); the papers of Philippa Strachey (7PHS). The Autograph Letters Collection (9/27) includes correspondence between Ralph and Philippa Strachey (1889-1922); letters from Richard Strachey (1886-1917) and Oliver Strachey (1906-1912); letters from Mlle Souvestre to Mrs Strachey (1871-1886) and further family correspondence. There is also a recording of an oral history interview between Barbara Strachey Halpern and Brian Harrison in 1977 (8SUF) which includes information about Ray and Philippa Strachey. The Women's Library also holds the papers of Dame Millicent Fawcett (7MGF), the records of the Fawcett Society (2LSW) and the records of the Women's Employment Federation (6WEF).

25 letters from Ray Strachey to Bernard Berenson (1935-38) are held at Harvard University Centre for Italian Renaissance Studies. The papers of Christopher Strachey are located at the Bodleian Library, Oxford University.

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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