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HOLTBY, Winifred (1898-1935)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 106 7WHO
Held at: Women's Library
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Full title: HOLTBY, Winifred (1898-1935)
Date(s): 1930-1956
Level of description: fonds
Extent: 0.5 A box (1 folder - 6 items)
Name of creator(s): Holtby | Winifred | 1898-1935 | novelist and feminist reformer
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Winifred Holtby (1898-1935) was born in 1898 at Rudston House, the daughter of David Holtby, a Yorkshire farmer and Alice Winn, the first alderwoman in Yorkshire. In 1917 Holtby passed the entrance exam for Somerville College but volunteered first in a London nursing home and then for the Women's Auxiliary Army Corps in France in early 1918. In 1919 she took up her place at Somerville where she met Vera Brittain and where she graduated in Modern History. Despite being offered a position as a history tutor at St Hugh's College, Holtby moved to London with Brittain in 1921. At the same time as lecturing for the Six Point Group as well as the League of Nations Union and becoming the London County Council manager for schools in Bethnal Green, Holtby completed her first book, Anderby Wold, which was published in 1923. This was followed by The Crowded Street in 1924 and The Land of Green Ginger in 1927. Additionally, she worked as a journalist throughout the 1920s and 1930s, writing articles for Time and Tide, the Manchester Guardian and a regular weekly article for the trade union magazine, The Schoolmistress as well as a critical study of Virginia Woolf. Holtby was by this time a pacifist and travelled throughout Europe in the post-war period, attending the League of Nations assemblies as a writer and speaker every year from 1923 to 1930. She was also involved in the campaign for equality for women and from 1925 was a member of the executive committee of the Six Point Group for whom she wrote the 'New Voter's Guide to Party Programmes' in 1929. She was also a member of the Labour Party, working as an activist in constituencies during elections and writing articles for the left-wing journal The New Leader. In 1926 she visited South Africa, establishing a branch of the League of Nations Union in Ladysmith, helping set up a black transport workers' union in Johannesburg and studying conditions and problems of the black population and the effects of discrimination. There she met and began to work with William Ballinger, a Scotsman working to improve conditions for whom she would become involved in fundraising activities with the aim of providing education, grants and sponsorships. In 1931 the writer became ill and during the Labour Party General Election campaign of 1932 Holtby's health began to deteriorate rapidly. Returning to Yorkshire, she appeared to recover, returned to London, attended the majority of the parliamentary Joint Select Committees on Closer Union in South Africa, advised the International Labour Organisation on the issue of forced labour there and published another novel in 1933, The Astonishing Island as well as editing Time and Tide. However, a second collapse revealed kidney disease and she was given two years to live, a diagnosis which intensive treatment extended by an extra eighteen months, during which she completed a book of short stories, Truth is not Sober and Women and a Changing Society. She completed her last work, South Riding, a month before she died in Sep 1935. Her last two books were published by Vera Brittain, her literary executor, after her death.


Scope and content/abstract:

The archive consists of correspondence regarding Holtby's South African Fund (1930), letter to Holtby (1934), obituaries (1935), pamphlet (1940) press review of 'Testament of Experience' (c 1956).

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.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids:

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

This small collection was found in a book in the Josephine Butler Society Library in 1997.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Holtby's personal correspondence and papers (1905-35) are held by a number of repositories: papers are held by Hull Central Library in the Local Studies Centre (Ref. HOLTBY); her correspondence, literary MSS and papers (2708 items) are in the Fisk University Library and Media Centre (Ref. NUC MS 76-1447); correspondence with WG Ballinger (1928-35) is in University of Cape Town Libraries (Ref. D 71/95); letters to Arnold Bennett are in the University College London (UCL) Manuscripts Room (Ref. MS OGDEN 96); letters to Bodley Head Ltd (1922-24) are held at Reading University Library; her correspondence with Robert Donat (1935) is at Manchester University John Rylands Library (Ref. FRD 1/1/204); 29 letters to Arthur Creech Jones (1929-35) are in the Rhodes House Library of Oxford University (Ref. MSS Brit Emp s 332/6); her correspondence with the Society of Authors (1923-35) is in the British Library Manuscript Collections (Ref. Add MS 56726).

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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