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LYTTON, Constance (1869-1923): (Autograph Letter Collection)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0106 9/21
Held at: Women's Library
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Full title: LYTTON, Constance (1869-1923): (Autograph Letter Collection)
Date(s): 1908-1916
Level of description: Fonds
Extent: 1 volume
Name of creator(s): Lytton | Lady | Constance Georgina Bulwer | 1869-1923 | suffragist
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Constance Lytton was born in 1869, the daughter of Robert, the first Earl of Lytton and Viceroy of India, and Edith Villiers. She was educated at home, in India and then in Europe where the family returned in 1880. In the 1890s Constance Lytton's attachment to a young man of a lower social class was ended by her mother while her sister Elizabeth married Gerald Balfour. Balfour and his sisters, Frances and Emily, were deeply involved in the women's suffrage movement, and influenced their new sister-in-law, but it was not until 1909 after Lytton had made contact with Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Annie Kenney that she joined a suffrage group: the Women's Social and Political Union. The following year, in 1910, Lytton took part in a demonstration at the House of Commons where she was arrested. Her imprisonment was made easier, however, when her identity and her poor health were discovered and she was sent to spend her sentence in the prison infirmary. Consequently, at later demonstrations she took a false name and was arrested as Jane Warton, a London seamstress. She was sentenced to fourteen days, went on hunger strike, and was forced fed eight times until her identity was again uncovered and she was immediately released. In 1910 she was appointed a paid WSPU organiser and in 1911 she was arrested once again for breaking a post office window after the failure of the Conciliation Bill, but the trial was delayed when she suffered a heart attack in custody. She was released when the poor state of her health became clear and her fine was paid anonymously. Soon afterward Lytton suffered a stroke which left her partly paralysed. Her activities from now on were concentrated on writing propaganda for the WSPU. She published a series of pamphlets and articles and a book on her experiences and those of fellow inmates with the title, 'Prisons and Prisoners'. After the cessation of militant activity at the outbreak of the First World War, Lytton began to work with Marie Stopes in the campaign to establish birth-control clinics in Britain but spent much of her time as an invalid cared for by her family. She died in 1923.


Scope and content/abstract:

The collection includes letters, mainly concerning suffrage, written between, from and to Lady Constance Lytton and a number of correspondents including Miss Strachey, Miss Flatman, Dr Alice Ker, Miss Daisy Solomon, Rose Lamartine Yates, Mrs Terrero, Millicent Garrett Fawcett, Miss [Margaret] Ker, Elizabeth Robins, an open letter to Friends at a Prisoners' Dinner, and a letter from June Mills about Lady Constance Lytton.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged in chronological order.

Conditions governing access:

The collection is open for consultation. Intending readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

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:

All collections within The Women's Library Strand 2 relate to women's suffrage. Other Collections within Strand 9 which may be of interest include 9/01 Women's Suffrage, 9/02 General Women’s Movement, 9/20 Militant Suffragettes.

Lytton's correspondence and papers (1909-12) including a MS account of prison experiences are held by the Museum of London Library (Reference : 50.82/1119 1125-9); her correspondence with Arthur James Balfour (1909-11) is held in the Manuscript Department of the British Library (Reference : Add MSS 49793 Passim).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Collection description by Liza Giffen, The Women's Library 2002. Catalogue by Jean Holder, Vicky Wylde and Teresa Doherty 2005 2005. Edited for AIM25 by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
In compliance with ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description - 2nd Edition (1999); UNESCO Thesaurus, 1995; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:

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