Papers of Alice Helena Alexandra Williams

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of correspondence (1903-1949); printed and typescript copies (including corrections) of plays (1913-1938); diaries including one written by her companion Fanny Laming (1922-1952), drawings, leaflets, albums containing sketches, verse, programmes of entertainment, photographs, receipts, press cuttings, etc (1893-1952); biographical notes (1930s); verse (1915-1953); drawings; papers related to the National Federation of Women's Institutes (1917-54); papers related to her activities in the First World War; materials concerning the death of Williams (1957-9).

Administrative / Biographical History

Alice Helena Alexandra Williams (1863-1957) was born on 12 Mar 1863 at Castel Deudraeth, in Wales. The youngest of 14 children of David Williams MP, she had no formal education. During the first World War, Alice Williams worked for the French Wounded Emergency Fund. With friends, she set up the Signal Bureau in Paris, to give advice to those searching for the injured, the missing and refugees. The French government subsequently awarded her the Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francaise. A keen supporter of the Women's Institute movement, she became the president of the Deudraeth group and gave the ground and raised funds for the building of Britain's first Institute Hall at Penrhyndeudraeth. Williams was elected to the National Federation of Women's Institutes, as their first Honorary Secretary and then to the Executive Committee that superceded it in Oct 1918. When this position was abolished to make way for that of paid General Secretary, Williams once more took the role until she resigned to devote more time to her other position of founding editor of its journal, 'Home and Country' in Oct 1919. She retired as editor in 1920. In addition to her work with the Women's Institute, Alice Williams was also responsible for the setting up of branches of the Lyceum Club in Paris and Berlin. In 1919 she was the founder and the first chair of the Forum Club in London. She also took the chair from 1928 until 1938. Her watercolours were frequently exhibited, and she was a member of the Union des Femme Peintres et Sculpteurs, Paris and of the Union Internationale des Aquarellistes, Paris. Williams was a writer specialising in poetry and verse that commemorated special occasions. She also wrote a number of published plays and pageants such as 'Aunt Mollie's Story' (1913), 'Britannia' (1917), 'Britain Awake: An Empire Pageant Play' (1932) and 'Gossip' (1935). She was made a bard under the name of Alys Meirion in 1917 and received a CBE in 1937. She died on the 15 Aug 1957, aged 94.

Conditions Governing Access

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

Acquisition Information

Deposited by Mrs Arthur Gibbs, see Fawcett Library Annual Report 1970/1971.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Physical Characteristics and/or Technical Requirements

Albums need conservation repair.

Related Material

The archives of the National Federation of Women's Institutes (5FWI) are held at The Women's Library.

Geographical Names