Autograph Letter Collection: Emancipation of Women, British Commonwealth and United States of America

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 9/03
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      2 A boxes (2 volumes- 76 items)

Scope and Content

The collection contains c.76 individual letters between various different correspondents detailing the situation of women's enfranchisement in Australia, New Zealand and the United States of America.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lavinia Lloyd Dock (1858-1956) was a nurse, suffragist and feminist

Charlotte Perkins Gilman [née Perkins] (1860-1935) was a feminist and author

Dame Enid Muriel Lyons (1897-1981) was born in 1897 in Duck River, Tasmania, Australia. She was an Australian politician and the first woman member of the Australian House of Representatives, in 1943. She died in 1981.

Vida Goldstein (1869-1948) was born in Australia in 1869 and educated at the Ladies' Presbyterian College in Melbourne. With her mother and siblings, she campaigned against slum poverty and sweated labour with the Presbyterian minister Dr Charles Strong and began to study sociology and economics to underpin her ideas on the causes of poverty. However, after her family found itself in financial difficulties in 1893, she and her sisters opened a mixed-gender preparatory school and became active in social welfare work. It was in the late 1880s that female enfranchisement became an issue in Australia. The Australian Women's Suffrage Society was formed in 1889 to obtain rights for women, building on the foundations of the Women's Christian Temperance Union's social reform and equal moral standards work since 1887. By the 1890s, Goldstein too had become concerned with the issue of women's suffrage. She helped her mother collect signatures for the Australian Woman Suffrage Petition at the start of the decade and by the end had become leader of the United Council for Women's Suffrage after the death of its founder Annette Bear-Crawford until the latter half of 1901. In 1894, South Australian Women were granted the right to vote followed by those Western Australia in 1899. However, her own territory of New South Wales did not grant this right until 1902 and Victoria waited until 1908. Goldstein therefore began 1900 by founding and editing the women's suffrage journal, 'Australian Women's Sphere', which was read worldwide since much suffrage work was done at the international level at the end of the century. Consequently, the Australian was invited to a suffrage conference in Washington in 1902 to which she was elected the first secretary of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance formed there and drafted its proposed constitution and declaration of principles. During this visit, she was requested to undertake research into solutions to child neglect by the Australian government and the Trades Hall to inquire into unionisation in the United States. There, she spoke to the two houses as well as the president. Furthermore, she was invited to speak before a hearing of the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives to support Carrie Chapman Catt's request for an investigative committee to into the practical results of women's enfranchisement. On her return, having resigned her role in the United Council, she began preparations for the first Federal election in 1903 where women were entitled to vote, founding the Women's Federal Political Association, which later became the Woman's Political Association. Goldstein, Mrs Nellie Martel, and Mrs Mary Ann Moore Bently stood for the upper house or senate, becoming the first women parliamentary candidates in the British Empire. Though unsuccessful, Goldstein ran three more times for the Senate, in 1903, 1910 and 1917 and for the lower House of Representatives in 1913, and again in 1914. She remained concerned with social issues during this time and her research on poor families was used in the Harvester Judgement of 1907, which set a basic wage for Australia. She also helped establish separate courts to try underage children. However, she did not leave the issue of women's suffrage behind, establishing the periodical the 'Woman Voter' in 1908. Goldstein's first visit to Britain occurred in 1911 when she spoke on behalf of the Women's Social & Political Union, wrote a number of articles for 'Votes for Women' and contributes several pieces for the book 'Woman Suffrage in Australia' published by the Woman's Press. She was also present at the Women's Coronation pageant on the 17 Jun where she represented her country. It was while she was in the United Kingdom that she established the Australian and New Zealand Voters' Association. This was intended to help British citizens, resident in Australasia, to support the campaign for women's suffrage in their homeland. During this visit to Britain, she met Adela Pankhurst and it was Goldstein who helped Pankhurst to move to Australia and become the first organiser of the Woman's Political Association there in 1914. The support which she had in the country waned after the outbreak of the First World War after her pacifist position became clear. She became the Chair of the Peace Alliance and a number of original members left the Women's Political Alliance when it adopted a pacifist policy. In Jul 1915 she established the Women's Peace Army with Pankhurst and Cecelia Johns and began to campaign actively against conscription. At the same time, she organised the Women's Unemployment Bureau to find work for those in need as well as offering subsidised meals and offering help to dockers' families during a strike. In Jan 1919 Goldstein and Johns were asked to represent Australian women at the Women's Peace Conference in Geneva. After attending this, however, the former did not directly return home but spent three further years in the United Kingdom, allowing the Women's Political Association and the 'Woman Voter' to lapse. By the time of her return, she had become a Christian Scientist and she spent the rest of her life living with her sisters Elsie and Aileen, supporting the idea of planned families and social purity. She died in Aug 1949.

Kitty Marion (1871-1944) was born Katherina Maria Schafer in Westphalia in 1871. Her mother died when she was two years old and when she was fifteen went to live with her aunt in England. She learnt English and it became clear that her ambition was to become a music hall actress, which she achieved three years later in 1889 when she was cast in a pantomime in Glasgow. She joined the Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU) in around 1908, taking part in their marches on parliament and selling copies of their journal 'Votes for Women' in the street. When the Actress' Franchise League began in 1909, she was one of the first members. That same year she was arrested for the first time. The second arrest came in Newcastle a few months later when she threw a stone through the window of a post office, an offence for which she received a month's prison sentence. In Holloway jail she was force fed and reacted by setting her cell on fire. Further attacks on property ranging from breaking windows (Mar 1912) and a fire alarm (late 1912) to burning properties (Levetleigh House in Sussex in Apr 1913, the Grand Stand at Hurst Park racecourse in Jun 1913, various houses in Liverpool in Aug 1913 and Manchester in Nov 1913). These incidents resulted in a series of further terms of imprisonment during which force-feeding occurred followed by release under the Cat and Mouse Act. Fellow WSPU workers finally took her to Paris in May 1914. At the outbreak of war in Aug 1914, Marion's position became doubly uncertain: firstly, there was some question, soon dropped, of returning the suffragette prisoners to jail to serve the rest of their term; secondly Marion was a German by birth and therefore suspect. Despite briefly resuming her career on the stage, she was finally deported, going to America in 1915 where she would spend most of her remaining years. There she quickly became active in the family planning movement and after 1917, she began working with the Birth Control Review published by New York Women's Publishing Company under Margaret Sanger. Marion, with her experience selling 'Votes for Women', became a street hawker, selling the Review in New York for 13 years. She was arrested several times for violating obscenity laws, and was imprisoned for 30 days in 1918. She was granted US citizenship in 1924. She returned to London in 1930 to attend the unveiling of the statue to Mrs Pankhurst and began work in the Birth Control International Centre under Edith How Martyn. However, she finally returned to New York where she worked in Sanger's office once more before retiring to the Margaret Sanger Home in New York State where she died in 1944.

Edith How Martyn (1875-1954) was born in London in 1875, sister of Florence Earengey. She attended the North London Collegiate School and then University College, Aberystwyth where she took the associateship in Physics and Mathematics. She married Herbet Martyn in 1899, completing her BSc the following year. From youth, she had radical political opinions and was a member of the Independent Labour Party before becoming an early member of the Women's Social & Political Union (WSPU) in 1905. The following year she was appointed joint secretary of the WSPU with Charlotte Despard and it was in Oct 1906 that she was arrested in the lobby of the House of Commons and given a two-month sentence. However, the future direction of the WSPU under the Pankhursts was a matter of some concern to her as it was to other members at this time and in 1907 she left the group along with Charlotte Despard to form the Women's Freedom League (WFL). This abandoned the violent tactics of the older group in favour of non-violent illegal acts to convey their message. She was honorary secretary of the new group from 1907 to 1911, when she became head of the Political and Militant section. However, she resigned in Apr 1912, disappointed with the WFL's progress after the defeat of the Conciliation Bill. How-Martyn's next political act was to stand as an independent candidate in Hendon in the 1918 general election, an attempt she was not successful in. How Martyn held public office for the first time In 1919, when she became a member of the Middlesex County Council, a post she held until 1922. From now on, her interests would be mainly directed to the issue of birth control. She met the American family planning leader Margaret Sanger in 1915 and had been impressed by her ideas, subsequently organising the 1927 World Population Conference in Geneva with the New Yorker and becoming honorary director of the Birth Control International Information Centre in London in 1930. Between Nov 1934 and Mar 1935 the Englishwoman would travel through India campaigning for birth control, then went with Sanger on her trip to Asia the following year. How-Martyn returned the sub-continent several times in the following years to continue the work started there at this point. However, her past campaigning for women's suffrage was not forgotten: in 1926 she also established the Suffragette Fellowship that would begin the process of documenting the movement. She would continue this work in the following decades through a local branch in Australia which she established after she moved there at the outbreak of the Second World. Due to ill health, she remained in that country until she died in 1954.

Alice Park was born in Boston on 2 Feb 1861. She married Dean W Park, a New Englander and metallurgist; the Parks lived in various mining regions of Colorado, Montana, Texas and Mexico, and finally settled in California. She was a socialist, vegetarian, pacifist, founder of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, and campaigner for women's rights, Park wrote the "California law", passed in 1913, granting women equal rights of guardianship over their children. She was a delegate and speaker at the Congress of the International Women's Suffrage Alliance in Budapest, Hungary in Jun 1913, and a delegate to the Tenth Congress of the International Women's Suffrage Alliance, held in Paris in May 1926.


The papers have been divided into two parts. Part A covers the British Commonwealth Part B covers the United States of America Although these letters have been divided, Part A seems to comprise of material predominantly relating to Australia and New Zealand.

Access Information

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.

Other 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.

Alternative Form Available

A copy of this archive is available on microfilm held at The Women's Library.

Custodial History

This collection consists of letters taken from various sources and then filed individually in ring binders. The original source of the item (often from archive collections) is not generally indicated.

Related Material

Also held at The Women's Library are the personal papers of Edith How-Martyn (7EHM) and Kitty Marion (7KMA). Other Collections within Strand 9 which may be of interest include 9/01 Women’s Suffrage, 9/02 General Women’s Movement, 9/04 Female Education, 9/09 Suffrage and Women in Industry.