Papers of Edith How-Martyn

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of numbered scrapbooks of press cuttings, notes and correspondence, including volumes on women's suffrage, (1872-1899), processions and demonstrations in London (1908), feminist writers (1940-1948), New Zealand including personal correspondence (1940), as well as volumes on her Australian tours (1942-1944) and the issues of the country's war effort during the Second World War (1942-1943), Australian women in politics (1941-1943), meetings in Australia to celebrate 30th anniversary of women's suffrage (and the Suffragette Fellowship (1948-1950), personal correspondence (1948-1950), a journal of a visit to Australia (1947-1948) and two volumes on New Zealand politics and family planning (1940-1941).

Administrative / Biographical History

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.

Arrangement

In Sep 2006 the scrapbooks were repackaged. Loose inserts were taken out of the volumes and placed in folders, held with the original scrapbooks. The catalogue indicates from which volume and page each loose insert was taken.

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

Unknown. Possibly deposited around the time of How-Martyn's death in 1954. [Fawcett Library Accession Registers to be checked]

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Related Material

The Oriental and India Office Collections of the British Library hold the diaries and papers (1926-40) of How-Martyn (reference: MSS Eur D 1182). Her correspondence with Margaret Sanger is held in the University of New York's Margaret Sanger Papers Project archive. Further correspondence is in Eileen Palmer's papers related to birth control (c1930-40, reference Coll Misc 0639) held by the London University's British Library of Political and Economic Science. Her letters to Vida Goldstein are amongst the Bessie Mabel Rischbieth papers in the Australian National Library (Coll. 2004).

Geographical Names