Papers related to Lady Stella Reading

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of two typescript memoirs concerning Lady Reading and 3 photographs.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lady Stella Reading (1894-1971) was born Stella Charnaud in 1894 in Constantinople where her father worked for the British Foreign Service. She was educated in Europe before becoming a secretary. She was posted to India as the secretary of the new Viceroy's wife before becoming part of the Viceroy's secretariat in Delhi. There, she met John Isaacs, the Marquis of Reading whom she would marry after the death of his wife in 1931. He died in 1935, soon after their return to England. Lady Reading became increasingly involved in social work such as the Personal Service League (PSL) and was elected to a number of committees as well as becoming a magistrate. Her work with the PSL meant that it was her that the Home Secretary, Sir Samuel Hoare, approached to set up the Women's Voluntary Service for Air Raid Precautions in 1938. The organisation, which soon became known as the simply the Women's Voluntary Service or WRS, recruited and organised female volunteers before and during the war. After 1945, Lady Reading and the organisation continued their work and it was for this that she was created a Life Peer in Jul 1958, becoming the first woman to take her seat in the House of Lords as Baroness Swanborough. She died on 21 May 1971.

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

7SRE/1 was deposited with the Fawcett Library by Dame Mary Smieton, Feb 1977

7SRE/2 was deposited with the Fawcett Library by Mrs Elsa Dunbar in Jan 1990.

Other Finding Aids

Fawcett Library Catalogue

Related Material

The Papers of the Women's Royal Voluntary Service are held by the organisation. Her correspondence with Lord Cherwell (1933-43) is held in Oxford University's Nuffield College Library (ref. Cherwell papers) while that with Sir Samuel Hoare is in the Cambridge University Library, Department of Manuscripts and University Archives (ref. Templewood Papers).