Papers of Daisy Dobson

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The archive consists of papers relating to the Guildhouse Fellowship and lecture tours of Dr Agnes Maude Royden. It includes Guildhouse Fellowship newsletters (1941, 1942, 1950) and lists of key events and speakers at the Guildhouse (1921-1940). Detailed letters from Daisy Dobson report home to friends and colleagues on travels in the United States of America and India during Royden's world lecture tour (1928). As well as providing information on Royden's schedule, the letters describe the landscape, people and culture of the countries they visit and comment with humour and frustration on the practicalities of their trip. A later letter describes sea travel during the Second World War for Royden's lecture tour of the United States of America (1941-1942).

Administrative / Biographical History

Daisy Dobson (fl. 1927-1950) was the friend and private secretary of Dr Agnes Maude Royden, the pacifist and Christian preacher. Dobson accompanied Royden on her lecture tours of the world, sending reports home to friends and family.

Agnes Maude Royden (1876-1956) was born on 23 Nov 1876, the youngest daughter of the ship-owning Conservative MP from Liverpool, Sir Thomas Bland Royden (later first baronet of Frankby Hall, Cheshire). She was educated first at Cheltenham Ladies College, then at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford from 1896-1899, where she met Kathleen Courtney and Ida O'Malley. She obtained a second-class degree in modern history.

After graduating she spent three years working with the Victoria Women's Settlement in Liverpool. In these years around 1900 Royden's political views moved away from her family's Conservatism until she joined the Labour Party after the First World War. In 1905 Royden undertook parish work in South Luffenham for the Reverend William Hudson Shaw, whom she had met at Oxford. She became friends with him and his second wife Effie. They remained close friends, Royden marrying Shaw after Effie's death. The marriage took place just two months before Shaw's death in 1944. Shaw enabled Royden to lecture in the Oxford University Extension Delegacy Scheme, for which he also lectured. Royden was one of the first female lecturers for the Scheme. In 1908 Royden became a regular speaker for the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). She was appointed to its executive committee in 1911, edited its newspaper 'The Common Cause' between 1913-1914 and wrote 5 pamphlets for them. From 1910, she supported the Tax Resistance League and was the first Chair of the Church League for Women's Suffrage. From 1911 was a member of the executive committee of the London Society for Women's Suffrage (LSWS). By 1912 she was giving well over 250 speeches a year and ran 'Speakers classes' for NUWSS and LSWS. In 1913 she was also appointed president of the Chester Women's Suffrage Society, vice president of the Oxford Women Students' Suffrage Society. 1912 was an important year for the future of the women's movement. It was in this year that the Labour Party made support for female suffrage part of its policy for the first time. When, that same year, the NUWSS launched the Election Fighting Fund policy, which promised support to any party officially supporting suffrage in an election where the candidate was challenging an anti-suffrage Liberal, the effect was to effectively support the Labour Party. The women's suffrage campaign had long been associated with the Liberal Party and had always been non-party, welcoming the left and right wing into its numbers. After this step, however, some members, such as Eleanor Rathbone, left the organisation in opposition to this step. Royden, however, supported the move and was one of the speakers at the joint meeting of the NUWSS and the Labour Party held in the Albert Hall in Feb 1914. Later in 1914 at the outbreak of the First World War, Royden found herself in conflict with many in the NUWSS, which under the leadership of Millicent Fawcett, had thrown itself enthusiastically into support for work to support the war effort. At the end of 1914 she became the secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation with other Christian Pacifists. In Feb 1915 she resigned as editor of 'Common Cause' and gave up her place on the executive council. She had intended to attend the women's peace congress in the Hague in 1915 that year but was unable to do so when travel via the North Sea was forbidden. None the less, when the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom was established there, she became the vice-president. Despite this, even outside of the NUWSS, she campaigned for the vote for women through the National Council for Adult Suffrage and when a limited franchise was granted in 1918, she was asked to address the celebratory meeting organised by the older group at the Queen's Hall. In the post-war period, her main interests were concerned with the role of women in the Church. Between 1917-1920 Royden became an assistant preacher to Dr Fort Newton at the City Temple. Though a committed Anglican, as a woman she was not normally permitted to preach in the Church of England. In 1920 she was granted an interdenominational pulpit at the Kensington Town Hall through the Fellowship Services. This position was soon transferred to the Guildhouse in Eccleston Square and she continued to preach socially radical sermons from there for some years, on issues such as unemployment, peace and marriage. Percy Dearmer and Martin Shaw assisted her. In turn Royden continued to assist Hudson Shaw in his parish St Botolph's Bishopsgate in the City of London, including a controversial appearance to preach in a service on Good Friday 30 Mar 1923.

In 1922 Royden was invited to stand as a Labour candidate for the Wirral constituency but declined for the sake of her work in the church. Royden made several preaching tours across the world from the 1920s to the 1940s and undertook large-scale article writing: She visited America in 1911, 1923, 1928, and 1941-1942. The 1928 visit was part of a world tour that included Australia, New Zealand and China. Whilst in 1928 and 1934-1935 she visited India with Dame Margery Corbett Ashby and met Ghandi. Royden continued her work for peace, through her 'Peace Army' proposals of 1923 and her support of the League of Nations. People such as Rev 'Dick' Shepherd and Herbert Gray in turn supported Royden. Royden resigned from the Guildhall post in 1936 to concentrate her efforts in this area until 1939. In 1939, however, Royden renounced pacifism believing Nazism to be a greater evil than war. In 1944 she married Hudson Shaw. After 1945, she was mainly occupied by writing and radio broadcasts on religion. Her last book was 'A Threefold Cord' 1947 an autobiographical work. Royden died at her home in London on the 30 Jul 1956.

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

Anonymous donation.

Other Finding Aids

The Women's Library Catalogue

Related Material

The Women's Library also holds the papers of Agnes Maude Royden (7AMR) and Marjorie Chave Collison (7CHC).