Printed Collections: Sadd Brown Library

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 PC/04
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      c.15 linear metres (dispersed through main collection)

Scope and Content

The Sadd Brown Library was founded in 1939 in memory of Myra Sadd Brown, and contains books and periodicals about, and often by, women of the Commonwealth. It covers colonial pioneers to modern day freedom fighters, as well as investigations of women's political and economic advancement and their positions in other societies and religions. For example it includes conference reports of the British Commonwealth League from 1925 to 1938 which vividly reveal the feminist concerns of pre-war generation, some issues having a contemporary resonance many decades later.The Library was the tribute of her suffrage colleagues to Myra Sadd Brown and it continues to grow with support from her family and the Commonwealth Countries League. The collection includes some late nineteenth century publications, such as Olive Schreiner's Trooper Peter Halket of Mashonaland, 1897, but most of the collection dates from the twentieth century. Some examples of books and periodicals in the Sadd Brown Library include The African child by Evelyn Sharp 1931, Women living under Muslim laws newsheet, Pakistan 1992-, Onions are my husband: survival and accumulation by West African market women by Gracia Clark, 1994 and Race relations news, South Africa 1947-1955. The Sadd Brown Library was named in honour of Myra Eleanor Sadd (1872-1938) who added her husband's name, Brown, to her own on her marriage, rather than just adopting his name. She was born in Essex into a non-conformist family of free-thinkers and was actively involved in the suffrage movement. As a militant suffragette she was imprisoned in Holloway and force fed. Her circle included many of the leaders of the suffrage movement including the Pankhursts and the Pethick-Lawrences. In 1925 she was a founder member of the British Commonwealth League, later known as the Commonwealth Countries League, and retained a life long interest in opportunities for women in the Commonwealth.

The Sadd Brown Library was integrated into the main library sequence and new material continues to be added to the collection. Individual volumes from the Sadd Brown Library can be identified on The Women's Library's online catalogue. Most of the collection is held on open access in the Reading Room and is immediately available to readers for reference.

Administrative / Biographical History

See the biography for

* Brown; Myra Eleanor Sadd (1872-1938); feminist and internationalist

See the corporate history for:

Commonwealth Countries League; 1925-fl.2005; gender equality pressure group

Myra Eleanor Sadd Brown (1872-1938) was born in Maldon, Essex on 3 Oct 1872. Her parents were John Granger Sadd and Mary Ann Price and she was the tenth of eleven children. The family operated a firm of timber merchants and processors in the hometown of Maldon. Myra Sadd received a private education at a school in Colchester. She met Ernest Brown through her interest in cycling; they were married in 1896. The couple moved to Finsbury Park in London, and then to Hampstead. Myra and Ernest had three daughters and one son. Due to the commercial success of her husband’s business Myra was provided with independent means. Myra was raised within a Congregationalist environment; later becoming a Christian Scientist. She was interested in artistic pursuits and avidly enjoyed Shaw's plays. Myra is particularly renowned for being a feminist. It is believed that prior to her marriage she purchased a small property giving her, as a ratepayer, the right to vote. In Hackney, Myra served as a Poor Law Guardian. Furthermore, she was a committed supporter of the women's suffrage movement; being a member of the Women's Social & Political Union. In 1912, Myra was arrested and imprisoned; she went on hunger strike and endured forcible feeding. Myra wrote a great deal on behalf of the suffrage cause; the 'Christian Commonwealth' being one such periodical which published her letters. Later, she became associated with Sylvia Pankhurst's East London Federation of Suffragettes, inviting East London women, travelling by bus, to visit her home near Maldon. Following WWI, Myra became an active member of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance (later known as the International Alliance of Women). She travelled widely throughout Europe attending conferences. This activity allowed her to indulge her interest in other cultures and countries, as did her periods of wintering in Italy and Egypt with her husband Ernest. Although Myra herself did not speak a foreign language, she insisted that her children should study French and German. The emerging Commonwealth became another area of interest to Myra. From 1923 she had been involved in meetings, which culminated in the formation of the British Commonwealth League (later the Commonwealth Countries League) in 1925. It was a feminist organisation devoted to the upholding of women's rights in the Commonwealth of which Myra became its Treasurer. In 1931 Ernest died of rheumatic heart disease. In 1937 Myra visited South-East Asia where she was present for the birth of her second grandchild. She then extended the tour to visit Angkor Wat and the Malaysian islands. Myra continued her journey to Hong Kong, planning to return via the Trans-Siberian railway. However, she suffered a stroke and died in Hong Kong on 13 Apr 1938. The British Commonwealth League established the Sadd Brown Library of material on women in the Commonwealth as a memorial to her. It was placed in the Women's Service Library, now The Women’s Library. Myra’s interest in the Commonwealth Countries League, and the International Alliance of Women, has been continued first by her daughter Myra Stedman, and subsequently by Lady Diana Dollery, her granddaughter, both of whom have been closely involved in the development of the Sadd Brown Library.

The British Commonwealth League (1925-fl.2005) was founded in 1925 by the amalgamation of the British Dominions Women's Citizens Union and the British Overseas of the International Alliance for Woman Suffrage. Its aim was to secure equality of liberties, status and opportunities between men and women and to promote mutual understanding throughout the Commonwealth. It was concerned with the questions of the nationality of married women, prostitution and equal pay over a number of decades and prominent members included Margery Corbett Ashby, Alice Hemming and Chave Collison. In Jul 1964 it became the Commonwealth Countries League (CCL), maintaining the non-party status that it held throughout its history and promoting women's political and social education. As at 2002 CCL still operated though working with other women's organisations of the Commonwealth. It had charitable status and worked with young women to enable them to attend secondary schools and university.


Integrated into the main library sequence

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

Founded in 1939, still accruing material in 2009.

Other Finding Aids

The Sadd Brown Library is integrated into the general TWL Printed Collection; and can be consulted via the Printed Collections online catalogue.

Alternative Form Available

A high proportion of this collection is comprised of rare or unique copies.

Custodial History

The Sadd Brown Library was founded in 1939 in memory of Myra Sadd Brown, and contains books and periodicals about, and often by, women of the Commonwealth. The library was the tribute of her suffrage colleagues to Myra Sadd Brown and as at 2009 continued to grow with support from her family and the Commonwealth Countries League.


By deposit; active, irregular.