Stopes, Marie Charlotte Carmichael (1880-1958)
- Stopes, Marie Carmichael, 1880-1958
- Archives and manuscripts
About this work
Letters from members of the general public, medical profession, clergy, etc., UK and overseas, who had read her works, particularly 'Married Love', in some cases with copies of her replies; material on family planning / birth control clinics, the Society for Constructive Birth Control, meetings, lectures, correspondence with the press and BBC, publishing, plays and films, and literary and legal papers.
By series as follows:
A. M[arried] L[ove] letters and other general correspondence, c.1915-1957
B. Correspondence etc. arranged by subject on various matters connected with birth control, etc.,
C. Clinics and Society for Constructive Birth Control, 1921-1960
D. Meetings, lectures, etc., 1921-1955
E. Correspondence with and about the Press and the BBC, 1919-1957
F. Publishing and printing, films and plays, 1918-1958
G. Literary, 1918-1950s
H. Legal, 1921-1943
The largest and most important group of papers is that which has been rather misleadingly titled M.L. [for Married Love] General' series (A.). A selection from this group is to be found in the British Library collection of Stopes papers classified as 'Requests for Advice'. It is a miscellaneous collection of correspondence, consisting chiefly of letters to Dr Stopes from readers of her books (not just Married Love) and journalism, or from people who had heard of her in connection with problems of sex and birth control. Because of the bulk of this correspondence, in many cases only a form letter was sent, either by H.V. Roe, her husband, one of her secretaries, or the clinic staff. Two files of form and stock letters can be found in this collection (A.324-325). In some cases a P.S. was added answering some particular query, and in other cases letters were replied to in detail. Notes for action are often annotated on the letter itself: e.g. to send information about publications, details of the Society for Constructive Birth Control, copy of the Letter to Working Mothers, a brief P.S., etc.
The series incorporates some personal and miscellaneous correspondence with individuals (CBC members, friends, persons of influence, etc), organisations, associations, business firms, the press, official bodies, etc. The correspondence is not confined to problems of birth control and sex but includes some items on various other interests of Dr Stopes. In some cases it is clear on internal evidence that one or both sides of a correspondence is missing wholly or in part. This is particularly noticeable in the case of correspondence with the eminent and the more important of her associates in the CBC, where it appears that most of the copies of her letters are here, but only a few, mostly unimportant, letters to her. In most cases the other side of these correspondences can be found in the British Library collection. The arrangement of this series follows that in which it was received (with some anomalies corrected for the sake of consistency). The letters are arranged alphabetically by surname or name of organization (in some few cases by subject), and within this arrangement in chronological order.
Besides the M.L. General' series, there are separate series of correspondence with the medical profession, the clergy and overseas; however it should be pointed out that the M.L. General' series includes examples of all of these. At the end of section A are included letters received in response to Dr Stopes' articles in John Bull, on which she based her book Mother England, one file of letters received in connection with 'Change of Life in Men and Women' (again, see also M.L. General'), and two files of stock replies.
As well as this main series, A., we discovered in arranging the collection various groups of papers which did not seem to fall within it. These have been assigned to Sections B-H, which illustrate various aspects of Dr Stopes' activities and interests primarily in the field of birth control and sex education. Again, material in these series is supplemented by items in M.L. General'.
These papers have had a rather turbulent history. In her will Marie Stopes bequeathed her papers to the British Museum, with the exception of her literary manuscripts which she left to the Royal Society of Literature. The staff of the British Museum sorted through the 3 tons of papers and returned a quantity of them to Dr Harry Stopes-Roe, Marie Stopes' only child, before arranging the collection and preparing a rough register list. The vast bulk of material relating to Dr Stopes' life and career is in the British Library collection. The Royal Society of Literature was approached and stated that the papers left to them had been distributed between the Marie Stopes Clinic, the British Library and Dr Harry Stopes-Roe and they no longer hold any of Dr Stopes' manuscripts. Some papers relating to Marie Stopes' scientific pursuits are now held at University College London.
In 1979 the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre of the Wellcome Institute (now the Archives and Manuscripts section of the Wellcome Library) was approached by Dr Stopes-Roe to see if it would be interested in receiving about 70 box-files of his mother's papers, consisting largely of letters of enquiry from readers of her work, with in many cases carbon copies of her replies. These papers, which had not been selected by the British Museum for preservation, nevertheless seemed to the Contemporary Medical Archives Centre to be of considerable intrinsic interest. While it is undesirable in principle that collections should be split between more than one repository, by arranging, cataloguing and housing this group of papers at the Wellcome Library (which is located within easy reach of the British Library) it is hoped that readers will be able to make full use of them without too much difficulty. The collection was received on 18th December 1979, and a further 20 box-files and a few parcels collected from Dr Stopes-Roe in November 1980.
A further one box of papers was received from the British Library and amalgamated with the collection.
There are some gaps in these records not accounted for and it seems that various items must have been lost or destroyed during the travels of these papers.
Summary of Life and Career of Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes
1880 Oct 15 Born in Edinburgh
1899-1902 Attends University College London, obtains first class honours in botany, third class honours in geology and physical chemistry
1903 Receives a scholarship to study in Munich, obtains Ph.D.
1904 Appointed lecturer and demonstrator in botany at Manchester University
1907-1908 Goes to Japan on a Scientific Expedition, funded by the Royal Society
1911 Lecturer in palaeobotany, Manchester University
Marries Dr Reginald Ruggles Gates, retains maiden name
1913-1920 Lecturer in palaeobotany at University College London
1915 Meets Margaret Sanger, American birth control campaigner
Finishes manuscript of book Married Love
1916 Marriage annulled at her suit on grounds of non-consummation
1918 Married Love published - 6 editions in one year
May 16 Marries Humphrey Verdon Roe, retains her maiden name
Wise Parenthood published
1919 First child stillborn
Joins National Birth Rate Commission
Letter to Working Mothers
1920 Radiant Motherhood
1921 Mar 17 Mothers' Clinic opened in Holloway
The Truth about Venereal Disease
May 21 Great Public Meeting in Queen's Hall, London
Aug Foundation of the Society for Constructive Birth Control
Oct Travels to New York
1922 May First issue of Birth Control News
Issues writ for libel against a Roman Catholic doctor, Halliday Sutherland
A New Gospel to All Peoples
1923 Feb Libel trial: judge rules against MCS
May Film Married Love/Maisie's Marriage
Jun Contraception: Its Theory and Practice
Jul 20 Libel trial verdict reversed on appeal
Nov Our Ostriches (play) produced
1924 Mar 27 Birth of son Harry Verdon Stopes-Roe: 'The Times' refuses to publish announcement
Aylmer Maude's Life of Marie Stopes published
Nov House of Lords rules for Dr Sutherland
1925 The First Five Thousand
1926 The Human Body
Sex and the Young
1927 Caravan Clinic set up
1928 Enduring Passion
Sued for libel by H.A. Gwynne, editor of the Morning Post
Caravan Clinic burnt by a Miss Ellis in Leeds: legal action against her
1929 Sued for libel by Halliday Sutherland
1930 National Birth Control Council set up incorporating the various bodies working in the field
Ministry of Health issues Memorandum 153/MCW allowing the giving of contraceptive information at maternity and child welfare centres
Issues of Papal Encyclical 'Casti Conubii' condemning birth control
1933 Roman Catholic Methods of Birth Control
1934 Birth Control Today
1935 Marriage in My Time
1936 Change of Life in Men and Women
1939 Baby's First Year
1958 Oct 2 Dies
For further details see the Dictionary of National Biography, Who was Who and biographies by Aylmer Maude, Keith Briant, Ruth Hall and June Rose.
In the Wellcome Library:
See the Eugenics Society archive (SA/EUG
At other repositories:
Other Stopes material is held by the British Library Department of Manuscripts and by University College London; see Acquisition note for details of how and why Stopes' papers were divided.
Location of duplicates