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.
This collection includes material which has not yet been catalogued. Additions to an archive are referred to as 'accruals'. A summary of the uncatalogued materials in this collection is provided under 'Accruals'.



Physical description

74 boxes, 2 oversize folders 2 oversize folders (items C.50-51)


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'.

Acquisition note

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 library at Wellcome Collection) 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 library at Wellcome Collection (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.

Biographical note

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

Obtains D.Sc.

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

Mother England

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.

Related material

At Wellcome Collection:

See the Eugenics Society archive (SA/EUG)

Moving Image and Sound collections hold DVD copies of c. 1925, and her 1923 dramatic film, Maisie's Marriage, as well as a videocassette of the Praxis Films for Channel 4 documentary, "Marie Stopes"

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.

Terms of use

This collection is currently partially uncatalogued. Uncatalogued material cannot be ordered online. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact for more details.

Finding aids

Listed in the hard-copy Guide to Contemporary Medical Archives in the Wellcome Library (2001, 5th Edition).

Appraisal note

The collection has been weeded of the following materials: duplicated items; personalia; papers relating to Dr Stopes' activities as a propagandist against Roman Catholicism (except where this bears directly on her birth control work); a few files of correspondence dealing with campaigns of hers on various minor issues; routine orders for the Letters to Working Mothers; notes and cuttings collected together for publication in Birth Control News; returns (barely legible) of names and addresses of patients at one of the clinics. A number of boxes of material of purely personal interest are retained by Dr Stopes-Roe.

Location of duplicates

See notes on Access. Also, the following photographs are held by Wellcome Images: PP/MCS/C.45, Photo of Stopes Birth Control Clinic 'Caravan' and caravan with nurse standing in front, 1920s, L13860-1 PP/MCS/C.45, Stopes Birth Control Clinic interior, [1920s/30s], L30408 PP/MCS/C.46, Poster advertising talk by Stopes 'Difficult problems in modern marriage', n.d, L30238

Accruals note

Acc 2727, 1 box, donated June 2023: Correspondence between H V Roe and Dr Dunlop about Twilight Sleep, the publication of Married Love, and the clinic idea. Folder of papers relating to the death of Marie Stopes' baby, Henry, including three post-mortem photographs of the baby with Harry V Roe, with annotations on reverse. Accounts of birth and death by MCS and HVR; death announcement in The Times. Birth Control, CBC, cuttings, meetings etc. Anti-vaccination letter. ‘Marriage and its Mysteries’ by CJ Welton 1893. Photographs of CBC caravan. Condom, 1900s.


The catalogue is available on microfiche via the National Inventory of Documentary Sources (NIDS).


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Accession number

  • 13
  • 30
  • 2727