Mary Sheepshanks

Mary Sheepshanks

Mary Sheepshanks, was born on 25th October 1872 at Bilton vicarage, near Harrogate, North Yorkshire, the second of the thirteen surviving children of John Sheepshanks and his wife, Margaret Ryott. Her father, was later to become Bishop of Norwich.

Margaret Sheepshanks had seventeen children (four had died in infancy). Mary later recalled: "Hers had been a happy life; but in earlier years her nerves were overstrained beyond endurance and the real sweetness and generosity of her nature were sometimes over-clouded ... The entire lack of the element of pleasure in our home-life was no doubt largely due to the ceaseless worry and nervous strain of her incessant child bearing ... my Mother was swamped by babies."

In her book, Spinsters of this Parish (1984) Sybil Oldfield has argued: "It was hardly to be expected that Mrs Sheepshanks could give much individual attention or affectionate support to her eldest daughter during her fourteen subsequent pregnancies, nor did she. She was a woman who preferred all her sons to any of her daughters, and of her six daughters, Mary was the one for whom she cared least, being the plainest, the least feminine, and the most bookish as well as the most implacable of all her girls. But all Mrs Sheepshanks' children were very devoted to her - as children so often are to a mother of whose love they are deeply unsure."

Mary Sheepshanks had a difficult relationship with her father. Her biographer, Sybil Oldfield, has argued: "But the pity was that although her father was the most significant member of the family for Mary, Mary did not matter very much to him. She was neither a promising son nor a beautiful daughter. Time and again as a child and young girl she tried to impress him, but rarely, if ever, managed to do so. To counter her disappointment, Mary grew more critical of her father, weaning herself from her need of his praise and going her own way - even rejecting his religious faith. Yet she was the one among all his thirteen children who was most like him - sharing his mental and physical energy, his moral courage, his linguistic flair and his zest for travelling through dangerous and lonely parts of the globe. That part of her father to which she had whole-heartedly responded as a child - his sense of the justice due to others and the immovable courage of his convictions - Mary took into herself."

Mary was educated at Liverpool High School for Girls. In her unpublished autobiography she recalled: "At that time there was no bus or tram for the cross-country route... So at fourteen... I had to walk to the other side of the town, three miles each way through dingy streets and across brickfields with stagnant pools and dead cats." She added that it "was almost impossible to make friends, as all my school-fellows lived in the better-class neighbourhood near the school and were thus out of reach."

When she was seventeen, in 1889, she was sent to Germany to learn the language. Mary lived in Kassel and soon developed a strong interest in cultural events: "I had never before seen a play, nor heard a concert nor had I seen any good pictures... but theatre-going here was as much a matter of course as church-going was at home." She then moved onto Potsdam where she made several new friends: "How right the old Romans were to realise that what the people wanted was bread and games - or otherwise food and fun. We were young and enjoyed anything that meant meeting other young people."

The Sheepshanks family in 1892. Mary Sheepshanks is standing at the back.
The Sheepshanks family in 1892. Mary Sheepshanks is standing at the back.

In 1891 Mary went to Newnham College to study medieval and modern languages. She later recalled: "College life meant for me a new freedom and independence ... The mere living in Cambridge was a joy in itself; the beauty of it all, the noble architecture, the atmosphere of learning were balm to one's soul ...

To spend some of the most formative years in an atmosphere of things of the mind and in the acquisition of knowledge is happiness in itself and the results and memories are undying. Community life at its best, as in a college, brings contacts with people of varied interests and backgrounds and studying a wide range of subjects. Friendships are formed and new vistas opened. For a few years at least escape is possible from the worries and trivialities of domestic life."

Mary developed a close relationship with Florence Melian Stawell: "Florence Melian Stawell... was the most striking personality at Newnham at that time. She was an Australian student of outstanding ability, striking physical beauty and grace. On one occasion when she entered a room full of people a man exclaimed, At last the gods have come down to earth in the likeness of a woman! ... She was in fact one of those rare individuals endowed with every gift... Melian Stawell was in her third year when I went up, and I saw a good deal of her and learnt much from her." Stawell introduced Sheepshanks to the work of Walt Whitman, George Meredith and Henrik Ibsen.

Another close friend at Cambridge University was Flora Mayor, who introduced her to her sister Alice: "Mary Sheepshanks is an awfully nice girl to talk to". Alice agreed: "We had lots of interesting talk. I think (Mary Sheepshanks) about the most interesting girl I know to talk to ... she talks a good deal about men and matrimony, religion, books, art (very intelligently which is more than most people do)... She is certainly very keen on men and would get on with them admirably I'm sure... it is inspiring to the intellect to have her to discuss things with, we differ exceedingly."

Mary Sheepshanks and Flora Mayor were both interested in history. Mary later wrote: "Fortunately I was able to stay up for a fourth year, and I enjoyed a course in moral Science, Psychology and History of Philosophy and Economics. How I wished I had entered for that course or for History from the beginning."

While at Newnham College Mary began to teach adult literacy classes in the poor working-class district of Barnwell. This experience turned her into a social reformer. She also became friends with Bertrand Russell, a strong advocate of free love and women's suffrage. He was also highly critical of organised religion. Her sister, Dorothy Sheepshanks, recalled that, "Mary came to hold very advanced views in many respects, views of which father disapproved." John Sheepshanks, who was Bishop of Norwich at the time, was so shocked by Mary's views on politics and religion that he insisted that Mary must not spend any of her future university vacations at home.

In October 1895, she joined the Women's University Settlement, later the Blackfriars Settlement, in Southwark. According to her biographer, Sybil Oldfield: "Mary Sheepshanks was a tall, upright woman with bespectacled, brilliantly blue eyes and a brusque manner. Incomparably articulate, her exceptional intellectual competence masked deep personal insecurity; she found it difficult to believe she was liked." Flora Mayor visited the settlement but admitted to her sister Alice that she could not do that kind of work: "I felt rather shy though I must say the Settlement people are very nice... I don't think I shall go again... The children are rather revolting I think on the whole." Mary Sheepshanks admitted that it was dispiriting that many of the people seemed "to be quite happy in poverty, hunger, and dirt, enlivened with drink".

Octavia Hill was one of those who visited the Women's University Settlement. At first she had been prejudiced against the whole scheme. E. Moberly Bell, the author of Octavia Hill (1942), has argued that "she believed so passionately in family life, that a collection of women, living together without family ties or domestic duties, seemed to her unnatural, if not positively undesirable." However, after spending time with the women she remarked: "They are all very refined, highly cultivated... and very young. They are so sweet and humble and keen to learn about things out of the ordinary line of experience."

In 1897 Mary Sheepshanks was appointed vice-principal of Morley College for Working Men and Women. She made a special effort to persuade under-privileged women to enroll at the college. Sheepshanks also recruited Virginia Woolf to teach history evening classes. Other lecturers at the college included Graham Wallas, Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson and Ernest Shepherd. A member of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies she also invited Maud Pember Reeves and Christabel Pankhurst to lecture at the college.

In retrospect Mary felt that her responsibilities at Morley College had not been good for her in the long run: "It was a mistake to have taken an administrative post, and a light one at that, at such an early age. I ought to have been doing hard spade work and learning to be a good subordinate, a thing I never learned."

Mary Sheepshanks later recalled how much the college meant to the people in the area: "Very many of the students left home early in the morning by the workman's train, came straight from work to their classes and arrived home late, not having had any solid meal all day... It was distinctly a school for tired people."

Mary and Flora Mayor remained good friends. Sybil Oldfield, the author of Spinsters of this Parish (1984) pointed out: "Flora vvould call in for tea and sympathy with her friend Mary Sheepshanks in her lodgings in Stepney. Mary could always be relied upon for approval and encouragement in the matter of striking out independently and unconventionally, so Flora did not have to be at all defensive about the stage with her, but she did wish she could have reported a little more success. However, Mary did not depress Flora by claiming to be any more successful in life than she was. Flora could even feel that she was cheering Mary up by recounting her own inglorious struggle... One bond between the two of them, in addition to their wish to achieve something in the world, was their shared sense that they were not a success with men. Men might find both women stimulating to talk to, but they did not invite them out. Marriage was far from being their great aim in life; nonetheless it was a sore point that neither of them could, at the age of twenty-five, feel confident of any man's passionate affection."

On 23rd June, 1900, Mary, Flora Mayor, Ernest Shepherd and Frank Earp went to Queensgate House together. Flora wrote in her diary: "Mary Sheepshanks came to lunch looking very pretty. We met Ernest and Frank Earp and went on the river, most successful and most cheerful tea. Ernest was very lively, possibly owing to Mary. Mary talked a good deal about Mr. Fountain's engagement."

Flora believed that Shepherd was in love with Mary. However, in fact he really loved Flora. He was not earning enough money as an architect to marry her. In March 1903, Ernest took a well-paying post as part of the Architectural Survey of India. He then proposed to Flora. At first she hesitated because she did not want to be separated from her family. She wrote to her twin sister, Alice: "I don't like the thought of India... what am I to do without you?" Eventually she agreed to marry him.

Under instructions from Flora, Shepherd went to see Mary. That night he wrote to Flora: "I called on Mary Sheepshanks today and told her about ourselves; you know I said I should... Of course I did not expect her to care one way or the other and I don't think she did; but she spoke very nicely, and was pleased that I had come to tell her; so though it was very awkward, embarrassing and hateful I am very glad I did it."

In 1905 Mary Sheepshanks fell in love with Theodore Llewelyn Davies. However, he was in love with Meg Booth, the daughter of social investigator, Charles Booth. After she refused him, Davies committed suicide. Bertrand Russell wrote: "I never knew but one woman who would have been delighted to marry Theodore. She of course, was the only woman he wished to marry."

Mary was also attracted to Virginia Woolf, who she admitted exercised "an irresistible charm" over her. Sybil Oldfield has argued: "Mary found herself confiding in Virginia a great deal more than it retrospect she would have wished." Virginia did not share Mary's feelings. She wrote to Lytton Strachey: "Mary Sheepshanks deluged me till 1.30 in the morning with the most vapid and melancholy revelations - imagine 17 Sheepshanks in a Liverpool slum, and Mary (so she says) the brightest of the lot."

Mary wrote to Bertrand Russell about her failure to find someone who loved her: "It does seem to me as inevitable and as justifiable that one should want affection, as that one should want air and food, not as a reward, but because life is unbearable without. To the ordinary sort of woman like me with no particular talent or ambition, it is absolutely the only thing that matters. And this autumn I have felt so deserted. You are almost the only person who has been to see me or written to me.... The fact is I have a fair number of acquaintances, and hardly any friends. Everyone else seems to have their life full of people and interests, and I have failed to fill mine."

Initially, Mary Sheepshanks supported the Women Social & Political Union in their militant campaign to obtain women's suffrage. She was also a close friend of suffragettes such as Marion Wallace-Dunlop. According to Sybil Oldfield: "Mary Sheepshanks's feminism was inspired both by outrage at the brutal injustice suffered by women and by faith that emancipated, enfranchised women could help to humanize the world."

In April 1907 she invited Christabel Pankhurst to speak in a debate on women's suffrage at the Morley College for Working Men and Women. During the debate she argued: "We are absolutely determined to have our way, and to have our say in the government of affairs. We are going to develop on our own lines and listen to the pleadings of our inner nature. We shall think our own thoughts and strengthen our own intelligence. We want the abolition of sex in the choice of legislative power as well as privilege. For the present we want the woman to have what the men have." Mary Sheepshanks wound up the debate, supporting the motion for women's enfranchisement on two grounds: (1) that the vote would benefit women, (2) that it would benefit the state.

In April 1909, Mary arranged for Maud Pember Reeves to talk about the positive social consequences of women's enfranchisement in her native New Zealand. She also organized debates on the efforts of the Fabian Society to raise the wages of low-paid women workers.

As Sybil Oldfield has pointed out: "Her attitude to the Suffragettes, like that of many of her fellow Suffragists, was ambivalent. She disliked their methods, having an aversion to violence, but she greatly admired their individual acts of bravery and doubted whether she could have shown similar courage herself."

Mary Sheepshanks continued to campaign for the National Union of Suffrage Societies and in her biography, she writes about how she went with Philippa Fawcett, the daughter of Millicent Fawcett, to speak in Bicester: "While we were out at a meeting some young men, sons of neighbouring squires, broke into our bed-rooms and made hay of them. A few days later I had friends to dinner in London, including Jos. Wedgewood, who had previously rescued me and a friend from an angry election crowd in the Potteries. He took up the matter in the House of Commons, and the Home Secretary undertook to look into it... The father of one of the young men offered an apology - provided I would not say I had received one."

In 1913 she went on a suffrage lecture tour of Europe, speaking in French or German on women and local government, industry, temperance, and education. Later that year Jane Addams persuaded her to become secretary of the International Women's Suffrage Alliance and the editor of its journal, Ius Suffragii (The Law of Suffrage). Members of the organisation included Millicent Fawcett, Margery Corbett-Ashby, Vida Goldstein, Isabella Ford, Aletta Jacobs, Rosika Schwimmer, Ethel Snowden, Chrystal Macmillan, Crystal Eastman, Dora Montefiore, Helena Swanwick, Maude Royden and Kathleen Courtney.

Sheepshanks was a strong opponent of Britain's involvement in the First World War. She later wrote: "The war brought me as near despair as I have ever been... That many of the best men in every country should forswear their culture, their humanity, their intellectual efforts... to wallow in the joys of regimentation, brainlessness, and... the primitive delights of destruction! For they did... everywhere, in every belligerent country, men were doing the same things; patriotically rushing to the defence of their homes and loved ones, taunting and imprisoning, (if they did not shoot) the small number of young men who refused to join them; and disseminating and believing the same atrocity stories against each other. It was lonely in those days. I felt that men had dropped their end of the burden of living, and left women to carry on."

The day after war was declared, Charles Trevelyan began contacting friends about a new political organisation he intended to form to oppose the war. This included two pacifist members of the Liberal Party, Norman Angell and E. D. Morel, and Ramsay MacDonald, the leader of the Labour Party. A meeting was held and after considering names such as the Peoples' Emancipation Committee and the Peoples' Freedom League, they selected the Union of Democratic Control (UDC).

The founders of the UDC produced a manifesto and invited people to support it. Over the next few weeks several leading figures joined the organisation. This included Mary Sheepshanks, J. A. Hobson, Charles Buxton, Frederick Pethick-Lawrence, Arnold Rowntree, Morgan Philips Price, George Cadbury, Helena Swanwick, Fred Jowett, Tom Johnston, Philip Snowden, Ethel Snowden, David Kirkwood, William Anderson, Isabella Ford, H. H. Brailsford, Israel Zangwill, Bertrand Russell, Margaret Llewelyn Davies, Konni Zilliacus, Margaret Sackville and Olive Schreiner.

On 14th October, 1914, Mary Sheepshanks wrote in Ius Suffragii: "Each nation is convinced that it is fighting in self-defence, and each in self-defence hastens to self-destruction. The military authorities declare that the defender must be the aggressor, so armies rush to invade neighbouring countries in pure defence of their own hearth and home, and, as each Government assures the world, with no ambition to aggrandise itself. Thousands of men are slaughtered or crippled... art, industry, social reform, are thrown back and destroyed; and what gain will anyone have in the end? In all this orgy of blood, what is left of the internationalism which met in congresses, socialist, feminist, pacifist, and boasted of the coming era of peace and amity. The men are fighting; what are the women doing? They are, as is the lot of women, binding up the wounds that men have made."

Sheepshanks also called for a negotiated peace and called for an end to the arms race: "Armaments must be drastically reduced and abolished, and their place taken by an international police force. Instead of two great Alliances pitted against each other, we must have a true Concert of Europe. Peace must be on generous, unvindictive lines, satisfying legitimate national needs, leaving no cause for resentment such as to lead to another war."

Mary Sheepshanks joined forces with Isabella Ford and Elsie Inglis to agitate for the admission of vast numbers of Belgian refugees into Britain who had been made homeless because of the fighting on the Western Front. The women's suffrage newspaper, The Common Cause, reported: "Miss Sheepshanks, in an admirable speech, gave an appalling account of the burden which Holland is shouldering. In one province, with 300,000 inhabitants, there are 400,000 refugees. In a village with 800 inhabitants, 2,000 refugees. The situation is impossible, and it is clear that the Belgians must either come here or return to Belgium where their sons would be liable to German military service, and their daughters be unsafe. Public opinion in Great Britain should demand their coming here, and should back the demand by large offers of hospitality from municipal authority."

In January 1915 Mary Sheepshanks published an open Christmas letter to the women of Germany and Austria, signed by 100 British women pacifists. The signatories included Helena Swanwick, Emily Hobhouse, Margaret Bondfield, Maude Royden, Sylvia Pankhurst, Anne Cobden Sanderson, Eva Gore-Booth, Margaret Llewelyn Davies and Marion Phillips. It included the following: "Do not let us forget our very anguish unites us, that we are passing together through the same experiences of pain and grief. We pray you to believe that come what may we hold to our faith in peace and goodwill between nations."

At a Council meeting of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies held in February 1915, Millicent Fawcett attacked the peace efforts of people like Mary Sheepshanks. Fawcett argued that until the German armies had been driven out of France and Belgium: "I believe it is akin to treason to talk of peace." After a stormy executive meeting in Buxton all the officers of the NUWSS (except the Treasurer) and ten members of the National Executive resigned. This included Chrystal Macmillan, Kathleen Courtney, Catherine Marshall, Eleanor Rathbone and Maude Royden, the editor of the The Common Cause.

In April 1915, Aletta Jacobs, a suffragist in Holland, invited suffrage members all over the world to an International Congress of Women in the Hague. Some of the women who attended included Mary Sheepshanks, Jane Addams, Alice Hamilton, Grace Abbott, Emily Bach, Lida Gustava Heymann, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Emily Hobhouse, Chrystal Macmillan, Rosika Schwimmer. At the conference the women formed the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. Afterwards, Jacobs, Addams, Macmillan, Schwimmer and Balch went to London, Berlin, Vienna, Budapest, Rome, Berne and Paris to speak with members of the various governments in Europe.

Mary Sheepshanks, like many people on the left, welcomed the Russian Revolution and the overthrow of Tsar Nicholas II. She wrote in the Ius Suffragii : "Women Suffragists all over the world will welcome the liberation of the hundreds of millions of inhabitants of that vast empire... Freedom of speech, of religion, of the press, of public meetings; freedom to work or abstain from working: freedom for nationality."

In 1918 Mary Sheepshanks was appointed secretary of the Fight the Famine Council, an organisation that had been founded by Gilbert Murray, Richard H. Tawney, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Olive Schreiner, and others to educate public opinion concerning the need for a new, just economic order in Europe. In 1920, Sheepshanks lobbied the League of Nations unsuccessfully for the immediate admission of Germany and the revision of the reparations clauses of the Treaty of Versailles.

During this period she became friends with Paulina Luisi. Sheepshanks later recalled "a woman of outstanding ability and genius... whose vitality and dominating personality would make her a leader in the country in the world." Flora Mayor noted in her diary that Mary was "suffering a good deal from arthritis" and that "she likes the pacifist set she has round her but she is very lonely".

Mary Sheepshanks replaced Emily Bach as international secretary of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom in 1927. In September 1928 she headed another deputation to the League of Nations to present an urgent memorandum calling for a world disarmament conference. According to her biographer, Sybil Oldfield: "In 1929 she organized the first scientific conference on modern methods of warfare and the civilian population in Frankfurt, and in 1930 the first Conference on Statelessness in Europe (held in Geneva). Feeling increasingly isolated on the Women's International League executive among its French or German left-extremists, however, she resigned in 1931. She then went on an undercover fact-finding mission to the Ukrainians of Galicia, whose brutal oppression by the Polish regime of Marshal Pilsudski she proceeded to publicize."

In 1936 she was involved in sending medical help to Republicans fighting in the Spanish Civil War. Other members of the group included Leah Manning, George Jeger, Lord Faringdon, Arthur Greenwood, Tom Mann, Ben Tillett, Harry Pollitt and Mary Redfern Davies. In 1938 she was busy finding homes for Basque child refugees. Her house in Highgate became a place of refuge for political dissidents fleeing from Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin.

Mary Sheepshanks during the Second World War
Mary Sheepshanks during the Second World War

Sheepshanks became increasingly concerned by the increasing power of Adolf Hitler in Nazi Germany and on the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 she renounced her pacifism. However, she remained opposed to blanket bombing and complained bitterly about the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

In November 1945 she wrote to her niece, Pita Sheepshanks, about how she was a socialist: "In my youth I was a liberal, in fact a Radical, and I have long been a Socialist. I admit that this war has made me deeply pessimistic, the incredible savagery and beastliness of the Germans and the immeasurable suffering they caused make me despair of human nature, and now I expect this ghastly atomic bomb will be used to destroy the world. There are decent and wise people but they are bested by the evil ones."

Mary Sheepshanks did not enjoy good health in her final years, suffering from crippling arthritis. At the age of 79 she underwent an operation for cancer. An old friend, Margery Corbett Ashby, was one of her regular visitors: "She had so many general interests - music, books and art as well as politics. She looked on mankind as a family.

Another visitor was Denis Richards, a former principal of Morley College. "Her (Mary Sheepshanks) best feature was undoubtedly her eyes, which even at her late age were brilliantly blue and alive with intelligence and humour. Apart from that, and the general alertness of her face, she looked very much like a German caricature of an English spinster in the early years of this century."

In 1955 Sheepshanks began work on her memoirs. Her publisher wanted her to add many more "gossipy" comments on the famous people she had met in her lifetime. According to a friend she "absolutely refused to alter it or touch it again."

Mary Sheepshanks, nearly blind and paralysed, and faced with the prospect of being placed in a care-home, after her daily help resigned after a quarrel with a neighbour, committed suicide at her home in Hampstead on 21st January 1960.

Primary Sources

(1) Mary Sheepshanks, Autobiography (1955)

Hers had been a happy life; but in earlier years her nerves were overstrained beyond endurance and the real sweetness and generosity of her nature were sometimes over-clouded ... The entire lack of the element of pleasure in our home-life was no doubt largely due to the ceaseless worry and nervous strain of her incessant child bearing ... my Mother was swamped by babies ... She had had little education and, as she somewhat pathetically said to me many years later, she had never met any highly educated or intellectual women and was at a loss in dealing with a daughter who seemed to have that sort of bent.

(2) Sybil Oldfield, Spinsters of this Parish (1984)

It was hardly to be expected that Mrs Sheepshanks could give much individual attention or affectionate support to her eldest daughter during her fourteen subsequent pregnancies, nor did she. She was a woman who preferred all her sons to any of her daughters, and of her six daughters, Mary was the one for whom she cared least, being the plainest, the least feminine, and the most bookish as well as the most implacable of all her girls. But all Mrs Sheepshanks' children were very devoted to her - as children so often are to a mother of whose love they are deeply unsure.

(3) Mary Sheepshanks, Autobiography (1955)

College life meant for me a new freedom and independence ... The mere living in Cambridge was a joy in itself; the beauty of it all, the noble architecture, the atmosphere of learning were balm to one's soul ...

To spend some of the most formative years in an atmosphere of things of the mind and in the acquisition of knowledge is happiness in itself and the results and memories are undying. Community life at its best, as in a college, brings contacts with people of varied interests and backgrounds and studying a wide range of subjects. Friendships are formed and new vistas opened. For a few years at least escape is possible from the worries and trivialities of domestic life.

(4) Alice Mayor, letter to Flora Mayor (c. 1895)

We had lots of interesting talk. I think (Mary Sheepshanks) about the most interesting girl I know to talk to ... she talks a good deal about men and matrimony, religion, books, art (very intelligently which is more than most people do)... She is certainly very keen on men and would get on with them admirably I'm sure... it is inspiring to the intellect to have her to discuss things with, we differ exceedingly.

(5) Sybil Oldfield, Spinsters of this Parish (1984)

From time to time during her vain assaults on the agents and actor-managers in the capital, Flora would call in for tea and sympathy with her friend Mary Sheepshanks in her lodgings in Stepney. Mary could always be relied upon for approval and encouragement in the matter of striking out independently and unconventionally, so Flora did not have to be at all defensive about the stage with her, but she did wish she could have reported a little more success. However, Mary did not depress Flora by claiming to be any more successful in life than she was. Flora could even feel that she was cheering Mary up by recounting her own inglorious struggle... One bond between the two of them, in addition to their wish to achieve something in the world, was their shared sense that they were not a success with men. Men might find both women stimulating to talk to, but they did not invite them out. Marriage was far from being their great aim in life; nonetheless it was a sore point that neither of them could, at the age of twenty-five, feel confident of any man's passionate affection.

(6) Mary Sheepshanks, Autobiography (1955)

From my own personal point of view there were serious drawbacks to my work there (Morley College). I earned very little money, there were no avenues to promotion and, worst of all, the work being in the evenings cut me off from London social life. I had many friends and many invitations and could have had a gay time, but evening work made it impossible. One evening a week I had free, and I then went out to dinner with perhaps a party to follow. Weekends too had often to be sacrificed to Saturday evening fixtures at the College.

(7) Mary Sheepshanks, letter to Bertrand Russell (6th November 1905)

May I add several things to what we talked about? You are the only person to whom I have told everything and as you are so kind as to let me talk about myself I am taking full advantage. I know it is not very heroic, but if I keep everything to myself it gets so much worse, and I get so much worse, that you must try to forgive my inflicting it on you... I am very miserable, and as you are really the only person to talk about it, I do give you a good deal, but it is not really quite typical ... As far as I can, I think I do occupy myself about other people and try to help them, and when I spoke as if I didn't think other people's troubles mattered so much, that only represented wicked moments of despair... But, it does seem to me as inevitable and as justifiable that one should want affection, as that one should want air and food, not as a reward, but because life is unbearable without. To the ordinary sort of woman like me with no particular talent or ambition, it is absolutely the only thing that matters. And this autumn I have felt so deserted. You are almost the only person who has been to see me or written to me.... The fact is I have a fair number of acquaintances, and hardly any friends. Everyone else seems to have their life full of people and interests, and I have failed to fill mine. I know I have no right to complain, but it is dismal and depressing and work is cold comfort. I know that everything you say about the necessity of self-repression is true, I am afraid I have got a great deal to do. It is dreadful to feel such a desperate love of life and not the courage to give it up... I am very grateful to you for letting me once complain long and loudly. I don't think I shall want to again.

(8) Mary Sheepshanks, letter to Bertrand Russell (26th April 1913)

The suffrage movement is very little supported in Germany, nearly all the men are dead against and nearly all the women indifferent. Much less interest is taken in politics altogether, and also the men are more brutal and coarse and self-indulgent and domineering. The women are not quite so effaced as they were but their present claims seem rather more material, better clothes, etc. The keenest and most intelligent are generally teachers and Jewesses, the ordinary girls and married women are tepid and timid. Immense capital is made by the press and "antis" of the Suffragettes and obviously their outrages injure the cause and alienate numbers of moderates. Many women do a lot of social ameliorative work, but they think suffrage too extreme.

(9) Mary Sheepshanks, Autobiography (1955)

The war brought me as near despair as I have ever been... That many of the best men in every country should forswear their culture, their humanity, their intellectual efforts... to wallow in the joys of regimentation, brainlessness, and... the primitive delights of destruction! For they did... everywhere, in every belligerent country, men were doing the same things; patriotically rushing to the defence of their homes and loved ones, taunting and imprisoning, (if they did not shoot) the small number of young men who refused to join them; [and] disseminating and believing the same atrocity stories against each other. It was lonely in those days. I felt that men had dropped their end of the burden of living, and left women to carry on.

(10) Mary Sheepshanks, Ius Suffragii (October, 1914)

Each nation is convinced that it is fighting in self-defence, and each in self-defence hastens to self-destruction. The military authorities declare that the defender must be the aggressor, so armies rush to invade neighbouring countries in pure defence of their own hearth and home, and, as each Government assures the world, with no ambition to aggrandise itself. Thousands of men are slaughtered or crippled... art, industry, social reform, are thrown back and destroyed; and what gain will anyone have in the end?

In all this orgy of blood, what is left of the internationalism which met in congresses, socialist, feminist, pacifist, and boasted of the coming era of peace and amity. The men are fighting; what are the women doing? They are, as is the lot of women, binding up the wounds that men have made.

(11) The Common Cause (23rd October, 1914)

Miss Sheepshanks, in an admirable speech, gave an appalling account of the burden which Holland is shouldering. In one province, with 300,000 inhabitants, there are 400,000 refugees. In a village with 800 inhabitants, 2,000 refugees. The situation is impossible, and it is clear that the Belgians must either come here or return to Belgium where their sons would be liable to German military service, and their daughters be unsafe. Public opinion in Great Britain should demand their coming here, and should back the demand by large offers of hospitality from municipal authority.

(12) Mary Sheepshanks, Ius Suffragii (November, 1914)

Armaments must be drastically reduced and abolished, and their place taken by an international police force. Instead of two great Alliances pitted against each other, we must have a true Concert of Europe. Peace must be on generous, unvindictive lines, satisfying legitimate national needs, leaving no cause for resentment such as to lead to another war.

(13) Mary Sheepshanks, letter to Pita Sheepshanks (26th November 1944)

Here we are still in this grim and horrible war, poor London is still being bombed. It is impossible for you to imagine what it means in the sixth year of this misery and suffering. It absolutely spoils life for everyone and makes me despair of human beings ever being able to live in peace and happiness. People have been and are most heroic, working so hard, old and young and being so brave, but very tired and worn and living in frightful discomfort in overcrowded and damaged dwellings.

(14) Mary Sheepshanks, letter to Pita Sheepshanks (November 1945)

My dear, how could you ever think that I might be a conservative? I never was. In my youth I was a liberal, in fact a Radical, and I have long been a Socialist. I admit that this war has made me deeply pessimistic, the incredible savagery and beastliness of the Germans and the immeasurable suffering they caused make me despair of human nature, and now I expect this ghastly atomic bomb will be used to destroy the world. There are decent and wise people but they are bested by the evil ones.