Helen Archdale

Helen Archdale

Helen Russel, the daughter of Alexander Russel and Helen De Lacy Evans, was born in 1876. Her father was the editor of The Scotsman, who had campaigned for the entry of Sophia Jex-Blake to the medical school in Edinburgh. Her mother was one of the students involved in that campaign.

Helen was educated at St Leonards School and University of St Andrews (1893-94). In 1901 Helen married Lieutenant Colonel Theodore Montgomery Archdale, who was stationed in India. Over the next few years she gave birth to two sons and a daughter.

On her return to England she joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). On 9th October 1909 she took part in a WSPU demonstration in Edinburgh. Later that month Helen Archdale was arrested with Adela Pankhurst and Maud Joachim in Dundee after interrupting a meeting being held by the local MP, Winston Churchill. On 20th October all three women went on hunger strike. They were all released after four days of imprisonment.

In March 1910 she became WSPU organizer in Sheffield. The following year she moved to London to act as the WSPU prisoners' secretary. In December 1911 she was sentenced to two months in Holloway Prison for breaking a window in a government building. On her release Archdale worked on the WSPU newspaper, The Suffragette. During this period she left her husband, Theodore Montgomery Archdale.

During the First World War she started a training farm for women agricultural workers, served as a clerical worker with Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps from 1917, and in 1918 worked in the women's department of the Ministry of National Service.

Helen Archdale
Helen Archdale

After leaving her husband Archdale began a relationship with Margaret Haig Thomas. According to her biographer, David Doughan: "Helen Archdale had an intense relationship with Lady Rhondda, which seems to have begun in committee work during the First World War, though they also shared a background in suffrage militancy. By the early 1920s, she was sharing an apartment, and, together with her family, a country house (Stonepits, Kent) with Lady Rhondda."

Lady Rhondda founded the political magazine Time and Tide in 1920. Helen Archdale became the first editor of the magazine. The following year the two women launched the Six Point Group of Great Britain, which focused on what she regarded as the six key issues for women: The six original specific aims were: (1) Satisfactory legislation on child assault; (2) Satisfactory legislation for the widowed mother; (3) Satisfactory legislation for the unmarried mother and her child; (4) Equal rights of guardianship for married parents; (5) Equal pay for teachers; (6) Equal opportunities for men and women in the civil service.

At first Time and Tide supported left-wing causes but over the years the magazine, like its owner, moved to the right. As David Doughan points out: "However, philosophical disagreements, as well as Lady Rhondda's increasing editorial interventions, resulted in her being effectively forced out of the editorship of Time and Tide in 1926. Although she remained a director of Time and Tide Publishing Company, after her resignation specifically feminist concerns were gradually marginalized in Time and Tide."

In 1927 Archdale she began work for the Women's International Organizations in Geneva. Archdale was also International Secretary of the Six Point Group of Great Britain and chairperson of Equal Rights International. She was also active in the International Federation of Business and Professional Women. She also contributed to The Times, The Daily News and The Scotsman.

Helen Archdale died at 17 Grove Court, St John's Wood, on 8th December 1949.