Thursday, July 29, 2010

Blue Plaque for Marie Stopes

Today an English Heritage Blue Plaque was unveiled in Cintra Park, Upper Norwood, on the house in which the eminent palaeobotanist, sex educator and campaigner for birth control, Marie Stopes (1880-1958), spent her childhood years. (Some of us might feel that her mother Charlotte Carmichael Stopes, Shakespearean scholar, suffragette, and writer on women's issues, also deserves some commemoration. She made a significant contribution to enlivening the cultural atmosphere of Upper Norwood by running discussion groups, Shakespeare readings, a logic class, and meetings on female suffrage.)

Present at the unveiling were Stopes's daughter-in-law, Mary Stopes-Roe (Stopes's son, Harry Stopes-Roe, being unfortunately able to be present for health reasons) and her grandson Jonathan Stopes-Roe. Also present were representatives of the British Library, of Marie Stopes International which carries on her work on a global scale and is based in Whitfield Street, Fitzrovia, in the premises formerly occupied by Stopes's own Mothers' Clinic from 1926, and Lesley Hall, representing the Wellcome Library and the Galton Institute Council, which continues to administer one of Stopes' legacies, a Birth Control Trust for 'the alleviation of poverty by providing practical birth control advice'.

While the bulk of Marie Stopes' substantial archives are held in the British Library Department of Manuscripts, the Wellcome Library holds a significant collection of Stopes papers, consisting mainly of thousands of letters received from grateful readers and other enquirers following the publication of her pioneering marriage manual, Married Love, in 1918, but including some material on her birth control clinics and other activities. There Library also holds a substantial number of other archival collections relating to birth control in the UK and elsewhere.

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