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Finding Aid for the Ethel Mary Smyth Letters, 1894-1937

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Dame Ethel Mary Smyth (1858-1944) was an English music composer, author, and feminist. The Ethel Mary Smyth Letters date from 1894 to1937, include correspondents such as Emmeline Pankhurst, Lady Ponsonby, Empress Eugenie and Lord Stamfordham, and cover a broad range of topics, including suffragism, society families, and literature.

Administrative Information

Collection Number

MSS 119


1 box.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Ethel Mary Smyth Letters (MSS 119), University Archives and Manuscripts, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Acquisitions Information

Purchased from London bookseller.

Biographical Note

Dame Ethel Mary Smyth (1858-1944) was a music composer, author, and feminist. Born in Sidcup, England, she showed early musical talent and waged a successful battle with her father for permission to study at the Conservatorium in Leipzig. She composed numerous works including chamber music, oratorios, and operas. A number of her compositions were performed in concert in England as well as in Germany. She was the first woman to compose music in the largest forms of opera, oratorio and concerto, making an important breakthrough for women in the field of music.

Smyth's interest in women's rights in the music world drew her into the larger movement for women's suffrage. She became a militant suffragette and feminist, served a term in prison and became a close friend of Emmeline Pankhurst. Her literary works include several autobiographies.

Description of Collection

This collection contains letters between Dame Ethel Smyth, Lady Ponsonby, Emmeline Pankhurst, Empress Eugenie and members of the Empress's circle; an anonymous typescript describing the months preceding Empress Eugenie's death; and a suffragette broadside about Emmeline Pankhurst.

The largest group of letters, dated 1910-1914, are from Ethel Smyth to Emmeline Pankhurst. Most of them are written from Helouan, Egypt, about events concerning the women's suffrage movement in England, and a wide variety of other topics.

The broadside issued by the Women's Social and Political Union [1913] entitled, "The Case of Mrs. Pankhurst; a Victim of the 'Cat and Mouse Act'", is an appeal for the repeal of the force-feeding of imprisoned suffragettes who had gone on hunger-strikes to dramatize their position on women's rights. It describes the activities of Mrs. Pankhurst and mentions her attendance at the funeral of Emily Wilding Davison, the suffragette who threw herself in front of the King's horse in view of the King and Queen on the Derby course and was killed in June 1913.

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