The papers of Agnes Maude Royden

Reference and contact details: GB 0106 7/AMR
Title: The papers of Agnes Maude Royden
Dates of creation: 1883-1956
Held at: The Women's Library
Extent: 16 boxes
Language of Material: eng

Administrative/Biographical History

Maude Royden was born in 1876, the daughter of the ship-owning Conservative MP from Liverpool, Sir Thomas Royden. She was educated first at Cheltenham Ladies College, then at Lady Margaret Hall in Oxford from 1896 to 1899, where she met Kathleen Courtney and Ida O'Malley. After graduating she spent three years working with the Victoria Women's Settlement in Liverpool and then undertaking parish work in South Luffenham for the Reverend William Hudson Shaw. They remained close friends, marrying after the death of his wife. This took place just two months before his own death in 1944.

From 1905, Royden was involved in lecturing in the Oxford University Extension Scheme. She subsequently became involved in the women's suffrage movement, becoming a regular speaker for the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies from 1908. She was appointed to its executive committee in 1911 and edited its newspaper, 'The Common Cause' between 1913 and 1914. Additionally, from 1910, she supported the Tax Resistance League and was the first chairperson of the Church League for Women's Suffrage. By 1912 she was giving well over 250 speeches a year and in 1913 she was also appointed president of the Chester Women's Suffrage Society, vice president of the Oxford Women Students' Suffrage Society and was a member of the executive committee of the London Women's Suffrage Society.

1912 was an important year for the future of the women's movement. It was in this year that the Labour Party made support for female suffrage part of it s policy for the first time. When, that same year, the NUWSS launched the Election Fighting Fund policy, which promised support to any party officially supporting suffrage in an election where the candidate was challenging an anti-suffrage Liberal, the effect was to effectively support the Labour Party. The women's suffrage campaign had long been associated with the Liberal Party and had always been non-party, welcoming the left and right wing into its numbers. After this step, however, some members, such as Eleanor Rathbone, left the organisation in opposition to this step. Royden, however, supported the move and was one of the speakers at the joint meeting of the NUWSS and the Labour Party held in the Albert Hall in February 1914.

However, at the outbreak of the First World War, Royden found herself in conflict with many in the NUWSS which, under the leadership of Millicent Fawcett, had thrown itself enthusiastically into support for work to support the war effort. At the end of the year she became the secretary of the Fellowship of Reconciliation with other Christian Pacifists. In February of the following year she resigned as editor of 'Common Cause' and gave up her place on the executive council. She had intended to attend the women's peace congress in the Hague in 1915 that year but was unable to do so when travel via the North Sea was forbidden. None the less, when the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom was established there, she became the vice-president. Despite this, even outside of the NUWSS she campaigned for the vote for women through the National Council for Adult Suffrage and when a limited franchise was granted in 1918, she was asked to address the celebratory meeting organised by the older group at the Queen's Hall.

In the post-war period, her main interests were concerned with the role of women in the Church. She herself had become an assistant preacher at the City Temple in 1917: though an Anglican herself, she was not permitted to preach in the Church of England as a woman. In 1920 she was granted an interdenominational pulpit at the Kensington Town Hall through the Fellowship Services. This position was soon transferred to the Guildhouse in Eccleston Square and she continued to preach socially radical sermons from there for some years. In 1922 she was invited to stand as a Labour candidate for the Wirral constituency but declined for the sake of her work in the church. Royden made several preaching tours across the world from the 1920s to the 1940s and undertook large-scale article writing. At the same time she continued her work for peace, in particular through her 'Peace Army' and the League of Nations. She finally resigned from the Guildhall post in 1936 to concentrate her efforts in this area until 1939. At this point, however, she renounced pacifism believing Nazism to be a greater evil than war. After 1945, she was mainly occupied by writing and radio broadcasts on religion. She died in London on the 30th July 1956

Scope and Content

Correspondence files of Maude Royden (1936-56), papers and correspondence of Hudson Shaw (1883-1944), general correspondence (1900s-1950s), papers related to the death and memory of Royden (1956-61), materials for biographies of Chiang Kai-Shek and Ralph Rooper (c.1944), sermon diaries including press-cuttings (1917-1920), engagement diaries (1948, 1952-55), family photographs, papers related to preaching at Guildshouse (1920s-1940s), draft of autobiography, notebooks and papers (1920s-1930s), scrapbooks (1915-1931), copies of articles, press-cuttings (1911-13), pamphlets and publications.

Administrative Information

Access Conditions

This collection is open for consultation. Intending readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit.

Further Information

Finding Aids


Related Units of Description

The Women's Library also holds Royden's letters to Dame Kathleen Courtney (see GB 0106 7/KDC); her correspondence with Albert Mansbridge is held by the British Library (Ref: Add MS 652610); her correspondence with HRL Sheppard is held by Lambeth Palace Library and her letters to EJ Thompson are held in the Special Collections and Western Manuscripts section of the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. The papers of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (see ref: GB 0106 2/NWS) and the Tax Resistance League (GB 0106 2/WTR) are also in the Women's Library.