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Edith Ellis (nee Lees)

Edith Mary Oldham Ellis nee Lees (1861-1916) was a British feminist and writer who married Havelock Ellis in 1891, although her primary emotional and sexual relationships had been and continued after her marriage to be with women. Weeks comments that “Edith’s emotional and sexual passions were primarily lesbian, and both she and Ellis were to have a series of close emotional involvements with other women, certainly sexual in Edith’s case, more ambiguously erotic in Ellis’s case” (Weeks 2004). Like Ellis, Edith Lees was deeply interested in the writings of James Hinton and was also a prominent member of the Fellowship of the New Life, and for a time secretary of the Fellowship communal house in London. Edith was a close friend of Edward Carpenter’s and, regarding her letters to Carpenter, Sheila Rowbotham comments that “in contrast to Ellis’s staid tone, [Edith’s] bubble with affection and jokes, interspersed by frank observations” (Rowbotham 2008: 210). Schreiner’s only extant letter to Edith Ellis is a 1914 postcard making arrangements for her return to Britain from Italy, but its tone indicates that they knew each other well. Edith Ellis’s mental and physical health declined rapidly during 1916, due to her then untreatable diabetes, by which time she and Havelock Ellis were estranged, and she died in September of that year. After her death Havelock Ellis edited and published her study James Hinton: A Sketch in 1918.

For further information see:
Sheila Rowbotham (2008) Edward Carpenter: A Life of Liberty and Love London: Verso
Sheila Rowbotham and Jeffrey Weeks (1977) Socialism and the New Life: The Personal and Sexual Politics of Edward Carpenter and Havelock Ellis London: Pluto Press
J. Weeks (2004) ‘Ellis, (Henry) Havelock (1859-1939)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/33009
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collection icon Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin: The HRC, Austin, is one of the world leading locations for archival papers pertaining to literary life and manuscripts across... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon National English Literary Museum, Grahamstown: The National English Literary Museum is the leading location for collections pertaining to the imaginative and creative writi... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon National Library of South Africa, Cape Town: Special Collections at the NLSA provide one of the leading locations for archival papers across many periods, organisations a... Show/Hide Collection Letters
collection icon Sheffield City Libraries, Archives & Local Studies: Edward Carpenter Collection, Archives & Local Studies, Sheffield City Libraries: The Edward Carpenter Collection is held ... Show/Hide Collection Letters
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