“No Leisure for Myself ”: C.C. Stopes and British Freewomen
Charlotte Carmichael (C.C.) Stopes was born in Scotland in 1840 and died in 1929; she was an author and public intellectual, especially after moving to London. She gained her greatest renown as a scholar of Shakespeare’s family and his historical context. Even though associated most prominently with Shakespeare, she devoted time to feminist causes, especially women’s suffrage. She offered historical evidence of women’s long-term political privilege, arguing against the need for legislation as women had both voted and held offices throughout British history. Her most important work on the topic, British Freewomen, was published in 1894 and traced women’s political standing through past generations. Her correspondence, especially with her daughter Marie (a prominent leader of Britain’s birth control movement), documented her hectic life, although she received little reward for her written work. It has been broadly forgotten, except for specialists in women’s political past or in Shakespeare scholarship around 1900. Stopes’ correspondence with her daughter reveals not simply an amazingly full life, but also both admiration for, and competition with, Marie.