Charlotte Despard Papers

Papers of Charlotte Despard, née French (1844-1939), suffragette, pacifist, Irish republican and socialist, c. 1900-1935. An active, if at times, extreme exponent of the causes she adopted, Charlotte Despard is a significant figure in the history of early 20th century Britain and Ireland, renowned for the leading role she played in the suffragette movement. Born in Kent in 1844 of Protestant Anglo-Irish descent, she became politically active from 1890 onwards when, on the death of her husband, Maxillian Despard, she decided to dedicate her life to helping the poor, joining and supporting various organisations including that of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). She later moved to Dublin in 1916 and became an active supporter of Sinn Fein and member of the Friends of Soviet Russia. Her radicalism, however, in this quarter, won her few friends and, under the government of the Irish Free State, was eventually banned as a subversive. In 1933, she moved to Belfast, where she died in 1939. This collection of her papers contains a range of revealing material. Of particular note are a series of personal diaries dating from 1913-26 in which Despard comments on the suffragette movement, and the pacifist, Irish republican and socialist causes of the time. Apart from these main themes the diaries cover areas and events such as: her meeting with Ghandi in London in 1914; her journalistic activities; the formation of the League of Nations; penal reform; her travels in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, 1913. There is also correspondence, 1928-c.1935, concerning family affairs and her activities in support of socialism. Other items include: printed pamphlets and papers, 1908-35, including copies of 'The Women's Freedom League', 'Women's World Committee against war and fascism', ' The Friends of Soviet Russia', and a hymn sheet for the funeral service of Mrs. Pankhurst, 1928; manuscript novels and novelettes together with a number of poems and songs written by Mrs. Despard, c.1900.


The Despard diaries are an important tool for students of the suffragette movement and, to a lesser degree, pacificism, Irish republicanism and socialism in the early part of the twentieth century.

Physical characteristics

The Charlotte Despard Papers consist of c.150 items, c.1900-35. They comprise a range of documents, small volumes and printed pamphlets and occupy the space of 2 PRONI boxes.

Description or Catalogue

See PRONI reference D/2479 for caralogue of the papers. The catalogues are available for consultation in PRONI's Public Search Room.


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Added by PRONI | Last updated on: 09 February 2018