Dora Winifred Russell Papers

Biographical / Historical Note

Maiden name: Dora Black; born in Thornton Heath, Surrey, England 1894, died in Porthcurno, Cornwall 1986; writer, socialist, feminist; second wife of Bertrand Russell; research fellow at Girton College, Cambridge, in 1915, after obtaining a degree in French and German; travelled to Russia in 1920, became deeply impressed by the Communist regime; accompanied Russell to Japan and China in 1920-1921; contributed to Bertrand Russell's books `The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism' 1920 and `The Problem of China' 1923; together they wrote `The Prospects of Industrial Civilization' 1923; Labour candidate in the general election of 1924; cofounder of the Workers' Birth Control Group; organized the London congress of the World League for Sexual Reform (WLSR) in 1929; with Russell she opened their progressive school at Beacon Hill in Sussex in 1927, where their two children John (1921) and Kate (1923) were educated; Dora had two more children Harriet (1930) and Roddy (1932) by the American journalist Griffin Barry; her open marriage with Russell ran into trouble and after their separation in 1932 she ran the school on her own until 1943; stayed with the Independent Labour Party (ILP) after its secession from the Labour Party in 1932; founding member of the Federation of Progressive Societies and Individuals (FPSI) in 1932, of the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) in 1934, and of the Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) in 1936; worked for the Ministry of Information 1943-1950, mainly as science editor of Britanskij Sojuznik; active in many women's organizations, she led the Women's Caravan of Peace across Europe to Moscow and back in 1958; her publications include her autobiography `The Tamarisk Tree' 1975, 1980, 1985, in three volumes.


The papers of Dora Russell , packed in some sixty boxes, were acquired in 1988. They contained the archives of the Beacon Hill School as well as the Dora Russell papers, with the exception of the letters received from Bertrand Russell .
These were sold by the family to McMasters University, Ontario, Canada, where the archive of Bertrand Russell remains. The papers almost cover Dora Russell's whole life. Only of the Beacon Hill School rather little correspondence remained from the period 1927 until 1932, which also seems to be the case in the Bertrand Russell archive, according to Dora Russell's correspondence with the McMasters University in Ontario ( 68).
In arranging the papers the existing order has been maintained as far as possible, although inconsistencies have been corrected. When using the resulting list the user must be aware of some peculiarities. They concern in particular the series of correspondence, which do not exclude each other completely.
To find all letters by a correspondent the alphabetical and chronological correspondence should be checked and if a correspondent was also involved in the Beacon Hill School or organizations Dora Russell took part in, letters may be found in these files as well.
Books and periodicals have been transferred to the library, photographs, films and one audiotape to the audiovisual department of the Institute.


Personal papers: correspondence 1906, 1920-1986, with Fenner Brockway 1968-1986, Doris Lessing 1976-1986, Sinclair Lewis n.d, Ottoline Morrell 1934, A. Sutherland Neill 1932-1944, George Bernard Shaw 1923-1950, G.P. Wells 1930-1935, H.G. Wells 1924-1936 and others; correspondence with family members, including Bertrand Russell 1928-1929, 1932-1967, John C. Russell 1933-1962, 1976-1977, Katharine Tait-Russell 1932-1970, Roderick Barry 1944-1983 and several others; diary 1912-1913; notebooks on journeys 1920-1921, 1978-1980; appointment diaries 1922-1986; membership cards 1922-1986; other personal papers 1909-1915, 1925-1986; manuscripts of books 1925-1986, including `The Religion of the Machine Age', `The Right to be Happy', `In Defense of Children', `We called on Europe: The Story of the Women's Caravan of Peace' and `The Tamarisk Tree'; manuscripts of articles and poems 1915-1986, including articles for El Sol 1926-1930; correspondence with publishers and some editors 1923-1986; prints and reprints of articles and reviews 1918-1985; press clippings of reviews of Russell's books 1925-1933, 1983-1986; some typescripts by others 1926, 1933, 1953; files relating to her employment at the Ministry of Information 1944-1950; files relating to the Abortion Law Reform Association (ALRA) 1936-1981, the Britain-China Friendship Association (BCFA), from 1965 the Society for Anglo-Chinese Understanding (SACU) 1950-1978, the Conservation Society 1966-1986, the FPSI, from 1940 the Progressive League 1935-1948, 1952, the National Assembly of Women (NAW) 1952-1978, the National Council for Civil Liberties (NCCL) 1935-1975, 1983-1984, the Permanent International Committee of Mothers (PICM) 1955-1961, the Women's Caravan of Peace 1957-1961, 1980-1986, the Women's International Democratic Federation (WIDF) 1951-1962, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) 1956-1985, the Workers' Birth Control Group 1923-1928, the World League for Sexual Reform (WLSR) 1928-1936 and other organizations; documents relating to her involvement in local politics, in public debate and to political issues 1920-1986; files on lecturing, participation in conferences, interviews (1920-) 1949-1963, 1970-1986; documentation 1924-1986. Beacon Hill School: minutes of council meetings 1937-1940; general correspondence 1926, 1928-1943; documents relating to premises, finances, legal advice and staff 1928-1943; documents relating to pupils' activities 1932-1943; diaries of psychological observation 1927-1932, daily record books 1928-1930, intelligence tests 1929-1930, medical reports 1928-1939, term reports 1929-1939 and correspondence with parents 1931-1943; schoolbooks and other instruction material 1915-1939; some other documents including prospectuses and articles about the school. Papers of relatives: some correspondence, including letters received from Dora Russell, and other documents 1920-1987, of Harriet R. Barry (born 1930), Roderick Barry (1932-1983), E. M. (Bindy) Black, Sara I. Black-Davisson (1869-1956), Gordon (Pat) Grace (1910-1949), Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), John C. Russell (1921-1987), Katharine Tait-Russell (born 1923) and Fisher Unwin.

Schoolmagazine 1940 (added to 603) and texts of plays 1938 (added to inv. no. 645).

NB. Letters by Bertrand Russell to Dora Russell at the McMasters University, Ontario, Canada.

Processing Information

Inventory made by Tiny de Boer in 1993, updated by Wim Leendertse in 2008

Related Material

See also the Dora Winifred Russell Photo Collection

at the IISH