Sarah Grand (Frances Clarke) was born in County Down, Ireland in 1854. Like other intelligent women of her generation she was denied an education comparable to her brothers’.
A vocal opponent of the Contagious Diseases Acts, she made a disastrous early marriage in 1870 to David Chambers McFall, whose work at the notorious lock hospitals directly informs The Beth Book (1897). The marriage broke down in 1888 with Grand’s move to London and the start of her literary career. Her most controversial novel, The Heavenly Twins was published in 1893 and includes an emotive treatment of syphilitic death, attributed to the prevalent belief that young women should remain ‘innocent’ of sexual issues before marriage. She is widely credited with coining the term ‘the New Woman’ in 1894.
Grand moved to Tonbridge Wells in Kent in 1898, where she became President of the local branches of the National Council of Women and the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. She moved to Bath in 1920, serving as Lady Mayoress from 1922 to 1929. She died in Wiltshire in 1943. Of her eight novels, only The Beth Book is currently in print (published by Victorian Secrets).
The ICVWW acquired the Sarah Grand Collection of Personalia in 2019. Housed in Grand’s monogrammed suitcase, this collection includes Grand’s passport, photograph album and personal items such as a monogrammed fruit knife, engraved powder pot, engraved cigarette casket and even the remains of one of her used cigarettes. There is also more than a decade’s worth of correspondence dating from Grand’s time in Bath, including letters and a Valentine’s Day card from close friend Gladys Singers-Bigger.
Access to the collection is during core library hours, between 9.00-5.00 Monday to Friday. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to order material in advance of your visit.