June 10, 2022

OTD: Sarah Grand (10 Jun, 1854 - 12 May 1943)

OTD: Sarah Grand (10 Jun, 1854 - 12 May 1943)

Sarah Grand, author, women's rights advocate, and suffragettist was born Frances Elizabeth Bellenden Clarke on the 10th of June 1854 at Donaghadee, Co. Down.

On the death of her father in 1861, her mother moved the family to Yorkshire. While at finishing school in Kensington, London, she shocked school authorities by organizing support for Josephine Butler’s campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts which prescribed punitive treatment of prostitutes under the guise of controlling venereal disease.  

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At age 16 she married David Chambers McFall, an army surgeon, 20 years her senior. The marriage proved to be unsuccessful and Sarah opted to live independently in 1890 when she achieved some success as an author.

In 1893, the publication of The Heavenly Twins brought Sarah Grand to public attention. The novel criticized Victorian sexual mores, advocated for women's education and healthcare rights, in addition to being fiercely critical of men who infected their wives with syphilis. The book proved to be a best seller and initiated a second career for the author as a speaker on women’s issues. 

Sarah Grand went on to support women’s suffrage in the first decades of the 20th century. Following the successful outcome of the suffrage campaign in 1918, her success as a writer faded as the need for her proselytizing style diminished. She served as mayor of Bath in Somerset during the 1920s before retiring to Calne in Wiltshire where she died on the 12th of May, 1943.