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COLLECTION Identifier: A/R397

Diary of Elinor Rendel, 1907-1909


Diary of Elinor Rendel, primarily describing a trip to the United States she took with fellow suffragists from September 1908 to March 1909.


  • 1907-1909

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the diary created by Elinor Rendel as well as copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


1 folder

The diary of Elinor Rendel begins with a "record of conversations," Christmas 1907, including a discussion of the relative merits of male and female hairdressers, and continues with an account of a suffragist speaking tour of southern Scotland, traveling and camping in a caravan, June-July 1908. She notes the difficulties and discomforts of this trip as well as the successes. The bulk of the diary describes Rendel's trip to the United States. Her initial expectations for the trip were apparently not high: she reports telling a friend about her "curious and rather dismal prospects in America." Upon arrival in the United States, she is frequently unimpressed with the manners and appearances of people she encounters, observing of some young men, "They don't know how to speak or eat" and adding that their aunt "looks like a great toad." She also expresses discontent with the work assigned to her, calling it "useless, tiring, and stupid." Among her frequently harsh and acerbic descriptions of the individuals she encounters are observations on the relationship between Ray Costelloe and her mother. She also reports her feelings of jealousy at Ray's success at public speaking and her guilt and self reproach for those feelings.

Rendel gives her impressions of the various suffrage events she attends, observing at one point that "There seems to be very little real devotion to the cause as in England." She does, however, express admiration for Anna Howard Shaw and includes a summary of her "life story," referring to her as "the Rev. Anna." She also describes visiting Hull House, where she met Jane Addams briefly; visiting a factory for women workers near Buffalo; and attending a lecture on the "hundred worst books" in Boston. Towards the end of the diary she reports meeting a "disguised German-French baron" who proceeded to tell her about his past life and "his ideas about love, marriage etc. He spoke more unreservedly than any man or woman I have ever met. Mon Dieu, what did he leave unsaid?" On a second encounter with this man, she notes that he "evidently thought that we were improper ladies and talked to us as if we were." The final pages of the diary consist of lists of "American dishes," "Americanisms" (American versions of British words and phrases), and "American customs," for example, that "it is polite to say 'I'm so pleased to have met you' after being introduced to someone, i.e. on taking leave of that person."


Frances Elinor Rendel, the daughter of Elinor Strachey Rendel and James Meadows Rendel, was born in 1885. She had one brother, Richard. Her maternal grandmother was author and women's rights supporter Lady Jane Strachey. Rendel worked as secretary to Cambridge University's Women's Suffrage Society, and, from 1909 to 1912, for the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. She was also a doctor and worked in Serbia during World War I, and in private practice, treating Virginia Woolf, among others. In September 1908 she traveled to the United States with fellow suffragists Mary Berenson (1864-1945) and Ray (1887-1940) and Karin Costelloe, Berenson's daughters from her first marriage. The group traveled to Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Buffalo, Chicago, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Washington, DC, among other places, and were often called upon to speak on women's suffrage. Many of these speaking engagements were at colleges, including Harvard University, Bryn Mawr, and Smith Colleges. While in Buffalo they attended the annual convention of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and during part of their trip they were accompanied by Anna Howard Shaw, president of Association. Mary Berenson was the wife of art historian Bernard Berenson and the group had introductions to William James, Isabella Stewart Gardner, Julia Ward Howe (whom she describes as "an old old lady dressed in white flannel"), and Theodore Roosevelt, as well as other prominent figures. Rendel returned to England in March 1909. She died in 1942.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession number: 2009-M87

The diary of Elinor Rendel was acquired by the Schlesinger Library from Maggs Bros. Ltd. in 2009.

Existence and Location of Copies

Digital Surrogates of the items in this collection are available through the Adam Matthew online database Gender: Identity and Social Change (Access restricted to subscribing institutions).

Processing Information

Processed: May 2009

By: Anne Engelhart

Updated and additional description added: February 2021

By: Susan Earle

The Schlesinger Library attempts to provide a basic level of preservation and access for all collections, and does more extensive processing of higher priority collections as time and resources permit.  Finding aids may be updated periodically to account for new acquisitions to the collection and/or revisions in arrangement and description.

Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description
Processing of this collection was made possible by the Carl & Lily Pforzheimer Fund, Pforzheimer Fund for the Schlesinger Library, Sybil Shainwald Fund at the Schlesinger Library, and Class of 1955 Manuscript Processing Fund.

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

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