Higher Lighthouse & Marie Stopes

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Higher Lighthouse & Marie Stopes

Marie Stopes lived on Portland in the Higher Lighthouse from 1923 and bought Avice’s Cottage to convert to the Portland Museum which she opened in 1930.

In 1930 Dr. Marie Stopes became the first curator of Portland Museum which was housed in two picturesque thatched cottages nestling above Church Ope Cove.  Marie had lived in one of the cottages before donating them to the museum. It is said that one cottage inspired the author Thomas Hardy to centre his famous novel “The Well Beloved” around it, making it the home of “Avice”, the novel’s heroine

If Marie Stopes was alive and working today, she would be seen as a remarkable woman – a passionate pioneer for women’s rights, a brilliant speaker and a skilled self-publicist, capable of pulling off extraordinary stunts to attract the media.

The daughter of Henry Stopes and Charlotte Carmichael, Marie was born in Edinburgh in 1880. Marie shared her father’s interest in science and at the age of eighteen won a science scholarship at University College, London. Marie was a talented and committed student and in 1901 achieved a double first in botany. She continued her studies and in 1905 she obtained her DSc and became Britain’s youngest doctor of Science.

Marie Stopes might never have got involved in family planning if she hadn’t had a disastrous marriage to fellow scientist Reginald Ruggles Gates.  After a whirlwind romance the relationship was close to break-down within a year. Although she was highly intelligent, it only gradually became apparent to Marie that her sex life was not quite right. After studying medical books in the British Library she realised her husband was impotent and that she was still a virgin. She did not believe in divorce, but took the extraordinary step of turning to the law and having her marriage annulled on the grounds of non-consummation.

The humiliating experience drove her to write her first book, “Married Love”. It was a sex manual – the first of its kind in the UK. Marie Stopes married again in 1918. Her new husband, Humphrey Roe, cofounder of the A.V. Roe aircraft firm, shared her interest in birth control. He had seen his female workforce suffering from the effects of frequent childbearing and had already tried – unsuccessfully – to establish a family planning clinic. So he was prepared to support her work and paid for “Married Love” to be published.

Marie’s next book was about birth-control. She had become interested in this subject after meeting Margaret Sanger, a birth-control campaigner from America. After hearing Margaret Sanger’s story Marie decided to start a birth-control campaign in Britain. In 1918 Stopes wrote a concise guide to contraception called Wise Parenthood. With financial help from her husband, Marie also opened the first of her birth-control clinics in Holloway, North London on 17th March 1921.

Marie Stopes was involved in several other crusades during her life. This included an attempt to stop education authorities from sacking married women teachers. Marie also become involved in the campaign to persuade the Inland Revenue to tax husbands and wives separately.

While continuing her birth control campaigns, she did as she had planned, spending most of her last 20 years writing acclaimed poetry. In 1958, the year of her death, the Anglican Bishops’ Lambeth Conference finally acknowledged the need for birth control, accepting that procreation was not the sole purpose of Christian marriage. By the time Marie Stopes read their statement she knew she was dying of cancer and set her affairs in order, dissolving her Society for Constructive Birth Control. She died in her home near Dorking, Surrey on 2 October 1958.

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SUMMER 1939 LOWER LIGHTHOUSE BAY.

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HARRY STOPES – ROE & ROBYN

WITH THE DOG AT THE LOWER LIGHTHOUSE 1930 (NOTE NEW LOUNGE IN QUADRANGLE) 

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