Mona Caird

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Alice Mona Caird (née Alice Mona Alison, married name Alice Mona Henryson-Caird) (1854–1932) was a Scottish novelist and essayist whose feminist views sparked controversy in the late 19th century. (The year of her birth is sometimes incorrectly given as 1855 or 1858: the England and Wales Birth Registers make it clear that her birth was registered in the July to September quarter of 1854.)


Caird was born in Ryde on the Isle of Wight, the older of two daughters of John Alison of Midlothian, Scotland, (who some biographies claim was the inventor of the vertical boiler),[1] and Matilda Hector who, according to the 1871 census records, was born in Schleswig Holstein, Germany. Her parents' marriage was registered on 4 September 1843 in Kensington, when her father's name was incorrectly recorded as John Nelson of Carlisle. Caird wrote stories and plays from early childhood which reveal a proficiency in French and German as well as English.

In December 1877, she married James Alexander Henryson-Caird JP, son of Sir James Caird. Her husband farmed some 1700 acres of his family's estates in Cassencary, Scotland. Some eight years older, her husband was supportive of her independence, and although he resided at Cassencary and at Northbrook House, Micheldever in Hampshire, she spent much of her time in London and travelling abroad. She associated with literary people, including Thomas Hardy who was an admirer of her work, and educated herself in many areas of the humanities and science. The Cairds had one child, a son who was registered in 1884 with the names Alison James (see the England and Wales registrations of births), but whom she called Alister. Her husband died in 1921.

Caird published her first two novels, Whom Nature Leadeth (1883) and One That Wins (1887), under the pseudonym "G. Noel Hatton", but these drew little attention and subsequent writings were published under her own name. She came to prominence in 1888 when the Westminster Review printed her long article "Marriage", in which she analysed indignities historically suffered by women in marriage and called its present state a "vexatious failure", advocating the equality and autonomy of marriage partners. London's widely circulated newspaper, the Daily Telegraph quickly responded with a series called "Is Marriage a Failure?", which drew a reported 27,000 letters from around the world and continued for three months. Feeling that her views had been misunderstood, she published another article called "Ideal Marriage" later that year. Her numerous essays on marriage and women's issues written from 1888 to 1894 were collected in a volume called The Morality of Marriage and Other Essays on the Status and Destiny of Women in 1897.

Continuing to write fiction, Caird published the novel The Wing of Azrael (1889), which deals with the subject of marital rape. In it, Viola Sedley murders her cruel husband in self-defense. Next was a short story collection, A Romance of the Moors (1891). In the title story, a widowed artist, Margaret Ellwood, stirs up the relationship of a young couple by counselling them to each become independent and self-sufficient persons. Her most famous novel, The Daughters of Danaus[2] (1894), is the story of Hadria Fullerton, who has aspirations to become a composer, but finds that the demands on her time by family obligations, both to her parents and as a wife and mother, allow little time for this pursuit. The novel has since been regarded as a feminist classic. Also well known is her short story "The Yellow Drawing-Room" (1892), in which Vanora Haydon defies the conventional separation of "spheres" of men and women. Such of her works have been referred to as "fiction of the New Woman".

Active in the women's suffrage movement from her early twenties, Caird joined the National Society for Women's Suffrage in 1878, and later the Women's Franchise League, the Women's Emancipation Union, and the London Society for Women's Suffrage. Her essay "Why Women Want the Franchise" was read at the 1892 WEU Conference. In 1908, she published the essay "Militant Tactics and Woman's Suffrage" and participated in the second Hyde Park Demonstration for women's suffrage. She was also an active opponent of vivisection, writing extensively on the subject, including "The Sanctuary Of Mercy" (1895), "Beyond the Pale" (1896), and a play "The Logicians: An episode in dialogue" (1902), in which the characters argue opposing views on the issue.

Caird was a member of the Theosophical Society from 1904 to 1909. Among her later writings are a large illustrated volume of travel essays, Romantic Cities Of Provence (1906), and novels The Stones Of Sacrifice (1915), which depicts harmful effects of self-sacrifice on women, and The Great Wave (1931), a social science fiction which attacks the racist policies of negative eugenics.

Mona Caird died on 4 February 1932 in Hampstead.

Writings of Mona Caird

  • Whom Nature Leadeth (1883) novel
  • One That Wins (1887) novel
  • Marriage (1888) essay
  • The Wing Of Azrael (1889) novel
  • The Emancipation of the Family (1890) essay
  • A Romance Of The Moors (1891) stories
  • The Yellow Drawing-Room (1892) story
  • A Defence of the So-Called Wild Women (1892) essay
  • The Daughters Of Danaus (1894) novel
  • The Sanctuary Of Mercy (1895) essay
  • A Sentimental View Of Vivisection (1895) essay
  • Beyond the Pale: An Appeal on Behalf of the Victims of Vivisection (1897) extended essay
  • The Morality of Marriage and Other Essays on the Status and Destiny of Women (1897) essays
  • The Pathway Of The Gods (1898) novel
  • The Ethics of Vivisection (1900) essay
  • The Logicians: An episode in dialogue (1902) play
  • Romantic Cities Of Provence (1906) travel
  • Militant Tactics and Woman's Suffrage (1908) essay
  • The Stones Of Sacrifice (1915) essay
  • The Great Wave (1931) novel

Mona Caird did not write Lady Hetty; that's by John Service. John Sutherland erroneously said Caird did, and the information has been propagated elsewhere.


  1. "Caird, Mrs. Mona". Who's Who. Vol. 59. 1907. pp. 272–273.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. The Daughters of Danaus

External links

Full texts of several of Mona Caird's writings can be found on the web: