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Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Overlooked Stella letter

In looking through Edward F Griffith's files relating to his work as UK editor of the Bombay-based journal Marriage Hygiene (Wellcome Library, PP/EFG/A.4-7), for an entirely different reason, I came across a rather stroppy letter from Stella Browne, 14 Jun 1936, about being expected to undertake translation work for the journal for free.

This intersects with correspondence I did see and cite between Max Hodann and Norman Himes (the US editor of Marriage Hygiene) and between Himes and Pillay over the question of paying Stella for translator services (the journal itself being so penurious, payment was not forthcoming).

Stella opens in conciliatory style, thanking Griffith for his services in publicising the ALRA conference, and for the notice he gave Abortion: three essays in Marriage Hygiene, especially given that he did not share her position on the subject. She then moves on to Hodann's request for her to translate an article of his on the White Slave Traffic, which 'quite frankly' she is unable to do gratuitously.

What is particularly interesting about this letter (given that she had complained around the same time to Havelock Ellis about the financially unrewarding nature of work for 'causes', and that the Himes papers include correspondence on the issue) is that she quotes the rates she would charge: 3 guineas (equivalent to £167 in present-day purchasing power) for the long article on white slavery, and £2/12/6d (equivalent to £139) for a shorter one on the Icelandic laws relating to abortion and contraception, and requires cash on the nail on receipt of the article to be translated - 'I have constant expenses & difficulties in this way, & cannot give my work, much as I admire & agree with Marriage Hygiene'. This is the only instance I have come across of what she considered a going rate for translations, though I also wonder whether she was quoting a preferential scale to a cause she approved of.


  1. Hi Lesley,

    Are all issues of the Marriage Hygiene journal available in the Wellcome Library?


  2. You may find this information via the Wellcome Library website, though I would advise using this link to the catalogue rather than the searchbox on the front page, and delimiting the search by 'journal titles'.
    (comment amended for clarity)