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Old Edwardians

Constance Maxwell Armfield

Constance Maxwell Armfield and her sister, Ida Smedley Maclean, grew up in a home where independence of thought and action were encouraged and where the atmosphere was very much ahead of its time. Both sisters were clever and artistic but their careers were to follow very different roads.

After some years at Birmingham School of Art, Constance's life was largely devoted to two causes: the first being public service, in which women's interest largely figured, and the second being her individual activity along literary and dramatic lines.

At an early age she began writing plays, one of which was accepted by Mrs Patrick Campbell and another by Cyril Maude. She was also a successful writer and illustrator of children's stories and wrote several novels, the first being the April Princess which was published in 1903. Her first serious novel, Conflict, appeared in 1907 when she was Secretary of the Lyceum Club, the first London Club for Women which had opened in 1904. Thereafter she devoted her time and energy to the management of the club and established further clubs in Europe. These became meeting places for women in the professions and arts. One of the Club’s most successful early undertakings was their first Arts, Crafts and Picture Exhibition held in Berlin in 1905, in the organising of which Constance was a leading figure. She also organised the first Music Conference in 1906, when the guests included Dr Vaughan Williams amongst many distinguished others.

In 1909, she resigned from the Club on her marriage to Maxwell Armfield, the artist. They went to live in the Cotswolds and there they encouraged the founding of drama groups, such as the Cotswolds Players, and the general artistic development of the country people. During this time, Constance wrote several novels and children's books.

In 1916 the Armfields went to America, where they were very popular and were Constance did much writing and lecturing in American drama. She also wrote articles from variety of magazines. It was during her time in America that she wrote her book Justice Walk, though it was not published until 1924 as it was considered ‘too advanced’.

After their return from America, Constance and her husband lived and worked for some years in London. Constance suffered ill-health in her later years and was blind for six years before she regained some of her sight following an operation. She died at Wycombe in 1941.