MacDonald sisters

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Georgiana Burne-Jones, née Macdonald c.1882, photographed by Frederick Hollyer

The MacDonald sisters were four Scottish women of the Victorian era, notable for their marriages to well-known men. Alice, Georgiana, Agnes and Louisa were the daughters of Reverend George Browne Macdonald (1805–1868), a Wesleyan Methodist minister,[1] and Hannah Jones (1809–1875).


There were 11 children in the MacDonald family: seven daughters and four sons. Mary (1834–1836) was the firstborn; followed by Henry (1836–1891), called Harry, who introduced his younger sisters Georgiana and Agnes to his artistic friends, known as the Birmingham Set; then Alice; Caroline (1838–1854); Georgiana; Frederic William (1842–1928); Agnes; Louisa; Walter (1847-1847); Edith (1848–1937), who never married, and lived at home until her mother's death; and Herbert (1850–1851).[2]


Alice Kipling

Alice (1837–1910) was born on 4 April in Sheffield.[3] She married John Lockwood Kipling whom she had met at Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire. The celebration was possible in March 1865 after he was made Architectural Sculptor and Professor of Modelling at the School of Art and Industry in Bombay in the preceding January. Alice became the mother of Rudyard Kipling on 30 December 1865.[4] Lord Dufferin once said, "Dullness and Mrs Kipling cannot exist in the same room."[5][6][7]


Georgiana Burne-Jones, around 1870, by her brother-in-law Edward Poynter

Georgiana's (1840–1920) father was moved by the Methodist Conference to a Birmingham Circuit and it was here that Georgie was born on 28 July 1840.[8] Agnes (1843–1906) and her sister Georgiana received attention from prospective suitors who were in the Birmingham Set. She married the pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones in 1859. They had three children, Philip, Christopher and Margaret - although Christopher died in infancy.[4] She became in time the mother-in-law of John William Mackail and grandmother of Angela Thirkell and Denis Mackail.


Agnes by her husband

Agnes was a talented pianist and thought to be the best looking of the sisters.[9] She and her sister Georgiana received attention from prospective suitors who were friends of her brother and members of the Birmingham Set.[4] She eventually married the future president of the Royal Academy Edward Poynter in 1866 in a double wedding with her quieter sister Louisa. Poyntor appeared to be a manic depressive and he would paint continuously until he collapsed when the work was finished. He was unemotional and it was Agnes who supplied the warmth in their household.[9] Her husband later painted two of her sisters. She, Jane Morris and her sisters Louisa and Georgiana are thought to be the inspiration for figures in Burne-Jones 1864 painting Green Summer.[10] Agnes is thought to have died in 1906 from cancer despite an operation in 1903.[9]


Louisa Baldwin 1868, by her brother in law Edward Poynter

Louisa (1845–1925) married the industrialist Alfred Baldwin in 1866 in a double wedding with her sister Agnes and her fiance Edward. Alfred and Louisa were the parents of prime minister Stanley Baldwin. After his birth Louisa seemed unhappy with her life in Worcestershire where her husband was an ironmaster. She had at least one miscarriage and spent time in a bath chair and days alone in darkness. Later commentators have noted that she would recover when on holiday and have proposed that her illness was due to hypochondria. She was in time the grandmother to Oliver and Arthur Baldwin. Louisa wrote novels, short stories, and poetry, sometimes credited as "Mrs Alfred Baldwin."[11][12][13]

Further reading[edit]

  • Judith Flanders. A Circle of Sisters: Alice Kipling, Georgiana Burne Jones, Agnes Poynter, and Louisa Baldwin. ISBN 0-393-05210-9
  • Ina Taylor. Victorian Sisters. (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1987) (Shortly to be republished by Ellingham Press)


  1. ^ Ina Taylor. Victorian Sisters. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London p6 1987 ISBN 029779065X
  2. ^ "Person Page 2925". Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  3. ^ Taylor, Ina Victorian sisters 1987 Weidenfeld & Nicolson p13 ISBN 029779065X
  4. ^ a b c Jill Berkiminez (15 October 2013). Dictionary of Artists' Models. Routledge. pp. 91–. ISBN 978-1-135-95914-2.
  5. ^ "The Life of Rudyard Kipling", Charles Carrington, 1955, p. 51.
  6. ^
  7. ^ The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling - David Gilmour - Βιβλία Google. Retrieved 2015-11-26.
  8. ^ Taylor, Ina Victorian sisters 1987 Weidenfeld & Nicolson p14 ISBN 029779065X
  9. ^ a b c "Macdonald sisters (act. 1837–1925) | Oxford Dictionary of National Biography". doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-76071#odnb-9780198614128-e-76071.
  10. ^ Living in Wolverhampton, 1862-1867, Historywebsite, Retrieved 7 July 2016
  11. ^ "Baldwin, Louisa". Retrieved 2008-06-04.
  12. ^ Louisa Baldwin at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  13. ^ Mrs. Alfred Baldwin at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database

External links[edit]