Ray Strachey

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Rachel Strachey

Ray Strachey, née Costelloe (4 June 1887 – 16 July 1940), was a British feminist politician and writer, born Rachel Pearsall Conn Costelloe in London, England.[1]

Early life[edit]

She was the elder of the two girls in her family. Her younger sister was Karin Elizabeth Conn Costelloe, who married Virginia Woolf's younger brother Adrian Stephen in 1914 (see Karin Stephen). Ray was educated at Kensington high school and at Newnham College, Cambridge, where she achieved third class in part one of the mathematical tripos (1908).


For most of her life Strachey worked for women's suffrage organisations. Most of her publications are non-fiction and deal with suffrage issues. She is most often remembered for her book The Cause. Papers of Rachel Pearsall Conn Strachey (also known as Ray Strachey, née Costelloe) (1887–1940) are held at The Women's Library at London Metropolitan University. She worked closely with Millicent Fawcett, sharing her Liberal feminist values and opposing any attempt to integrate the suffrage movement with the Labour Party. In 1915 she became parliamentary secretary of the NUWSS, serving in this role until 1920.[2] After the Great War when women were granted the vote and permitted to stand for parliament, she stood as an Independent parliamentary candidate at Brentford and Chiswick on a number of occasions without success.

Brentford & Chiswick within the Middlesex, showing boundaries used from 1918-1923
General Election 1918: Brentford & Chiswick[3] Electorate 26,409
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Coalition Unionist Walter Grant Peterson Morden 9,077
Labour William Haywood 2,620
Independent Rachel Strachey 1,263
Unionist win
General Election 1922: Brentford & Chiswick[3] Electorate 27,960
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Walter Grant Peterson Morden 10,150
Independent Rachel Strachey 7,804
Unionist hold Swing
General Election 1923: Brentford & Chiswick[3] Electorate 28,245
Party Candidate Votes % ±
Unionist Walter Grant Peterson Morden 9,648
Independent Rachel Strachey 4,828
Labour William Haywood 3,216
Unionist hold Swing

She rejected the attempt by Eleanor Rathbone to establish a broad-based feminist programme in the 1920s. In 1931 she became parliamentary secretary to Britain's first woman MP, Lady Astor, and in 1935 the head of the Women's Employment Federation. She also made regular radio broadcasts for the BBC.


She married at Cambridge on 31 May 1911 the civil servant Oliver Strachey, with whom she had two children, Christopher and Barbara. Oliver Strachey was the elder brother of the biographer Lytton Strachey of the Bloomsbury group; other siblings in the Strachey family included psychoanalyst James Strachey and novelist Dorothy Bussy née Strachey. Ray's mother-in-law was Jane, Lady Strachey, a well-known author and supporter of women's suffrage who co-led the Mud March of 1907 in London.


She died in the Royal Free Hospital in London in her early fifties of heart failure, following an operation to remove a fibroid tumour.


  • The World at Eighteen
  • Marching On
  • Shaken By The Wind


  • Frances Willard
  • Hannah Whitall Smith; Ray Strachey,*A Quaker Grandmother: Hannah Whitall Smith*(1914)
  • Millicent Garrett Fawcett

Non-fiction about women's roles[edit]

  • Women's Suffrage and Women's Service
  • The Cause
  • Careers and Openings for Women
  • Our Freedom and Its Results


  1. ^ Brown, Susan (2008). "Ray Strachey entry". Susan Brown, Patricia Clements, Isobel Grundy (The Orlando Project). Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  2. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  3. ^ a b c British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig

External links[edit]