Marian Ellis, one of twin daughters John Ellis and Maria Rowntree Ellis, was born in Nottingham on 6th January 1878. Both her parents were members of the Society of Friends and her father was Liberal Party MP for Rushcliffe (1885-1910) and was a strong opponent of the Boer War. During the conflict Ellis became involved in the Quaker relief projects for women victims of the conflict. (1)
Ellis and her sister, Edith Ellis, were both opposed to the First World War and following a letter from Fenner Brockway and Lilla Brockway that appeared in Labour Leader, the newspaper of the Independent Labour Party (ILP), the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF) was formed. (2)
The peace movement feared the introduction of conscription. "Although conscription may not be so imminent as the Press suggests, it would perhaps be well for men of enlistment age who are not prepared to take the part of a combatant in the war, whatever be the penalty for refusing to band themselves together as we may know our strength. As a preliminary, if men between the years of 18 and 38 who take this view will send their names and addresses to me at the addresses given below a useful record will be at our service." (3)
Marian Ellis argued in a pamphlet, Looking Towards Peace (1915): "War, tyranny and revolt have produced tyranny, revolt and war throughout time... We maintain that the moral law is binding upon States as upon individuals... We hold that the fundamental interests of humanity are one... the reasoned worship of force is the real devil-worship." (4)
The National Committee of the NCF included Clifford Allen, Fenner Brockway, Catherine Marshall (Secretary), Bertrand Russell (chairman) and Alfred Salter (Treasurer). Ada Salter and Violet Tillard were placed in charge of Maintenance for the families of conscientious objectors. This project was largely funded by Marion and her sister Edith, who donated "huge sums of money". (5)
On the outbreak of the First World War a group of women pacifists in the United States began talking about the need to form an organization to help bring it to an end. On the 10th January, 1915, over 3,000 women attended a meeting in the ballroom of the New Willard Hotel in Washington and formed the Woman's Peace Party. In April 1915, Aletta Jacobs, a suffragist in Holland, invited members of the Woman's Peace Party and suffrage members all over the world to an International Congress of Women in the Hague. Some of the women who attended included Marion Ellis, Jane Addams, Alice Hamilton, Grace Abbott, Maude Royden, Mary Sheepshanks, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Emily Hobhouse, Chrystal Macmillan, Rosika Schwimmer. At the conference the women formed the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. The historian, Richard J. Evans described the founders of WILPF as "a tiny band of courageous and principled women on the far-left fringes of bourgeois-liberal feminism ". (6)
In her pamphlet, Disarmament (1917) she discussed the post-war world: "At the end of this war she would will have to decide which way it desires to go, towards disarmament or destruction... Disarmament is not merely scrapping our guns and our battleships. It is the working out of a national policy, which, being inspired by love for all men, cannot be antagonistic... It is the problem of India, of Ireland, of our relations with Russia and Persia, Germany and Belgium as God would have them to be." (7)
Marian's twin sister, Edith Ellis, was also a financial supporter of the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF). In May 1918, Ellis was prosecuted under the Defence of the Realm Act, for her involvement in the publishing a pamphlet titled A Challenge to Militarism without submitting it to the Censor. (8) The Society of Friends stated that "We feel that the declaration of peace and goodwill is the duty of all Christians and ought not to be dependent upon the permission of any Government Official. We therefore intend to continue the publication of such leaflets as we feel it our duty to put forth, without submitting them to the Censor." (9)
In court, Edith Ellis stated that "because of our religious belief, we do not feel it right to submit the outcome of our deliberations to an official of Government. We believe we must act in accordance with the dictates of God, ourselves." When Edith spoke "the court was visibly impressed as, with the timbre of her woman's voice, she told in calm words of her immutable conviction." Edith was fined £100 with 50 guineas costs and subject to three months in prison on default of paying the fine, which she refused to do and it is claimed that she suffered poor health because of time in Holloway Prison. (10)
Marian Ellis helped to establish the Fight the Famine Committee. She also played a significant role in the campaign against disarmament: "The enormous development of the power of armaments both during and since the great war has brought mankind within measurable distance of destruction." (11)
In 1919 Ellis helped to establish the Fight the Famine Council in an effort to persuade the British government to end the Allied Bockade imposed on the defeated countries. On 15 April 1919, the Council set up a fund to raise money for the German and Austrian children – the Save the Children Fund. During this time Marian became friends with Charles Alfred Cripps, 1st Baron Parmoor, the President of the organisation. (12)
Marian and Edith Ellis had moved away from their parents liberalism and were now Christian Socialists. (13) Charles Cripps had been the Conservative MP for Wycombe (1910-1914) and was now in the House of Lords and was the brother-in-law of Beatrice Webb. On 14th July, 1919, Marian Ellis married Parmoor. Webb commented: "He has excellent taste in women. He choose the most charming of the Potter sisters... and he has now won an exceptionally attractive woman, good as gold, able and most pleasant to look at. All his children and their mates were there beaming goodwill. The two were reverently ecstatic." (14)
Marian Ellis managed to convert her new husband to socialism. According to one friend, Parmour became "something very like an international socialist" (15) After joining the Labour Party he became the leader of the House of Lords from 1928-1931. (16) The marriage was childless, but Lady Parmoor strongly influenced her youngest stepson, Richard Stafford Cripps who went on to be a senior figure in the post-war Labour government. (17)
Lord and Lady Parmoor were great supporters of the League of Nations. After the war Lord Parmoor served as the country's chief representative at Geneva. (18) Richard Stafford Cripps said that "the injustice wrought upon the common people had convinced him that some new outlook was necessary if civilisation were to be saved from destruction." (19)
From 1924 to 1928 Lady Parmoor was president of the World YWCA and she helped found the Fellowship of Reconciliation. A founder member of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, she became president of its British section in 1950. She was also treasurer of the Friends' Peace Committee and an active vice-president of the National Peace Council. (20)
Lady Parmoor was a supporter of Mahatma Gandhi . After the collapse in October 1931 of the Second Round Table Conference she helped establish the India Conciliation Group. Other members of the group included Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Maude Royden, Charles Freer Andrews, Hewlett Johnson, Agatha Harrison and Alexander Cowan Wilson. (21)
Lord and Lady Parmoor both became great admirers of George Lansbury and his book, My England (1934). Lord Parmoor wrote to his son, Richard Stafford Cripps, soon after the book was published: "George Lansbury spent yesterday at Parmoor, much to the delight of Marion and myself.... You know that I have a great admiration for him and his book (My England). It is a powerful work... His views on the general outlook are and always have been similar to my own." (22)
In the late 1930s Lord Parmoor's health deteriorated and he died aged 89 on 30th June, 1940. Beatrice Webb commented: "In the last years of decrepitude he was something of an egotist, and poor devoted Marion had a hard time of it. But in spite of a strong strain of personal egotism, Alfred was essentially a good man." (23)
Lady Parmoor advocated the admission of communist China to the United Nations, she urged an end by negotiation to the Korean War, and at the age of seventy she began a serious study of nuclear fission in order to speak with some authority about the uses and dangers of atomic energy. Her last political act, two days before her death, was to help draft a Quaker message to the prime minister protesting against the aerial bombardment of North Korea. (24)
Marian Ellis Cripps, Baroness Parmoor died on 6th July 1952.
War, tyranny and revolt have produced tyranny, revolt and war throughout time … We maintain that the moral law is binding upon States as upon individuals … We hold that the fundamental interests of humanity are one … The time for absolute isolated sovereignty is gone by … Our aim should be a very loose international federation … the reasoned worship of force [is] the real devil-worship … We therefore keep alight the hope that, late or soon, the intercourse of nations will be carried on without armed force.
At the end of this war she would will have to decide which way it desires to go, towards disarmament or destruction... Disarmament is not merely scrapping our guns and our battleships. It is the working out of a national policy, which, being inspired by love for all men, cannot be antagonistic... It is the problem of India, of Ireland, of our relations with Russia and Persia, Germany and Belgium as God would have them to be.
Miss Ellis has been associated with Lord Parmour in much public work of a religious and philanthropic nature. She is secretary of the British Council for International Christian meeting, of which Lord Parmour is President, and has also played a valuable part in establishing the Save the Children in connection with the Fight the Famine Council.
It is in connection with the Fight the Famine Council that Miss Ellis has come most prominently before the public. From its inception in January of this year till the beginning of June.
She was one of the hon. Secretaries, her colleague being Miss Egantlyne Jebb, and laboured untiringly both in the Council's offices in London and is addressing public meetings in the provinces. The two big meetings of the Council at the Sentral Hall, Westminister, and at the Albert Hall in May, were organised almost entirely by her. She is also closely associated with the Society of Friends.
Lady Parmour, step-mother of the late Sir Stafford Cripps died at her home in London yesterday after a short-illness.
A leading member of the Society of Friends she had been connected with peace movement in Britain and on the Continent for nearly 50 years, and had been for some years president of the Women's International League.
Lord Parmour was Socialist leader of the House of Lords from 1928-1931.
Our mother was one of the nine daughters of Richard Potter, who was descended from an industrial family living at Tadcaster in Lancashire, which, in early days, had become involved in the industrial revolution which has raged since the end of last century, and unfortunately is as yet by no means settled. His wife was Laurencina Heyworth, whose father was for many years Member for Derby. Two of the nine daughters married into the Cripps family; William Harrison, later a distinguished surgeon, married Blanche Potter, whilst our father, Alfred, married her sister Theresa. Richard Potter lived at Standish, near Gloucester, where he was a partner in the firm of timber merchants, Price & Potter, who supplied the huts both for the French and English in the Crimean War. There was a story of him 'posting' across France to see the king himself about the contract. He was also chairman of the Great Western Railway Company and of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, also, I believe, of the Hudson Bay Company. Another of the nine sisters was Beatrice who later became Mrs. Sidney Webb. When she first brought her husband to stay at Parmoor after their marriage I recollect my father who in those days, was a staunch Tory, turning to me as they drove away, with a half wink and saying: "Have you counted the spoons?" It is amusing to know that later they became great allies, in fact, both served in the first Labour Cabinet, one as Lord President of the Council and the other as Colonial Secretary.
Our parents were married from Rusland Hall in the Lake District in 1881 and I arrived in the world in August 1882, the first of five children. Our mother was very ill after my arrival at Standish where she was staying for the event. The house, perhaps appropriately, is now a maternity home run by the Gloucester County Council and I hope I gave it a good start!
I was fostered for some time by Jane Burridge, the wife of a woodman, who often acted as keeper in early days. After leaving Skirmett they went to live at Bagmoor, when the farm there was incorporated with the Home Farm; his nickname was "Booby" which he hardly deserved, as anyone out shooting could at once see that he was dealing with a master craftsman when it came to smoking out his favourite ferret, Jacob! Perhaps the effect was largely due to the powerful smell of the village shag which, as far as I recollect - and I often tried it - was very pungent....
Although our mother had died in 1893, after a very sudden illness, we were particularly fortunate in having, in addition to our sister, Ruth, whom we all worshipped, some excellent attendants and servants, many of whom stayed at Parmoor for long periods of time. In addition to one, Margaret, who was originally nursery-maid, and stopped with us until she married one of the footmen, we had Mary Marshall, affectionately known as "Mazelle", who came from Alsace to teach us French, and stayed with us for about 30 years, when she went to help my brother, Stafford, with his household in, Gloucestershire for another long period before retiring to Cornwall with her niece, where she died at the age of 102. It always seemed a source of wonder to many that anyone could have put up with us boys for so long!
In 1914 the golden age at Parmoor came to an end, as elsewhere, when war was declared. I remember that our uncle. Lord Courtney of Penwith, a staunch and shrewd Cornishman, who had been Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons, where he was Member for Bodmin, said at tea on that day (August 4th) that England would never be the same again. It certainly never has been!
Our father, then a Tory, who had been Member for South Bucks, after representing Stretford, near Manchester, had been asked by Mr. Asquith, a political opponent, but an old legal ally, if he would accept a peerage to assist in the judicial business in the House of Lords.
He agreed on condition that his assistance should be unpaid, so that he could speak and vote as he wished in the Upper House. Accordingly, his name had appeared in the New Year's Honours List and he had become the first Baron Parmoor of Frieth - a title of which we all approved as linking our family, for ever, with our old home and with the village which had meant so much to us all.
In 1919 my father married Marian Ellis, a Quaker, who had assisted the 'Save the Children Fund' and was interested in the 'League of Nations', my father being in the absence of the Prime Minister, our Country's chief representative at Geneva.
Many political and foreign visitors, including Herr Streseman and Herr Luther came to Parmoor, together with friends whom we had met in various ways during war years. My sister, Ruth, was married, and so were my brothers, Fred, Leonard and Stafford, whilst I became Bursar of Queen's College, Oxford, which enabled me also to combine the management, with the assistance of Tom Jess Jnr. and later Mr. Sherwood, of the Parmoor Estate.
There were also held, during the post war period, various conferences and religious retreats at Parmoor, often attended by the Bishop and other leaders of Church work, in which our father and step-mother and my brother Stafford were all greatly interested.
At the end of an uneasy period of peace, Hitler came to the fore, and again, as all know, gradually obtained control of Europe, after temporarily settling with Russia, leaving England and France to bear the brunt of his attack.
War, though staved off for a time by Mr. Neville Chamberlain, became inevitable and the challenge had to be accepted.
(1) Sybil Oldfield, Marion Ellis : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (24th May 2007)
(2) John William Graham, Conscription and Conscience (1922) pages 172-173
(3) Fenner Brockway, Labour Leader (12 November 1914)
(4) Marian Ellis, Looking Towards Peace (1915)
(5) Graham Taylor, Ada Salter: Pioneer of Ethical Socialism (2016) pages 146 and 159
(6) Richard J. Evans, Comrades and Sisters: Feminism, Socialism and Pacifism in Europe, 1870–1945 (1987) page 130
(7) Marian Ellis, Friends' Quarterly Examiner (1917)
(8) Barry Mills, Edith Maud Ellis (2020)
(9) Thomas C. Kennedy, British Quakerism (2021) page 357
(10) John William Graham, Conscription and Conscience (1922) pages 166-167
(11) Sybil Oldfield, Women Humanitarians: A Biographical Dictionary of British Women Active between 1900 and 1950 (2006) page 67
(12) South Notts Echo (12th July 1919)
(13) Eric Estorick, Stafford Cripps: A Biography (1949) page 65
(14) Beatrice Webb, diary entry (14th July, 1920)
(15) Chris Bryant, Stafford Cripps: The First Modern Chancellor (1997) page 72
(16) The Bradford Observer (7th July 1952)
(17) Sybil Oldfield, Marion Ellis : Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (24th May 2007)
(18) Sybil Oldfield, Women Humanitarians: A Biographical Dictionary of British Women Active between 1900 and 1950 (2006) page 67
(19) Chris Bryant, Stafford Cripps: The First Modern Chancellor (1997) page 72
(20) Alfred Henry Seddon Cripps, A History of Frieth (1970)
(21) Chris Bryant, Stafford Cripps: The First Modern Chancellor (1997) page 211
(22) Charles Alfred Cripps, letter to Richard Stafford Cripps (October, 1934)
(23) Beatrice Webb, diary entry (3rd July, 1941)
(24) Sybil Oldfield, Women Humanitarians: A Biographical Dictionary of British Women Active between 1900 and 1950 (2006) page 67