Helen Archdale (right) and an unnamed person working at a table
Helen Archdale (right) with unnamed person in Time and Tide office. Reproduced by kind permission of Deirdre Macpherson 

Helen Alexander Archdale (née Russel), Time and Tide’s editor during its early years, was born in Berwickshire in 1876. Her mother Helen was one of the first five women to study medicine at Edinburgh University; her father Alexander edited The Scotsman, and supported women’s rights. She was educated at St Leonard’s School for Girls, Fife, seven years ahead of Time and Tide’s founder Lady Rhondda, and St Andrews University. With her husband, Captain Theodore Montgomery Archdale, she had two sons and a daughter: Betty, a feminist, educationalist, and international cricketer. Archdale and Theodore became estranged around 1913, and 1918 he drowned, when his ship, the Leinster, was torpedoed.

Archdale was a lifelong feminist. In 1908, she joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), organising their activities in Sheffield and Scarborough. She was imprisoned for ten days for protesting during a speech by Winston Churchill in Dundee, but went on hunger strike and served only four. In 1911, she spent two months in prison for participating in mass window breaking; whilst imprisoned, she became the WSPU prisoners’ secretary, and worked on suffrage magazines Suffragette and Britannia. In February 1921, she became a founder member of the Six Point Group, acting as the group’s international secretary until 1933. Between 1926 and 1934, she chaired Equal Rights International (founded in 1929 to struggle against artificial restrictions to women’s work), and in 1927 she joined the Liaison Committee of Women’s International Organisations in Geneva. She chaired the Women Peers Committee, which advocated for women to sit in the House of Lords: a cause dear to her close friend Lady Rhondda. Other interwar feminist organisations she belonged to include the Women’s Political and Industrial League, the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, the Electrical Association of Women, the Open Door Council (another equalitarian feminist organisation dedicated to women’s rights as workers), and its international incarnation dating from 1929, Open Door International. Written during the 1940s, her unpublished autobiography, An Interfering Female, focused on her activism.

Archdale wrote for The Times, Daily News, Christian Science Monitor, and The Scotsman, and was closely involved with Time and Tide from its launch in May 1920. She was a member of the magazine’s first board of directors, and replaced Vera Laughton as its editor in July – she was therefore the magazine’s second editor, not its first, as is often assumed. Her signature appeared only rarely in the magazine, but it is very likely that she was the writer behind ‘In the Tideway’ – a feature that was signed ‘BIG BEN’ until mid-August 1926, when Lady Rhondda replaced Archdale as editor. Her professional relations with Lady Rhondda began in 1918, when she worked as her assistant at the Ministry of National Service. Later, she was Rhondda’s personal secretary; they became close friends, and after Rhondda’s divorce they bought Stonepitts, a house in rural Kent, where they spent weekends entertaining visitors including Winifred Holtby, Rebecca West, and E. M. Delafield. Their relations soured, however. Their views on feminism and international politics diverged, and in 1926, following disagreements over how Time and Tide should be run, Archdale was sacked, quitting the magazine’s board of directors at the same time. There were more personal issues, too: Rhondda disliked Archdale’s conversion to Christian Science, and felt that she was being distanced from her children. In 1930, Rhondda moved out of Chelsea Court, and in 1931, they sold Stonepitts. Archdale died in 1949.

By Dr Eleanor Reed




Clay, Catherine. Time and Tide: The Feminist and Cultural Politics of a Modern Magazine. Edinburgh University Press, Ltd, 2019 (2018)

John, Angela V. Turning the Tide: The Life of Lady Rhondda. Parthian, 2013