With many IISH archives digitized and accessible online, any interested observer can experience the drama and romance behind archival documents from the comfort of their favourite armchair.
For instance, anyone can now read the love letters between the famous British feminist Sylvia Pankhurst and the charismatic Labour Party leader James Keir Hardie in the Sylvia Pankhurst papers. And decide whether there are any grounds to the claims of some biographers that their love was purely platonic:
“… longing to feel your dear length pressing on me until my breath comes short.” (Sylvia Pankhurst to James Keir Hardie, n.d.)
“I longed so much to have my arms around you. I wanted to wake you with kisses and tell you I was there.” (Sylvia Pankhurst to James Keir Hardie, 28.1.1912
“Don’t you think the satisfaction which comes from the pressure of my arms round you must be the transference of something [magic] from the one to the other?” (James Keir Hardie to Sylvia Pankhurst, n.d.)
James Keir Hardie (1856-1915) was an old friend of the Pankhurst family and made a great impression on Sylvia when she was a child, 25 years younger.
The exclusive relationship between the two started in 1904 or 1905, when Sylvia frequently visited him in his pied-à-terre in London.
Hardie’s wife and children lived in Scotland.
When Keir Hardie died, Sylvia devoted an entire issue of her newspaper Woman’s Dreadnought (16 October 1915) to him, “the greatest human being of our time”.
Shortly before his death, Hardie returned the letters he had received from Sylvia, leaving it up to her to decide whether to preserve or destroy them.
This correspondence ended up in Amsterdam and is now in the Estelle Sylvia Pankhurst papers, inv. no. 9.
View all archives with online content in the IISH catalogue.