Castell Deudraeth at Penrhyndeudraeth
Forum Club, Hyde Park Corner, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LY, UK
Alice Williams CBE or Alice Helena Alexandra Williams; Alys Meirion (12 March 1863 – 15 August 1957) was a Welsh bard, painter and voluntary welfare worker. From the mid-1930s the lesbian scene seems to have been much improved by the establishment of the Forum Club by Alice Williams. The Forum Club provided the same kind of social space as traditional men's clubs did, but for a female membership. Although it did not advertise itself as a lesbian club, a significant proportion of its members were lesbians. Williams lived with Fanny Mowbray Laming. Williams was a bardic poet and one of the instigators of the Women's Institute. Laming was a singer. The two women kept one diary which Laming wrote unless she was ill. She died in 1941 from one of the vicious and quick strains of influenza which swept Britain during the WWII. Williams continued the diary on the next day, apparently loath to be separated even here from Laming. Williams and Laming went on holiday together and were publicly recognized as a couple. The Forum Club was at Hyde Park Corner in Knightsbridge: it provided somewhere for its members to stay, to eat and to meet friends.
Williams was born on 12 Mar 1863 at Castell Deudraeth at Penrhyndeudraeth to Annie Louisa Loveday and David Williams. The youngest of 14 children of David Williams MP, she had no formal education. Her father was a Liberal politician landowner. She was the youngest daughter and although her parents had liberal views she was expected to care for her mother. In 1900 her brother, Sir Arthur Osmond Williams, succeeded their father as MP and he went on to support women's suffrage. She was released from the task of caring for her mother when she died in 1904. Williams she set out to complete her relatively poor education with travel. In 1914 the First World War started and during the war Williams worked for the French Wounded Emergency Fund. Williams helped to create a Missing Persons Unit known as the "Signal Bureau". This earnt her a Médaille de la Reconnaissance Française from the French government. Williams was the chair of one of the first British branches of the Women's Institute at Penrhyndeudraeth. This group built the first Institute Hall. In 1917 the National Federeation of Women Institutes was formed. On 16 October Lady Denman and Grace Hadow were elected chair and vice-chair and Williams was elected honorary secretary and treasurer. Williams was the only volunteer in this role as in 1918 she was replaced by a paid general secretary. She was moved to the executive committee and the following year the NFWI published its first magazine titled ''Home and Country'' and Williams was its first editor. The first edition showed the Queen visiting the W.I. exhibition. She retired as editor in 1920.
She is credited with creating Lyceum Clubs for women in Paris and Berlin during her visits. Williams could paint and play the piano. She exhibited her watercolours in France and in Britain. In 1919 she was the founder and the first chair of the Forum Club in London. She also took the chair from 1928 until 1938.
Williams was a member of Union des femmes peintres et sculpteurs and of Union Internationale des Aquarellistes. She wrote a play titled "Britannia" which was staged by the Women's Institute in Penrhyndeudraeth. More importantly the play was translated into Welsh by Ceridwen Peris. Williams was made a bard with the name of Alys Meirion. Williams eyesight began to fail and she was blind by 1930. Williams was given an Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1937. Williams died in Chelsea in 1957.
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