Partner Alice Williams

Queer Places:
43 Cadogan Pl, Belgravia, London SW1X 9RU, UK
The Forum Club, Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LY, UK

Fanny Marguerite Hélène Mowbray Laming (May 1, 1859 - January 30, 1939) was a half-French musician and public speaker. 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 1939 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.

Fanny Marguerite Hélène Laming was born on May 1, 1859, daughter of Joseph Mowbray Laming and Céline Victorine Charlemaine Boesch.

Williams joined the Lyceum, a newly founded social club for women, in London in 1905 and went on to develop branches in Berlin that year and in 1907 in Paris, her main home until the First World War. There she met, around 1909-10, Fanny Mowbray Laming, who became her life's companion. In Paris Alice also developed her artistic skills, especially as a landscape painter in watercolour. In 1914 she was invited to become a member of the Union Internationale des Beaux-Arts et des Lettres; she also belonged to the Union des Femmes Peintres et Sculpteurs de Paris, exhibiting her work in London as well as Paris.

In 1919, with Fanny Laming, she founded the Forum Club in Grosvenor Place, London, a residential club providing women with a social centre with all the facilities of a gentlemen's club, including a cocktail bar. The ethos was radical but politically unaffiliated, professional but full of fun. For thirty-five years it was a haven for single women and especially those in the professions, where new career opportunities had opened up. Members included the artist Laura Knight and the aviator Amy Johnson as well as the actress, author and suffragist Elizabeth Robbins. The lively Welsh section included Alice Williams's friend, the novelist Berta Ruck, who cheerfully joined her in the amateur dramatics. Williams continued to paint, putting on annual shows at the Forum and elsewhere, and remained a faithful supporter of Deudraeth WI. When Castell Deudraeth and its estate were sold to her nephew, Clough Williams-Ellis, in 1931 her family retained Borthwen, a house overlooking the estuary, and this became her local base during her regular visits. She approved the conversion of the castle into an hotel, persuading well-heeled friends from London to stay there. During this period she continued to be a pioneer, being the first woman elected to the committees of both St George's and King Edward's hospitals in London, and was in 1937 awarded the CBE for outstanding public service.

The next years proved difficult. 1939 brought the death both of Fanny and Alice's brother, Dr Leonard Williams, to whom she had been close since childhood. In 1944 the Forum Club's premises were badly damaged in the blitz. Alice Williams died at her home, 43 Cadogan Place, Chelsea, London, on 15 August 1957, and a memorial service was held for her in London on 11 October 1957.

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