Partner Mary Sheepshanks
Margaret Ann Bryant (1871–1942) was a staff member of the Encyclopædia Britannica and a distinguished journalist for the Observer. The pacifist Mary Sheepshanks spent all her life enmeshed in a web of relationships with like-minded women; she met Margaret Bryant, who worked for the Royal Institute of International Affairs, during the First World War, and Margaret became ‘my greatest friend’. As Sheepshanks’ biographer, Sybil Oldfield, remarks, ‘We must believe Mary’s declaration … we know nothing more.’
She was born in Lincolnshire and taught at York High School until 1901, when she joined the staff of the Britannica. Subsequently, she worked as researcher and writer for the Ministry of Food during the 1914-1918 war and, later, for the League of Nations and Royal Institute of International Affairs, for which she wrote several major reports including those on "World Agriculture" and "Unemployment". She served as literary "devil" and ghost writer for various authors of histories and biographies. The last fifteen years of her career were spent in the Information Department of Chatham House where she worked until her death. Although her physical frame was unusually tiny, her contemporaries remarked upon her enormous energy, incisive mind and ability to work within gruelling schedules.
Margaret Bryant travelled in her youth as far as South Africa. While little of her writing was signed, the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, and the League of Nations benefited from her enormous energies, and when she went to Geneva it usually heralded an unusual burst of activity on the part of the League secretariat. She was a friend of the poet Sylvia Lynd. Bryant lived with her sister, Hannah Atkinson, in a small flat in St Pancras. Atkinson was a German scholar and the last pupil of Clara Schumann, and translated Pushkin's The Golden Cockerel. Hannah and Margaret together wrote a play for children produced at the Winter Garden.
She was the step-sister of Robert William Bryant, a Methodist missionary in South Africa and Ethel Wilson's father. according to Wilson's memoir, Margaret Bryant was a distinguished journalist and lively woman with a social conscience who, according to an editorial (signed by I.J. in The Observer in February, 1942) shortly after her death, was “a worker and a fighter, concealing an iron will under a deceptively meek exterior, loving gay company, helping and inspiring all who came into contact with her ..." Wilson described her aunt as 'a female Savonarola with a beautiful smile." When Robert Bryant died, Margaret Bryant is quoted as saying, "I would have worked to the bone to have given Ethel a good education. But I was not religious and so they feared for that..." Ethel's relatives, the Malkins, vetoed her intervention.
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