June 13, 2014

The Mystery of Resilience

Monster of a mother: A birth control pioneer, she was revered as a parenting guru. But Marie Stopes treated her son, who died this week, with abominable cruelty

Marie Stopes was one of the most influential women of the 20th century: a distinguished fossil expert, brilliant academic and pioneer of birth control. Also a feminist visionary, she opened the first birth control clinic in Britain and her book, Married Love — which argued marriage should be an equal relationship between husband and wife — was an international bestseller.

And yet, in her private life, she was a staggeringly selfish monster.

She was anti-Semitic and believed fervently in eugenics — or “improving” the human population through selective breeding. Though she made her name as a marital expert she publicly humiliated her two husbands.

The greatest irony of all though, was that the woman who wrote another bestseller, Wise Parenthood was an atrocious mother. She treated her only son as a social experiment, dressing him up in girl’s clothes, choosing, and then discarding, adoptive brothers for him, and later cruelly victimizing his wife.

When Marie Stopes died in 1958, at the age of 77, her son found she had cut him out of much of her will, she had remained so angry at his marriage.

That son, Dr Harry Stopes-Roe has just died aged 90. Remarkably, not only did he survive his mother’s wicked treatment, but he flourished as a philosopher and remained happily married to his own wife for nearly 70 years. He even defended his mother against criticism and censure.  His willingness to forgive his horrific parent is all the more extraordinary when you consider the misery of his childhood.

You can read the whole story at the link and wonder at the resilience of Harry who "endeavored to right with his own children all the appalling wrongs of his own wickedly selfish mother."

Posted by Jill Fallon at June 13, 2014 3:56 PM | Permalink