The Margaret Sanger Papers


Ashwell, Lena (Lady Simson) (1872-1957)

British stage actress. Married Arthur Wyndham Playfair, (n.d.; divorced 1908); married Henry Simson (1908; widowed 1932), no children. By 1900 Ashwell was one of Britain's leading actresses in London. In 1907, she opened the Kingsway theater in London, specializing in contemporary plays including several dealing with the lives of the working classes. Ashwell, a suffragist, played feminist "Margaret Knox" in the 1915 production of George Bernard Shaw's Fanny's First Play. In 1912 she helped found the Three Arts Club which provided housing for actresses and other aspiring women artists. A birth control advocate, Ashwell was one of several notable British artists and intellectuals who signed the 1915 petition Marie Stopes organized in support of Margaret Sanger. In 1917, she received the O.B.E. for her work in organizing entertainment for British troops during World War I. After founding and running another company, the Once-A-Week Players, from 1924 to 1929, Ashwell retired from the stage. She published Modern Troubadours, an account of her wartime work in 1922, and her autobiography, Myself a Player, in (1936).
References: Ivor Brown, "Lena Margaret Ashwell," Dictionary of National Biography, 1951-1960.