The Margaret Sanger Papers

Ellis, (Henry) Havelock (1859-1939)

British physician, psychologist, sexual reformer. Married Edith Lees in 1891; she committed suicide in 1917. Educated in Australia, Ellis returned to London to study medicine, but soon became interested in the physical causes of psychological problems. He was particularly interested in the scientific study of the varieties of sexual behavior and in 1897 published the ground-breaking Sexual Inversion, one the first sympathetic analyses of homosexuality. The book, quickly labeled obscene by British authorities, became the first in his seven-volume Studies in the Psychology of Sex (1897-1928). With the 1912 publication of The Task of Social Hygiene in which he clearly linked women's sexual liberation and pleasure to social stability, Ellis emerged as one of the most influential of the new European sex theorists. He was also a literary scholar and essayist whose publications included The Soul of Spain (1908); Impressions and Comments (1914); and Little Essays of Love and Virtue (1922). Ellis had a love affair with South African feminist Olive Schreiner before his marriage to Edith Ellis. He met Margaret Sanger in London in December 1914, shortly after she escaped from the United States. They soon embarked on a love affair, and although it did not last, Ellis remained one of Sanger's closest friends and her most influential mentor. Under his tutelage Sanger began to articulate a rationale for birth control less rooted in radical class-based politics and more focused on its connections to social hygiene and women's psychological well-being and sexual fulfillment. After his affair with Sanger, Ellis met French translator, Françoise Cyon Lafitte, who became his lover and remained his companion until his death.
    Copyright for documents authored by Havelock Ellis must be secured from: Francois Lafitte, 77 Oakfield Road, Birmingham, B29 7HL, U.K.
References: Vincent Brome, Havelock Ellis: Philosopher of Sex (1979) and Phyllis Grosskurth, Havelock Ellis: A Biography (1980).