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May Sinclair


1863 - 1946

May Sinclair was the pseudonym of Mary Amelia St. Clair, a popular British writer. She was an active suffragist, and member of the Woman Writers' Suffrage League. She was also a significant critic, in the area of modernist poetry and prose; the literary term 'stream of consciousness' is attributed to her.

Between the early twentieth century and the mid-1920s, May Sinclair was one of the most successful and widely known of British women novelists. She produced over twenty novels, six collections of short stories, two works of philosophy, poetry and much journalism and literary criticism. Her novels range from Edwardian "social problem" novels, such as The Helpmate (1907) and Kitty Tailleur (1908), through modernist bildungsroman and experiments with narrative in Mary Olivier: A Life (1919) and The Life and Death of Harriett Frean (1922), to social comedy, such as Mr Waddington of Wyck (1921) and A Cure of Souls (1924). Her friends and acquaintances included Henry James, Thomas Hardy, Ford Madox Ford, T. S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, HD and Rebecca West. Sinclair was committed to women's suffrage, and was one of the first English novelists to use the theories of the "New Psychology", that is, psychoanalysis, in her work.

From the late 1920s she was suffering from the early signs of Parkinson's disease, and ceased writing. Over the last twenty years or so, however, a number of critics have seen Sinclair's work both as a challenge to the critical categories of modernism and as a rich and interesting response to early twentieth-century conceptions of femininity.