Biography of Florence Farr

Florence Farr (1860-1917) was born on July 7, 1860, at Bickley, Kent, England and named after Florence Ni

ghtingale. She was was a British West End leading actress, composer, director, women's rights activist, journalist, educator, singer, and novelist.

In 1877 Farr entered Queen's College, the first institution of higher learning for women in England. She left in 1880 without completing her course of study. She tried teaching, but soon left it for an acting career.

Farr's first acting experience was in amateur productions with the Bedford Park Dramatics Club. Beginning in 1882, Farr served an eight-month apprenticeship under the actor-manager J. L. Toole. Her first professional stage appearance was as "Kate Renshaw", a schoolgirl, in Henry J. Byron’s Uncle Dick’s Darling.

In 1883 her father died, leaving her a modest inheritance to live on. She continued taking minor roles at the Folly. Farr began performing at the Gaiety Theatre in May. She soon attained modest success on London's West End stages, and in 1884 she married fellow actor Edward Emery. But it was a disastrous marriage, and she chafed under the restrictions expected of a Victorian wife. In 1888, her husband left for an extended tour of America, and they never saw each other again. (She eventually obtained a divorce in 1895 on the grounds of abandonment and never remarried.) An early feminist, Farr was known for advocating equality for women in politics, employment, wages etc. amongst her intellectual circle of acquaintances.

Florence Farr was initiated into the Golden Dawn in 1890. She took the Latin motto “Sapientia Sapienti Dona Data” (Wisdom is a gift given to the wise"). She progressed quickly and two years later was named Praemonstratrix. She demonstrated her accomplishments in her first books, A Short Enquiry into the Hermetic Art (1894) and Egyptian Magic (1896). In 1896 she began the Sphere group, a magical working group that included Inner Order adepts. The following year S.L. MacGregor Mathers, named her the order's "Chief in Anglia." However, her leadership also meant that she would be in the center of the storm that hit the order in 1900 when many of the British members protest the autocratic authority that Mathers was attempting to exercise from his office in Paris. The controversy led to an attempted expulsion of Mathers from his own order by misguided "Adepts." Farr tired of the constant bickering and in 1902 resignd from the HOGD. She continued her involvement in occult matters through the Theosophical Society.

However, for the next decade she would concentrate her time on her career in the theater. She also authored a number of books and articles. In 1912 Farr retired from the stage and accepted the invitation to move to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) as the principal of the first girls' school to operate among the minority Hindu Tamil population. She worked at the school until weakened by the breast cancer from which she died in April 29, 1917.

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