Monica Baldwin (22 February 1893 – 17 November 1975) was a British writer and canoness regular for 28 years. After leaving her enclosed Order, she wrote of her experiences in a series of books which received a widespread audience at the time, giving the first direct account of life in a Religious Order, from a former member, in that period. She was the great-niece of British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.
Baldwin joined an enclosed religious order of Augustinian canonesses in 1914, a few months before the beginning of World War I. Ten years later she began to think she had made a mistake but it was another 18 years before she left, convinced that she "was no more fitted to be a nun than to be an acrobat." After 28 years of consecrated life there, she made the decision to leave the life, and requested dispensation from her religious vows, which was granted by the Vatican. During her years in the convent, Monica alternated between the English Convent in Bruges and a related Priory at Hazelgrove Park in Hayward's Heath. In 1938, she transferred to St Monica's Priory, then at Rawdon House in Hoddeson, Hertfordshire, and it was from there that she was released from her vows in October 1941. She left on 26 October 1941, during the Second World War.
Work and writingEdit
Among her jobs outside were as a gardener in the Women's Land Army, as a matron in a camp for conscripted girl munitions workers, and as an army canteen hostess peeling potatoes. Once a photographer offered her a job developing "dirty pictures" in his cellar. After that she worked as an assistant librarian and then in the War Office.
In 1949, she published a memoir, I Leap Over The Wall: A Return to the World after Twenty-eight Years in a Convent. The book, later sub-titled, Contrasts and impressions after... is a memoir of some of the contrasts between life in an enclosed convent and life out in the contemporary world. Baldwin relates how she could not recall reading a newspaper during the entire course of the First World War. When she entered, the popular use of telephones, cinema and radio were in their infancy; when she left they were common in England.
Her novel, The Called and the Chosen, written as the diary of Sister Ursula Auberon, an enclosed nun at the Abbaye de la Sainte Croix, Framleghen, was published in 1957 by Farrar, Straus & Cudahy. The book followed the 1956 publication of The Nun's Story, a novel by Kathryn Hulme, about the life of her companion Marie Louise Habets, a Belgian former nun. In 1965, Baldwin published her second autobiographical book, called Goose in the Jungle. A Flight Round the World with Digressions.
In the 1960s Baldwin lived on Alderney in the Channel Islands. She died in 1975 and is buried in Clare, Suffolk. In later life Baldwin moved to a religious retirement home near Bury St. Edmunds which would explain why she was buried in Suffolk.
- "Miss Monica Baldwin". The Times. 22 November 1975. p. 14.
- 1901 England Census
- 1871 England Census
- England & Wales, Non-Conformist and Non-Parochial Registers, 1567-1970
- Time Magazine, 30 January 1950, "Monica's Coming Out"
- Monica Baldwin's memoir
- The Called and the Chosen, The Diary of Sister Ursula Auberon, Enclosed Nun at the Abbaye de la Sainte Croix, Framleghen by Monica Baldwin...
- Time Magazine article, "The Ex-Nun's Story", 28 October 1957
- Monica Baldwin (Author). Goose in the Jungle: MONICA BALDWIN: 9780856172120: Amazon.com: Books. ISBN 085617212X.
- "Woman of Mystery - from the Tablet Archive". Archive.thetablet.co.uk. Retrieved 17 October 2015.
- I Leap Over The Wall: A Return to the World after Twenty-eight Years in a Convent, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1949. Baldwin, Monica (2007). I Leap Over the Wall - Contrasts and Impressions After Twenty-Eight Years in a Convent. Barlow Press. ISBN 978-1406711103.
- "The Search for Monica Baldwin, Parts 1 to 4" by Pauline Annis. Stourbridge Civic Society Newsletter, Issues 46–49, April 2009 to April 2010, with a supplementary note in issue 50, April 2011.