Charlotte Shaw

A generous donor of time and money

[I] would be in favour of the most exhaustive and daring range of subjects.

Charlotte Shaw

Webbs and Shaws: Sidney Webb, Charlotte Shaw, G Bernard Shaw, Beatrice Webb
L-R: Sidney Webb, Charlotte Shaw, G bernard Shaw and Beatrice Webb, 1932

Charlotte Payne Townshend, later Shaw, was LSE's first benefactor, an governor and a member of the Library committee. Without Charlotte’s financial assistance, LSE would have had neither its first home in Adelphi Terrace, nor the Shaw Library. 

LSE's first home

When Sidney Webb was looking for a home for the School, Charlotte was persuaded to sub-let the top two floors of her premises at 10 Adelphi Terrace, leaving the rest of the building for the School and its Library – and most importantly making the project affordable. 

The Shaw Library

In 1939 LSE Director Alexander Carr-Saunders explained his idea for a general reading library and Charlotte agreed to give £1,000 towards the project. She was closely involved with it, down to the type of books “[I] would be in favour of the most exhaustive and daring range of subjects” to a lengthy dispute over bookplates she declared to be “philistine, unimaginative”. However, Charlotte was famously self-effacing and wanted to be anonymous. 

When LSE returned to London after the war, the library was moved to its present home in the Founders’ Room on the 6th floor of the Old Building. Charlotte’s desire for anonymity has meant that many believe the Library to be named after her husband, G Bernard Shaw. Today a photograph of Charlotte Shaw hangs in the Founders’ Room. 

Read more

Charlotte Shaw’s legacy – the Shaw Library by Sue Donnelly on the LSE History Blog

An unsung heroine of LSE – Charlotte Shaw by Sue Donnelly on the LSE History Blog