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Adela Curtis

Episode 4 of 5

Dr Jane Shaw, Dean of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, explores the life and writings of the little-known, but charismatic, English mystic Adela Curtis, founder of the White Ladies.

In the fourth programme in our series, The Mystical Turn, Dr Jane Shaw, Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, explores the life and writings of the little-known, but charismatic, English mystic Adela Curtis.

Mystic, vegetarian, bookseller, sewage expert and much more besides, Adela Curtis was a remarkable woman. Born in 1864, she lived to the age of 96. After running a restaurant and bookshop in Kensington in the early years of the 20th century, she went on to found her own religious order for women - the Order of Silence - in Coldash, near Newbury in Berkshire. Members were celibate, vegetarian and contemplative, but the Order was not aligned with any particular church.

In 1921, aged 57, Adela Curtis then retired to live near Burton Bradstock in Dorset. But her followers visited with such frequency that a new community was formed. Each member of the community lived in a simple hut surrounded by a small piece of land for cultivation. The women wove their own robes from undyed silk or cotton - resulting in their being dubbed the 'White Ladies' - by the locals. Visitors came from far and wide and Aldous Huxley thought Adela Curtis, who died in 1960, one of the greatest living mystics.

Producer: Ian Willox
Executive Producer: Alan Hall

A Chrome Radio production for BBC Radio 3.

15 minutes

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