Elisabeth Mary Alethea Graham was born on 22 August 1908 at Arlington Heights, USA, the first daughter of Aelfrida Tillyard, writer [see GCPP Tillyard] and Constantine Graham, diplomat. When Aelfrida ceased to accompany Constantine regularly on his travels in 1910 (they eventually divorced in 1921) she returned to Fordfield, her family home on Brooklands Avenue in Cambridge, with both her daughters (Alethea's younger sister, Agatha, was born in 1910 - see GCPP Graham A2) where they lived with Aelfrida's parents until the 1930s.
Alethea attended the Perse High School for Girls, Cambridge, then studied Modern Languages at Girton from 1926 to 1929 and remained at Girton for a further year to study Economics. She also undertook some work in Cambridge for Dr Decio Pettoello, translating from Italian into English ten of the stories which were edited by Pettoello and published as 'Italian Short Stories' (Everyman's Library, Dent 1932).
Alethea worked as English Editor of 'La Semaine a Paris' in Paris from 1930 to 1931. She later took a Social Science Diploma in London and undertook some work at the Katherine Low Settlement in Battersea, London.
In the early 1930s Alethea discovered a religious vocation, and in September 1933 she was received as a postulant at St Mary's Abbey, West Malling, Kent, where she remained until July 1935. She returned there intermittently until the autumn of 1936. She then worked as a missionary at St Cuthbert's Mission, Tsolo, Cape Province, South Africa, from 1937 to 1953.
On her return from South Africa, she went to live in Oxford, where her mother was living at St John's Home, St Mary's Lane. She spent the rest of her life in Oxford: she bought a cottage in Old Headington, north of Oxford, after the death of her mother in 1959; she was General Secretary of the Cowley, Wantage and All Saints Association; she took on translation work and private coaching in French and Italian; she conducted oral examinations and marked examination papers for the Oxford Local Examination Board; and she tutored prisoners in Oxford Prison. She also wrote for various periodicals including The Star in the East (journal of the Bible Lands Mission). Alethea died in Oxford on 17 June 1980.
The papers include personal diaries; poems; a few personal and biographical items; photographs; and some letters written to Alethea (chiefly those written to her by her spiritual 'adviser', Father O'Brien).
Donated by Angela Yaffey [nee Tillyard, Girton 1945, cousin of Alethea and Agatha Graham], 17 April 2009. NB: some of AG's personal diaries, namely GCPP Graham, A1 1/1/12a, 12b, 15a, 20a and 22, were discovered at a later date and donated by AY 18 January 2011, via Sheila Mann.