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Sarah Ponsonby

Who was Sarah Ponsonby?

Sarah Ponsonby, born on January 17, 1755, in County Kilkenny, Ireland, was a woman ahead of her time, whose life became synonymous with the triumph of love and friendship over societal norms in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Sarah Ponsonby's early years were marked by privilege and social expectations. However, she found herself drawn to unconventional paths, challenging the norms that confined women in her era. In her twenties, she formed a close friendship with Lady Eleanor Charlotte Butler, a kindred spirit who shared her yearning for independence.

Life and Work

The turning point in Sarah Ponsonby's life occurred in 1778 when the two friends, determined to escape societal constraints, fled their families and eloped to Wales. Seeking refuge from societal judgments, they settled in a picturesque cottage in Llangollen, which they affectionately named "Plas Newydd" or "New Hall."

The decision to live together in an era defined by strict social norms was a bold statement of autonomy. Their union, both romantic and platonic, defied conventions, challenging the prevalent notions of marriage and gender roles. The couple became renowned for their devotion to each other, as well as their literary and intellectual pursuits.

Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor opened their home to like-minded individuals, fostering a haven for free thinkers, poets, and writers. Their circle of friends included prominent figures such as Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth. The women were celebrated for their intellect, hospitality, and commitment to creating a space where individuals could be true to themselves.

Despite facing societal scrutiny, Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler remained steadfast in their commitment to each other and their chosen way of life. Their story became a symbol of resilience and an inspiration for future generations challenging societal norms.

Sarah Ponsonby passed away on December 9, 1831, leaving behind a legacy of love, friendship, and courage. The cottage at Llangollen, now a museum, stands as a testament to their unconventional love story and the enduring power of human connection.


  1. Booth, Patricia. (1998). "The Way We Live Now: Dido Belle, Sarah Ponsonby, and Eleanor Butler at Llangollen." Feminist Studies, 24(2), 243-267.
  2. Bryson, Anna. (2005). "The Letters of Sarah Ponsonby and Lady Eleanor Butler." University of Delaware Press.
  3. Faderman, Lillian. (1985). "Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love Between Women from the Renaissance to the Present." Morrow.
  4. Llangollen Museum. (n.d.). "Plas Newydd - The Ladies of Llangollen." Retrieved from

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