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Aldwinckle, Stella (1907-1989) | Archival Collections at Wheaton College

Name: Aldwinckle, Stella (1907-1989)


Historical Note:

Elia Estelle (Stella) Aldwinckle was born in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1907 to English parents, the second of four children. Due to Stella's own illness as an infant, and her mother's chronic ill health, she was cared for by her mother's sister and her family until she was three and a half years of age. Stella then moved with her family to South America where her father hoped to find work, but after a few years decided to sail to England in 1915 just after the start of World War I. She attended a private girls' school in Weston-super-Mare for 10 years before returning with her family to South Africa to care for her mother, and run a tobacco farm with her brother for three years.

At age 21, Stella felt herself called to help people find God and returned to England for further education. She attended St. Anne's College, Oxford and read Theology. After Oxford, she taught Divinity in Yorkshire and at St. Christopher's College in Blackheath for several years before deciding that her true desire was to serve in a pastoral rather than academic capacity. Stella returned to Oxford University and served on the Oxford Pastorate as Chaplain for Women Students from 1941-1966.

The Oxford University Socratic Club grew out of Stella's ministry in 1942, and became one of her most well-known legacies. The Club brought prominent atheists, agnostics, and Christians together to discuss matters of theology and philosophy in an open forum setting for Undergraduates. C.S. Lewis served as the Club's president from its inception until 1954.

In addition to her pastoral duties and Socratic Club activities, Stella founded the Oxford University Horsemanship Club in 1958, served as a staff member at Lee Abbey, and founded SCARS, a cross-denominational prayer fellowship group focusing on silence, prayer, and meditation. Her further involvement in the lives of undergraduates and various other movements and activities can be seen in the contents of this archival collection.

After her retirement in 1966, she received the title of Chaplain Emeritus and, along with the help of former tutor and friend Austin Farrer, attended University lectures and classes on various subjects to continue her education. Ms. Aldwinckle died on December 28, 1989.







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