Annie Winifred Ellerman Bryher was born in Margate, England, on September 2, 1894, the daughter of multimillionaire Sir John Ellerman. Having enjoyed some of her childhood on the island of Bryher, she legally changed her name to Winifred Bryher, then later took the name “Bryher” as a pseudonym.
In 1914, Bryher published her first poetry collection, Region of Lutany (Chapman & Hall). Four years later, Bryher met H. D., with whom she would maintain a lifelong friendship and romantic relationship. Bryher even helped raise H. D.’s daughter, Perdita, who would become Bryher’s adopted daughter and heir. H. D. credited Bryher with saving her life during a period of hardship and depression that coincided with Perdita’s birth.
In 1921, Bryher married the American writer and publisher Robert McAlmon in a marriage of convenience. The following year, she published her second poetry collection, Arrow Music (J. & E. Bumpus). Five years later, she divorced McAlmon and married Kenneth MacPherson. Together, she and MacPherson established the film magazine Close Up and legally adopted Perdita.
In 1935, Bryher founded Brendin Publishing Company and began publishing Life and Letters Today: An International Magazine of Living Letters. Bryher and H. D. lived together in London through World War II and later moved to Switzerland, where H. D. died in 1961. Bryher went on to publish six more books before her death on January 28, 1983, at her home in Vevey, Switzerland.
Although Bryher published two books of poetry, she is still best known for her prose, particularly her historical novels. She published several books of fiction and nonfiction in her lifetime, including This January Tale (Harcourt, Brace and World, 1966); Beowulf (Pantheon Books, 1956); and Roman Wall (Pantheon Books, 1954).