Wife Millicent Garrett

Queer Places:
University of Cambridge, 4 Mill Ln, Cambridge CB2 1RZ
The Lawns, 51 S Lambeth Rd, London SW8 1RH, UK
18 Brookside, Cambridge CB2 1JE, UK
St Mary and St Michael Churchyard Trumpington, City of Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, England

Henry Fawcett; Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (née Garrett) by Ford Madox Brown.jpgHenry Fawcett (26 August 1833 – 6 November 1884) was a British academic, statesman and economist.[1] He enjoyed a normal early life and earned a degree at Cambridge, but disaster struck on a pheasant-shoot with his father. They were in a thick covet and his father shot a bird not knowing his son was in line of fire. Young Fawcett was totally blinded but he refused to let it ruin his life. His friend Edward Carpenter said ‘he was a man of astounding pluck and vitality’. An indication of his attitude was the fact that Fawcett insisted he and Carpenter take their horses on the Downs for a good gallop. Carpenter lived at 45 Brunswick Square, Hove and the Fawcetts frequently dined there. Fawcett and Carpenter often shared a platform as speakers on behalf of women’s suffrage and indeed the Fawcett Society was the first women’s suffrage organisation. On one occasion at a public meeting at Brighton someone at the back of the hall threw a stone that struck Fawcett’s forehead and drew blood. Uproar ensued with ladies rushing from all sides proffering smelling salts. Fawcett was elected Liberal MP for Brighton in 1865 and 1868. In 1867 Fawcett married Millicent Garrett, younger sister of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson. Dame Millicent Fawcett became president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies from 1897 to 1919. Although the Pankhursts gained a great deal of publicity, Millicent Fawcett took a less flamboyant route and she opposed the violence practised by some Pankhurst adherents. Setting pillar-boxes on fire, throwing stones at windows, or chaining oneself to railings was not her style at all. Indeed, there were many people who thought violence alienated the general public and set back the cause rather than advancing it. While still a young woman Millicent Fawcett travelled the country setting out her views on women’s suffrage and lectured at Brighton in the 1870s. The seeds sown on that occasion took a long time to reach maturity and Brighton & Hove Women’s Franchise Society was not founded until 1908. This was despite the central society sending organisers out to work up the Home Counties and try to counter general apathy. By the close of 1908, members of the local society numbered 342 and by 1910 it had risen to 480.

Henry Fawcett was born in Salisbury, and educated at King's College School and the University of Cambridge: entering Peterhouse in 1852, he migrated to Trinity Hall the following year, and became a fellow there in 1856, the year he graduated BA as 7th Wrangler.[2] In 1858, when he was 25, he was blinded in a shooting accident. Despite his blindness, he continued with his studies, especially in economics. He was able to enter Lincoln's Inn, but decided against a career as a barrister and took his name off their books in 1860.[3]

Two years later, Henry Fawcett reportedly attended the 1860 Oxford evolution debate, during which he was asked whether he thought Bishop Samuel Wilberforce had actually read the Origin of Species. Reportedly, Henry Fawcett replied loudly, "Oh no, I would swear he has never read a word of it". Ready to recriminate, Wilberforce swung round to him scowling, but stepped back and bit his tongue on noting that the speaker was the blind economist.[4] At the next meeting (in September 1861) of the British Association in Manchester, Henry Fawcett defended the logic behind Charles Darwin's theories.[5] This significantly affected its acceptance. In 1863, Henry Fawcett published his Manual of Political Economy and became Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge. He made himself a recognised authority on economics, his works on which include The Economic Position of the British Labourer (1865) and Labour and Wages. In 1883, he was elected Rector of Glasgow University. Political career After repeated defeats as a Liberal Party candidate, Henry Fawcett was elected Member of Parliament for Brighton in 1865. He held this seat until 1874, and thereafter represented Hackney between 1874 and 1884. He campaigned for women's suffrage. In 1880, he was appointed Postmaster General by William Ewart Gladstone and sworn of the Privy Council.[6] He had a particular interest in encouraging saving through the Post Office Savings Bank. He introduced the savings stamp which allowed people to save pennies at a time to build up the minimum account limit of a shilling. He pushed through parliament an act to allow savers to convert their post office savings to government stock and he developed the post office's life insurance and annuities schemes.[7] He introduced many other innovations, including parcel post, postal orders, and licensing changes to permit payphones and trunk lines.

Through his campaigning for women's suffrage, Henry Fawcett met Elizabeth Garrett, to whom he proposed in 1865. She rejected the proposal to concentrate on becoming a doctor at a time when female doctors were extremely rare. In 1867, Fawcett married Elizabeth's younger sister Millicent Garrett.[8][9] They had one child, Philippa Fawcett. Henry Fawcett's career was cut short by his premature death from pleurisy in November 1884, aged 51. He is buried in Trumpington Extension Cemetery, Cambridge where several members of the family of Charles Darwin are also buried, including Sir George Darwin, Lady Maud Darwin, and Gwen Raverat.

There are statues of him in Salisbury Market Square and in Victoria Embankment Gardens (Henry Fawcett Memorial) near Charing Cross in central London. The latter is by the eminent sculptor Mary Grant. A fine statue with an angel standing over a seated Henry Fawcett (by the sculptor George Tinworth) was erected in 1893 in Vauxhall Park (opened in 1890 on this site of Fawcett's house, The Lawns) but was removed by Lambeth Council in 1959. Alfred Gilbert was commissioned to make a memorial which stands in Westminster Abbey.[10] Sir Leslie Stephen wrote a biography of him, Life of Henry Fawcett, in 1885. He is listed amongst the important British Reformers on the "Reformers Memorial" in the centre of the eastmost oval section in Kensal Green Cemetery. Fawcett Primary School in Trumpington, Cambridge, was opened in 1949 and named after Henry Fawcett who lived nearby.[11] There is also a Henry Fawcett primary school in London, which opened in 1937.[12] Fawcett's time as Postmaster General was fondly remembered by many postal workers, and when London sorting clerks formed a union in 1890, they named it the Fawcett Association.[13]

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