Queer Places
Golders Green Crematorium Golders Green, London Borough of Barnet, Greater London, England
Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham Hill, Egham TW20 0EX, UK
University of Cambridge, 4 Mill Ln, Cambridge CB2 1RZ, UK
2 Gower St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 6DP, UK
Eagle House, Steway Lane, Batheaston, Bath and North East Somerset BA1 7EJ, UK
Millicent Garrett Fawcett Statue, City of Westminster, Westminster, London SW1P 3BD, UK

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/13/Millicent_Fawcett.jpgDame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (11 June 1847 – 5 August 1929), an English political leader, activist and writer, was the daughter of Newson and Louisa Garrett (née Dunnell). Known primarily as a campaigner for women's suffrage, she took a moderate line on women's rights and campaigned tirelessly. In 1897 she became President of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), and remained so until 1919.[1] She focused on improving women's chances of higher education, serving as a governor of Bedford College, London[2] (now Royal Holloway) and a co-founder of Newnham College, Cambridge in 1875.[2] She was appointed in July 1901 to lead a British Government commission to South Africa to investigate concentration-camp conditions after the Second Boer War. Her report corroborated what the campaigner Emily Hobhouse had said of terrible conditions.[3]. "I cannot say I became a suffragist," she later wrote. "I always was one, from the time I was old enough to think at all about the principles of Representative Government."

Millicent Garrett Fawcett was born on 11 June 1847 in Aldeburgh,[2] to Newson Garrett (1812–1893), an entrepreneur from nearby Leiston, and his wife Louisa (née Dunnell, 1813–1903) from London.[4][5] She was the eighth of their ten children.[3]

According to the Stracheys,[6] "The Garretts were a close and happy family in which children were encouraged to be physically active, read widely, speak their minds, and share in the political interests of their father, a convert from Conservatism to Gladstonian Liberalism, a combative man, and a keen patriot."[7]

As a child, Fawcett's elder sister Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who became Britain's first female doctor, introduced her to Emily Davies, an English suffragist. In her mother's biography, Louisa Garrett Anderson quoted Davies as saying to her mother, Elizabeth, and to Fawcett, "It is quite clear what has to be done. I must devote myself to securing higher education, while you open the medical profession to women. After these things are done, we must see about getting the vote." She then turned to Millicent: "You are younger than we are, Millie, so you must attend to that." [8]

In 1858, at the age of 12, Fawcett was sent to London with her sister Elizabeth to study at a private boarding school in Blackheath. Their sister Louise took Millicent to the sermons of Frederick Denison Maurice, a socially aware and less traditional Church of England minister, whose opinion influenced Millicent's view of religion. Fawcett's interest in women's rights[2] began when Millicent became an active supporter of John Stuart Mill, an early advocate of universal suffrage.[3] At 19 she went to hear a speech of Mill's on equal rights for women. Fawcett was impressed by Mill's practical support on the basis of utilitarianism, rather than abstract principles.

Collaborating with ten other young, mostly single women, Garrett, Davies and Fawcett worked to form the Kensington Society in 1865, as a discussion group focused on English women's suffrage.[3] A year later, aged 19, although unable to sign as a minor, Fawcett collected signatures for the first petition for women's suffrage[9] and became secretary of the London Society for Women's Suffrage.[2]

John Stuart Mill introduced her to many other women's rights activists, including Henry Fawcett, a Liberal Member of Parliament who had intended to marry her sister Elizabeth before she decided to focus on her medical career. Millicent and Henry became close friends, and despite a fourteen-year age gap, they married on 23 April 1867,[9] and Millicent took his surname, becoming Millicent Garrett Fawcett.[9] Henry had been blinded in a shooting accident in 1858 and Millicent acted as his secretary.[10] Their marriage was described as being based on "perfect intellectual sympathy",[2] and Millicent pursued a writing career while caring for Henry. Their only child, Philippa Fawcett, born in 1868,[2] excelled in school, which fared well with her mother and with women's rights.[11] Fawcett ran two households, one in Cambridge and one in London. The family had some radical beliefs, supporting proportional representation, trade unionism, individualistic and free trade principles, and opportunities for women.[11]

In 1868 Millicent joined the London Suffrage Committee, and in 1869 spoke at the first public pro-suffrage meeting held in London.[2] In March 1870 she spoke in Brighton, her husband's constituency. As a speaker she was said to have a clear voice.[2] In 1870 she published her short Political Economy for Beginners, which was "wildly successful",[12] running through 10 editions in 41 years.[2][12][13] In 1872 she and her husband published Essays and Lectures on Social and Political Subjects, which contained eight essays by Millicent.[2][14] In 1875 she co-founded Newnham Hall and served on its council.[15]

Despite many interests and duties, Millicent, with Agnes Garrett, took on the raising of four of their cousins, who had been orphaned at an early age: Amy Garrett Badley, Fydell Edmund Garrett, Elsie Garrett (later a prominent botanical artist in South Africa), and Elsie's twin, John.[16]

After her husband died on 6 November 1884, Fawcett temporarily withdrew from public life, sold both family homes and moved with Philippa to the house of her sister, Agnes Garrett.[2] When she resumed work in 1885, Fawcett began to concentrate on politics and was a key member of what became the Women's Local Government Society.[17] Originally a Liberal, she joined the Liberal Unionist party in 1886 to oppose Irish Home Rule. She, like other English Protestants, felt that allowing a Catholic Ireland to have home rule would hurt England's prosperity and be disastrous for the Irish.[18]

Fawcett was granted an honorary LLD by the University of St Andrews in 1899,[19]

Fawcett began her political career at the age of 22, at the first women's suffrage meeting. After the death of Lydia Becker, Fawcett became leader of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), Britain's main suffragist organisation. As such she was a moderate campaigner, distancing herself from the militant and violent activities of suffragettes like the Pankhursts and the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), whose actions, she believed, harmed women's chances of the vote by alienating the MPs who were debating the topic and souring public opinion.[20] Despite the publicity for the WSPU, the NUWSS, one of whose slogans was "Law-Abiding suffragists",[21] retained more support. By 1905, Fawcett's NUWSS had 305 constituent societies and almost 50,000 members, compared with the WSPU's 2000 in 1913.[22] Fawcett mainly fought for women's suffrage, and found home rule to be "a blow to the greatness and prosperity of England as well as disaster and... misery and pain and shame".[23]

The South African War became an opportunity for Fawcett to share female responsibilities in British culture. She was nominated to lead the commission of women sent to South Africa.[11] In July 1901, she sailed there with other women "to investigate Emily Hobhouse's indictment of atrocious conditions in concentration camps where the families of the Boer soldiers were interned."[11] No women in Britain had been entrusted before with such a task in wartime. Millicent fought for the civil rights of the Uitlanders, "as the cause of revival of interest in women's suffrage".[11]

Fawcett had backed countless campaigns over many years. A few of those she supported were to curb child abuse by raising the age of consent, criminalising incest, cruelty to children within the family, ending the practice of excluding women from courtrooms when sexual offences were considered, stamping out the "white slave trade", and preventing child marriage and the introduction of regulated prostitution in India.[11] Fawcett campaigned to repeal the Contagious Diseases Acts, which reflected sexual double standards. They required prostitutes to be examined for sexually transmitted diseases and if they were found to have passed disease to their clients, to be imprisoned. Women could be arrested on suspicion of being a prostitute, and imprisoned for refusing consent to examinations that were invasive and painful. The men who infected the women were not subject to the Acts, which were repealed through campaigning by Fawcett and others. She believed such double moral standards would never be eradicated until women were represented in the public sphere.[11]

Fawcett usually wrote as Millicent Garrett Fawcett, but spoke publicly as Mrs Henry Fawcett.[11] She wrote three books, one co-authored with her husband Henry, and many articles, some published posthumously.[25] Fawcett's Political Economy for Beginners, went into ten editions, sparked two novels, and appeared in many languages. One of her first articles on women's education appeared in Macmillan's Magazine in 1875, the year when her interest in women's education led her to become a founder of Newnham College for Women in Cambridge. There she served on the college council and backed a controversial bid for all women to receive Cambridge degrees.[11] Millicent regularly spoke at girls' schools, women's colleges and adult education centres. In 1904, she resigned from the Unionists over free trade, when Joseph Chamberlain gained control in his campaign for tariff reform.[26]

When the First World War broke out in 1914, the WSPU ceased all activities to focus on the war effort. Fawcett's NUWSS ceased political activity to support hospital services in training camps, Scotland, Russia and Serbia,[27] largely because the organisation was significantly less militant than the WSPU: it contained many more pacifists and support for the war within the organisation was weaker. The WSPU was called jingoistic for its leaders' strong support for the war. While Fawcett was not a pacifist, she risked dividing the organisation if she ordered a halt to the campaign, and diverted NUWSS funds to the government as the WSPU had. The NUWSS continued to campaign for the vote during the war and used the situation to its advantage by pointing out the contribution women had made to the war effort. She held her post until 1919, a year after the first women had been granted the vote in the Representation of the People Act 1918. After that, she left the suffrage campaign and devoted much of her time to writing books, including a biography of Josephine Butler.[28]

Fawcett was appointed a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (GBE) in the 1925 New Year Honours.[29] She died four years later at her home in Gower Street, London.[30] Fawcett was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium. Her memory is preserved in the name of the Fawcett Society, and in Millicent Fawcett Hall, constructed in 1929 in Westminster as a place where women could debate and discuss issues affecting them. It is owned by Westminster School and used by its drama department as a 150-seat studio theatre.

In 1910, Fawcett and Dr Mary Morris were invited to Eagle House near Bath. The house was owned by the Blathwayt family and featured a garden where leading suffragettes and suffragists had created an arboretum with a plaque for each notable activist.[31] Fawcett joined dozens of others who had left commemorative plaques at the house. Yet there was no complaint from the local archaeological society when it was demolished in the 1960s.[32]

Fawcett is seen as instrumental in gaining the vote for 8.5 million British women over 30 years old under the Representation of the People Act 1918.[33]

The Fawcett Society continues to teach British women's suffrage history to younger generations and inspire girls and women to continue the fight for gender equality while creating campaigns like the #FawcettFlatsFriday, to make strides in lessening the gender equality gap in Fawcett's name.[34] The Fawcett archives are held at The Women's Library at the Library of the London School of Economics, ref 7MGF. "A memorial inscription added to the monument to Henry Fawcett in Westminster Abbey in 1932 asserts that Fawcett 'won citizenship for women'".[11] The blue plaque for Fawcett, which states, "Dame Millicent Garrett FAWCETT 1847-1929 pioneer of women's suffrage lived and died here", was erected in 1954 by London County Council at 2 Gower Street, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 6DP, London Borough of Camden, where Fawcett lived for 45 years and died.[35]

In February 2018 Fawcett was announced as the winner of the BBC Radio 4 poll for the most influential woman of the past 100 years.[36]

To commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, a statue of Fawcett by Gillian Wearing was erected in Parliament Square, London.[37][38][39] The campaign, led by Caroline Criado Perez, garnered over 84,000 signatures on an on-line petition.[39] Fawcett's statue holds a banner quoting from a speech she gave in 1920, after Emily Davison's death during the 1913 Epsom Derby. It reads: "Courage calls to courage everywhere".[38] It was unveiled on 24 April 2018 by Britain's second female prime minister, Theresa May.[37]


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