Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Pinning Inspiration #12

This week's Pinning Inspiration looks once again at a person! You've all heard of the suffragette, Emmeline Pankhurst, but this is Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett, a suffragist.

Why Millicent Garrett Fawcett is inspiring:
She fought long and hard for what she believed in.

Born to Newson and Louisa Garrett in 1847, Millicent and her siblings were always encouraged to have interest in political matters, expression of opinion and freedom of thought. 
Her interest in women's rights began during her visits to see her sister Elizabeth in London. Together they went to see a speech on the subject by John Stuart Mill, which led Millicent to become an active supporter. She became the secretary of the London Society for Women's Suffrage in 1866, at the age of 19. In 1867 she married the liberal MP Henry Fawcett, another supporter of women's rights.

She joined the Women's Suffrage Committee in 1868, which led her to speak at the first pro-suffrage meeting in London.
Millicent worked tirelessly to improve higher education for women and with Henry Sidgwick co-founded Newnham Hall, Cambridge (now Newnham College). The women-only college was founded in 1871 and run from a house until 1875, when funds had been raised to lease land and build a proper college for women. It was the second college in Cambridge to allow female students.

As a suffragist, Millicent took a more peaceful approach to campaigning for women's rights.

During the 1870s, she and her husband published several books on political subjects, including the popular Political Economy for Beginners.

Henry Fawcett died in 1884 and Millicent withdrew from public life for a period, selling the family homes and going with her daughter Phillipa to live with Agnes Garrett, her sister. Returning to work in 1885, she continued in her political interests. She joined the Liberal Unionist Party a year later and remained a member until 1904.

Millicent Fawcett went on to become the president of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) in 1890. The NUWSS was an organisation of Women's suffrage socieities and members included men along with middle and working-class women. Through this, she continued to campaign for women's rights, mainly focusing on women's right to vote.

As well as the right to vote, Millicent also campaigned for other causes. Against child abuse, she supported the idea of raising the age of consent, criminalising incest and cruelty to children within families. She also campaigned for an end to the 'white slave trade' and the practice of excluding women from court when the offence was sexual in nature. Extending her thoughts to overseas British territory, Millicent also campaigned to prevent child marriage and regulated prostitution in India.

Millicent, along with others, campaigned successfully for a repeal of the 'Contagious Diseases Acts', which meant female prostitutes found to have venereal disease were imprisoned if they had passed it on to their customers. Checks were compulsory and any poor woman could be arrested under suspicion of being a prostitute--and also imprisoned for refusing the invasive and painful examination. Men were not subject to the act, which Millicent and other campaigners considered to be a sign of double standards within the law: it was due to men that there as a demand for prostitutes, but it was women who had to go through the humiliation of the examination and have their reputations damaged.  The act was eventually repealed in 1886.

When the First World War began in 1914, the NUWSS continued their work. Many of the members were pacifists and did not support the war. They used the war as an opportunity to continue the campaign, pointing out the increased contribution of women towards the war effort.

In 1918, women over 30 years old were finally given the vote in Britain--some six million women. Millicent Fawcett resigned from her position in the NUWSS a year later.

Millicent Fawcett was awarded an honorary LLD (doctorate degree in law) in 1899, and a damehood in 1924.

She died in 1929, having played a big part in the achievement of the equal opportunities for women that we enjoy today.

Millicent's name continues due to the 1953 renaming of the NUWSS to the Fawcett Society. A registered charity, the Fawcett Society continues to campaign for women's rights.

Have you heard of Millicent Garrett Fawcett before?
Do you believe a peaceful approach to rights campaigns is an effective one?
Do you believe in equal rights?

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