The Life and Times of Millicent Garrett Fawcett.

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Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett was a suffragist – which is by no means to be confused with the Suffragettes, who unlike suffragists were more militant with their campaigns – she was the president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) for over twenty years. Being a Feminist, political and union leader as well as a writer she was renowned for her tireless campaign into bettering women’s lives with better education, workers’ rights and off course her hard slogged out campaign to get the vote for women. She was a very caring and intelligent woman who felt deeply for the Suffrage movement, but it is reported that Millicent felt that the likes of the Pankhurst’s were doing more harm than good in the Suffrage claim. Millicent wasn’t one for their violent and militant styles of campaigning she believed to achieve her goal of women votes that it would be won in parliament, so she took her cause directly to the MP’s. she campaigned religiously but always peacefully and in 1918 she witnessed the first woman in Britain to make her mark and cast that hard fought for vote.

Her life long’s work was rights for women whether it was in Britain of abroad, because of her value and dedication to the cause she was selected by parliament to travel to South Africa to investigate the conditions of the concentration camps where the families of the Boar War soldier were being interned, she fought for women’s civil rights and revived the interest of the women’s suffrage movement, for a woman to be given this duty was testament to how well received and respected she had become.

Throughout her life time Millicent put her name to countless campaigns and organisations that were close to her heart including to curb child abuse – which included cruelty to children within the family, criminalising incest, to end the practise to exclude women from the courtroom during sexual offense crimes, to eradicate the slave trade and to prevent child marriage. Millicent also fought for the Contagious Diseases and Double Standards acts were to be repealed as they were both highly offensive and discriminating to women, Millicent believed that “the double standard of morality would never become eradicated until women were represented in the public sphere of life” due to her campaign the acts were repealed.

Early and Family Life

Born into a very working-class family her father; Newson Garrett was from an old iron workers family, the Garretts had been in the iron industry since the seventeenth century in Suffolk. Her father didn’t have the same spirit as the rest of his family and instead of following his father into the iron works. Newson left his family home in Suffolk and moved to London where he fell in love with Louise Dunnell; daughter of an innkeeper. After they were married Newson and Louisa moved into a Pawnbrokers house – Newson later went on to own a larger Pawnbrokers a d Silversmiths. Newson after the death of his father and having the family business passed on to his brother. Newson had the Garrett thirst for success and he moved his family back to his home county of Suffolk and quite impulsively bought a Barley and Coal Merchants, Newson was a very successful businessman and was able to build a mansion on a hill behind Aldeburgh, which they called Alde House.

When Millicent was 12 and her sister Elizabeth – who was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who went on to become the first female doctor in Britain – were sent to a London Boarding school in Blackheath, it was here that Millicent’s became aware of the differences between how men were treated and women. She regularly attended speeches and sermons by people whose views were at the time classed as radical, it was due to hearing these speakers that she became more involved with the campaign, she was hugely influenced by MP John Stuart Mills who was a man with very modern opinions and regularly brought equality of women into the public eye with his speeches because of his opinions many of his fellow MPs thought him a bit too radical. But to Millicent he was the foundation stone to her lifelong views on women’s suffrage, she was immensely impressed by his support for the cause and when she was just 19 she became the secretary of the London Society of Women’s Suffrage.

Mills was a crucial man in her life he supports her causes and went on to introduce her to other women’s right activists; which included her husband-to-be; Henry Fawcett, they quickly married and had their only child a daughter called Philippa Fawcett. Unlike most married couples of the time Henry and Millicent had a genuine loving marriage, they were very real and both highly engrossed in advocating women’s rights, trade unionism and free trade principles.

When her husband Henry passed away in 1884, Millicent withdrew from public life completely. She sold their family homes, and with her daughter Philippa she moved into the home of her sister; Agnes Garrett. To pull out of society and the work she loved so much says a lot about how Henry’s death affected her and shows just how theirs really was a true love match.

On the Suffrage Campaign

Suffregists

In 1868 Millicent joined the London Suffrage Committee and proceeded to speak at meeting’s, it is said that she had very clear and precise speech and voice. She didn’t only voice her views at meeting she was an acclaimed writer and her “Political Economy for Beginners” was wildly accepted and successful. She also co-authored with her loving and supportive husband; Henry and the pair republished the “Essays and Lectures on Social and Political Subjects.

From returning to work in 1885 after the death of her husband, Henry Millicent threw herself into the course, she campaigned tirelessly and over the years right up until women got the vote in 1918.

Millicent always thought that the way to get equality for women then it had to be done peacefully and campaigning directly to those in the positions to turn the law around, her suffragists were political and peaceful, and it was known that Millicent thoroughly believed that the suffragettes; the likes of the Pankhurst’s and their violent and militant campaigns was doing more damage than good as people just saw women and those on the suffrage campaign as dangerous or deluded. Millicent’s strived to distance herself and her own campaign away from them.

Millicent’s calming and logical thought worked as by 1913 Millicent’s Suffragist; NUWSS had more than 50,000 members whereas the suffragette, WSPU had a mere 2,000. Millicent thought that that the home rule was “a blow to the greatness and prosperity of England as well as disaster and… misery and pain and shame“. And so, her main goal and fight was to get women that crucial vote.

After the death of Lydia Becker, one of the leading ladies of the suffrage campaign in the National Union of Woman’s Suffrage Societies or NUWSS, Millicent was offered the prominent role of leader which she was for over twenty years, right up until women were granted the vote. After years and all her life on the suffrage trial, going through hardships and heart aches in 1919 a year after the Representation of the People 1918 Act which gave women the vote she left the organisation and suffrage campaign and focused on writing more books.

Due to her tireless work in 1925 Millicent Garret Fawcett was awarded the Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the Empire.

The Repeal of the Contagious Diseases and Double Standards Acts

Millicent thought that the Contagious Diseases Act reflected the Double Standards Act and both were harsh and discriminatory towards women. These two acts lawfully required prostitutes to undertake an invasive, painful and humiliating examination to ascertain whether they were free from sexually transmitted diseases, if found to have got one of these diseases and then passed said disease on to a client the woman would be imprisoned. Under these acts any women could legally be arrested on suspicion of being a prostitute and would be subjected to an examination any woman who refused being examined would also be imprisoned. Funnily enough though, male clients with transmittable disease weren’t subjected to the same humiliation and brutality.

NUWSS during the War

Unlike the WSPU – the Suffragettes led by the Pankhurst’s – who stopped their campaigned during the war out of respect of what was happening, the NUWSS stayed active during the war they set up an employment register so that the jobs that would have been left open dur to the war were filled and they financed women’s hospital units where they employed only women doctors and nurses who served during the war.

Her Legacy

Blue Plaque

She was instrumental for women gaining their human right and gaining the vote, her memory will always be preserved not just in the incredible thing that she had achieved but also at the Fawcett society and in the Millicent Fawcett Hall, which was constructed in 1929 in Westminster as a place where women could gather to debate and discuss issues the hall still stands today and is owned by the Westminster School.

In 1932 the memorial monument of her husband Henry which can be seen in Westminster Abbey was edited to add that Millicent “won citizen ship for women

With the 100-year anniversary since the Representation of the People Act 1918 which gave women over the age of 30 (all women no matter their age won their fight and got the vote in 1926) a statue of Millicent Garrett Fawcett will be erected in Parliament Square and it will hold a quote from one of Millicent’s quote which she did in 1913 after the death of Emily Davison at Epsom Derby whish will say “courage calls to courage everywhere

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Clifton House – From Family Home to Museum


Clifton House which resides in the little Yorkshire town of Rotherham is one of those unknown treasures of Yorkshire that not many people know about and even less know the history of, this pretty building is hugely over looked by visitors mainly because it is over shadowed by the great Wentworth Woodhouse that resides only a few miles away. This charming and historic, grade two listed building needs to get the attention that it deserves, it is a wonderful place to visit, not just for budding historians but for families. It is steeped in history that dates to 1783, when it was first designed and built by Yorkshire architect John Carr right up to the great war where it was the training ground for the first Howitzer Brigade in the country.

The History

William Owen, an iron and steel manufacturer, himself bought the estate in 1864. William only owned the house for twenty years before he, too died in 1881, it wasn’t until 1883 that the house was put up for auction and was bought for redevelopment but luckily for us that plan failed and yet again the house was closed-up and left abandoned.

Then in 1891 the Rotherham Corporation bought the house for £23,000 for use as a Municipal Park and once refurbished it was officially opened by the Prince of Wales; Edward VIII in the same year with grand and lavish Celebration, that hadn’t been seen in Rotherham for some time. Later in 1893 the Museum opened officially the items on show were some of the Walker’s and Owen’s items that had been left behind, some of the early collections were donated to the museum by the local community. A significant number of the items were provided by local societies such as the finds from the Roman Excavations of Templeborugh in 1877 and items from the Rotherham Literary society and the Rotherham Naturalists society.

Some of these items are still on show today such as the famous and hugely popular Nelson the Lion. Nelson is one of the few fully intact Cape Lion’s, that can be seen on display, this species of lion was originally from South Africa and was the largest lion in the world. The Cape Lion is now extinct, due to Euopean settlers destroying them when they reached South Africa. Nelson was brought to in 1859 and placed in the London Zoo where he died at the ripe old age of twenty- five, after his death, Nelson was stuffed and mounted by Rowland Ward; who was the most famous taxidermist’s in London at the time. Nelson was bought by a Mr B.J Whitaker of Hesley Hall in Tickhill and it formed the centre piece to Whitakers museum. Nelson was loaned to Clifton Park Museum in 1946 where they put him in the main entrance hall and that is where he stayed, in 1973 after seeing how much the people of Rotherham loved Nelson so much Sir James Whitaker donated Nelson to the Museum and then in 1998 Nelson was moved to his permanent – especially made room in the museum, his very own Lions’ Den where he still lives to this day.

In 1915 Rotherham was asked to develop the first Howitzer Cannon Brigade, the town was asked because of their knowledge and experience in creating great long-lasting steel item’s, the Brigade set up training within the Clifton Park Museum ground’s. That didn’t go down well with the Rotherham Parks Committee – who at the time were taking care of the grounds, they complained to the brigade and the council about the damage that the Brigade were causing. The committee complained about the Cannons, guns and the men while training were destroying lawns, flowerbeds, hedges and path’s but that wasn’t all they complained about the Brigade sheltering their horses in the grounds and the danged they were doing they stated that the horses were biting the bark of the trees, eating the grass and high hedges.

This story made it to the local paper and the uproar that followed was unexpected, especially amongst the families whose loved ones were being helped on the front line by the very cannons that the committee were moaning about. One Rotherham mother sent the article to her son who was on the front lines, after showing the article to his unit they gathered up bark from trees that they found in France and sent it to the Rotherham Parks Committee with a strongly worded letter that stated, that they have sent the bark to replace the bark of the trees that have been damaged during the training of the Howitzers, let us just say the Committee soon made a full apology and discontinued their barrage of complaints to the council and the Brigade.

The House and Grounds

Clifton House was designed by Carr in the latest style of the time in the Palladian style; ‘Palladian’ was named after the Italian Palladio who liked and copied styles from ancient Roman and Greece, and they consisted of plain stonework and classical columns. This style was a very symmetrical design and this style of architecture was very fashionable at the time.

The house itself was built on agricultural ground, at the time this was situated well outside of the town the private grounds of the house covered a vast area that apart from the estates held by Earl of Effingham, was one of the largest in the area at the time. The vast grounds still belong to the Museum and are used for all the public for dog walking, festivals and annual Remembrance Day parade. When it was first built the private grounds of the house held everything from a fishpond’s, dovecotes, an icehouse and a well. The Walker’s let half of their land to tenants for grazing animals, it is known that the grounds were full of a wide range of animals including dogs, cats and horses to the more exotic peacocks – there was known peacocks living in the Museum’s grounds right up until the 1960’s.

The main entrance to the grounds wasn’t originally where it is to this day, the original entrance was walled off with entrance gates that were there to hide the stables, outbuilding’s and kitchen garden. The main entrance was moved in the 19th century to make way for a private driveway up the hill towards the house – which is how the grounds look now, the only issue with all the new alterations was that the house was now facing the wrong way and even to this day you proceed up to the main house at the side and you must walk around to the front of the house. The old outbuildings, servant’s quarters and some of the grazing quarters were demolished and around the same time the famous peacocks were removed from the grounds. The old open court yard was roofed over to create an inner sanctum that is now used as a café area and for arts and craft events, the old coal blackened stonework from original 18th century house was cleaned so that it matched the brand-new roofing and stonework.

Clifton Park Museum Today

This glorious building is still the focal point of the Rotherham centre, it is owned now by the Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council who still run it like it has been in the past. The grounds and the museum are free to visit and look around, with the war Memorial – that was erected in 1922 to commemorate the Rotherham dead from the Great war but over the years more and more names have been added including new panels and a memorial fountain that is engraved with names of men who had been awarded the Victoria Cross – and beautifully laid out lawns and walks this is a pretty and charming place to spend the day walking the dog or spend the day out with the children.

The museum recently added an Archives which holds records and documents about Rotherham and the people that date back from 1290 right up to the present day, so budding geologist can go and spend a few hours in their records. With a café, gift shop, and children’s learning area this is a fun place to visit and now they have gained their wedding licence it is a beautiful and romantic setting for any wedding day.

Women of Steel

During both World Wars, women had to take over what was then classed as “Men’s Work”, even today certain parts of the work place is designated to men because the work is “far too dangerous, far too hard and far too dirty” to let women do it, and even when we do go into those areas of work, women are more often frowned upon, or not welcomed. As a woman who has been in various area’s of work, I have done all sort’s but yet at those times when I have worked in a primarily male environment I have been made to feel very out-of-place, or being the only woman on site, I have either been leered at or treated with kids gloves. After all these years of proving that we can do anything a man can do we, women are still delegated to looking pretty and making tea. This is why International Women’s Day is so important, we have celebrate just how brilliant we, women are and we have to remember all those amazing women before us that did just what men thought they couldn’t.

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Today I am talking about the amazing women, who – during both wars – went into the mans world and they did a damn good job. My main focus today is about the those incredible women who went into what was by far one of the hardest and dangerous industries; The steelworks! Now my dad was a steel worker and I have seen what it did to him, the scars from where he was injured, the damaged hearing and other seen and unseen scar’s that all steelworkers carry with them. For me, this particular ‘A Little history ‘ post is very personal and one that I have been wanting to post for a long time.

During WW2, with all our men gone to fight the world-famous Sheffield Steelworks had to keep going, in fact it was critical for the war effort that it keep open, due to the fact that the Steelworks were making the very ammunition that our soldiers needed. But all the men were gone, who would man the Steelworks? There was only one for it. Women!

Sheffield women donned their overalls and walked in to that factory with their heads held high and they did the job. Like in every other Steelworks around the country, the women took over and they ruled. Usually when we think of heroes from WW2 we think of the Land Army Girls, The Wrens and the front line Nurse’s, but this band of extraordinary women slaved away, day in and day out in Sheffield’s Steelwork, it was highly dangerous work but highly important work, without them who knows what would have happened – the war could have ended very differently.

The work they were doing was so far removed from what they would have been used to, most were pulled from their own jobs in Retail and Hospitality while the majority of the women were housewives. It is said that they got very little training, if any at all and most this would have been their first ever taste of work. Can you imagine how that would have been? Being forced from what you know into that hot, dangerous and intimidating factory, where one false move could very well end your death, if your lucky you get basic training. In constant fear of the burners over heating and there being an explosion, of getting burnt daily. Then there are the long-term injuries such as back problems, hearing loss, eye sight problems. Shoulders, knees and hand problems where they would have been burnt and strained and in some cases psychological problems after experiencing accidents.

The work was hard, typical daily tasks would have included picking up the steel at one end while a colleague had held of the other end, they would then have to put the steel into the heat and hammer it. Another daily task was climbing 20ft ladders to use forklifts, so it was no good complaining about being scarred of heights, you just had to get on with it, and grin and bear it. The days long with only perhaps Sunday free, it was hard manual labour, if all that was bad enough then there was the ‘Canary Girls’ who worked with the chemicals inside the ammunition. Their skin would turn yellow because of being in constant exposure of chemicals, they would get ill and they were in constant fear that the chemicals they were handling daily could explode.

What is incredible though is that once the war was over and the men returned, they walked straight into the Steelworks, told the woman to go back to their own lives without so much as a Thanks or Well done. These women had gone above and beyond to keep the factory running and to keep those very men in ammunition and that was the thanks that they got. Go back home!

The men may not have given these incredible women the respect and recognition that they deserved but we do. In Sheffield City Centre there is the proud and iconic Steel Statue, that is quite fitting called; The Women of Steel, which is in tribute to those inspirational women who did so much for us.

If you want to learn more about The Women of Steel then follow the Link http://www.sheffieldnewsroom.co.uk/tag/women-of-steel/