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Clementina Black

(1853—1923) political activist, suffragist, and writer


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(1853–1923). At the age of 22 she assumed responsibility for her invalid father (formerly the town clerk of Brighton) and six younger siblings, and she was in her late 20s before she could devote much time to her own interests. In the early 1880s she moved to Bloomsbury, London, to live with her sisters, one of whom, Constance (1861–1946), married the critic Edward Garnett (1868–1937) and was an important translator of Russian fiction. Black found a job at the nearby London Museum and became interested in socialist, especially Fabian, politics, becoming secretary of the Women's Protective and Provident League (1886–8). She created the Consumers' League to root out low-wage-paying employers and initiated an ‘Equal Pay’ resolution at the Trades Union Congress of 1888. She and Frances Hicks founded the Women's Labour Bureau, building upon the rallying of women workers she had carried out during the 1880s. Further consolidation led to the Women's Industrial Council in 1894 (she was later its president). Her novel An Agitator (1894) relates the story of a socialist strike organizer who is wrongly incarcerated. Workers' and, more particularly, women's rights are discussed in The Princess Desirée (1896), and The Pursuit of Camilla (1899). Caroline (1908) is a costume drama which begins in 1774, when, before the impressionable eyes of young Caroline Dalyngrange, the dashing Gilbert Hardy, an admiral's nephew, rescues a mare from a blazing stable; ten years on, after Hardy has been falsely accused of running smuggled goods and of attempting to carry her off, she accepts his proposal of marriage. The Linleys of Bath (1911) is the biography of an eighteenth-century family. Black went on campaigning for women's rights well into the early twentieth century. In 1907 she published Sweated Industry and the Minimum Wage. The Makers of our Clothes: A Case for Trade Boards (1909), written with Adèle, Lady Meyer (d. 1930), was a more specific challenge to the profits of the industrialists: a through inquiry into working conditions and wages in the clothing trades—especially skilled needlework done for very poor return. In 1915 Black edited Married Women's Work for the Women's Labour League. She also translated from French and German and published Kinder-garten Plays (in Verse) (1903).

From The Oxford Companion to Edwardian Fiction in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Literature.


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