Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett

(1847—1929) leader of the constitutional women's suffrage movement and author

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British feminist, who led the constitutional movement for women's suffrage. She was created a DBE in 1925.

Born in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, the daughter of an East Anglian shipowner, Millicent Garrett was drawn into the women's movement by her sister Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (1836–1917), the first woman to qualify as a doctor in Britain. In 1867 Millicent married Henry Fawcett, who was professor of economics at Cambridge University and radical MP for Brighton. He was blind and depended greatly on his wife in his political affairs, an involvement that gave her the competence to write the successful Political Economy for Beginners (1870). In the later 1860s she worked for the first women's suffrage committee and for the Married Women's Property Commission; she was also one of the organizers of the lecture scheme that grew into Newnham College for women at Cambridge. In 1884 Henry Fawcett died; two years later Millicent helped found a new women's suffrage society, later uniting the various separate organizations working for votes for women in the National Union of Women Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

As the NUWSS's first president (1897–1919), she worked relentlessly for the constitutional campaign for women's suffrage, in opposition to the militant tactics advocated by Emmeline Pankhurst. Fawcett also became known for her speeches against Irish home rule and for an investigation of the British concentration camps in South Africa, which has been criticized for its vindication of the British administration of the camps. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, she concentrated on the recruitment of women to serve in the war industry, but in 1916 returned to the suffrage campaign. Two years later parliament, largely persuaded by the contribution women had made to the war effort, passed a bill enfranchising all women over the age of thirty. Fawcett continued to work for equal votes with men, which was achieved in 1928, shortly before her death.

Millicent Fawcett was also the author of a biography of Queen Victoria and of Women's Suffrage (1912) and Women's Victory and After (1918).

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945).

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