Millicent Fawcett: who was the British feminist and renowned suffragist?

Monday, 11th June 2018, 12:24 pm
Updated Monday, 11th June 2018, 2:20 pm

Today’s Google Doodle pays homage to the 171st birthday of Dame Millicent Fawcett, a British feminist, activist and writer.

Amongst her many achievements, Fawcett tirelessly campaigned for women’s suffrage, working to improve opportunities for women, particularly in regards to higher education.

Who was Millicent Fawcett?

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Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847 – 1929), was born in 1847 in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, to a prosperous middle-class family.

At the age of 12, she was sent to London with her sister Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who became the first female doctor in the UK.

Fawcett’s London education sparked her keen interest in literature and education, which was later reflected in her role as Governor of Bedford College, London (now Royal Holloway), and her being the co-founder of Newnham College at Cambridge University in 1875.

Millicent was 81 years of age when she finally saw women given the right to vote on the same terms as men (Photo: Shutterstock)

At just 19 years of age, she went to hear a speech by radical MP, John Stuart Mill, who was an early advocate of universal women’s suffrage.

Mill's speech on equal rights for women made a big impression on Fawcett and she then became actively involved in his campaign.

Impressed by Mills' practical support for women’s rights, she was moved to support the women’s suffrage movement, especially after her sister struggled to become employed as a doctor.

After years of campaign for women’s rights, Fawcett became President of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) in 1897, a position which she held until 1919.

Although, this organisation campaigned mainly on equal rights for women, Fawcett also supported other causes such as the abolition of the slave trade, and forming a relief fund for South African women and children during the Boer war.

Fawcett also pursued her own writing career, publishing a short book ‘Political Economy for Beginners‘, which received praise for its succinct and direct explanation and ran for 10 editions and 41 years.

100 years since women’s right to vote

In regards to her campaign for women’s suffrage, Fawcett once said: “I cannot say I became a suffragist. I always was one, from the time I was old enough to think at all about the principles of Representative Government”.

This year marks 100 years since some women over the age of 30 were granted the right to vote in 1918.

In 1928 Fawcett, a campaigner since her 20s, was 81 when she finally saw women given the right to vote on the same terms as men, doing so from the public gallery of the House of Commons. She died one year later.

In April this year, a 8ft 4in bronze statue of Millicent was unveiled in Parliament Square, London (Photo: Shutterstock)

The Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Act meant that all women over 21 years of age, regardless of property ownership, had the right to vote.

In April this year, a 8ft 4in bronze statue of Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in Parliament Square, London, this being the first ever female statue to be erected in the square.

This both recognised and paid tribute to her life, and how her six decades of valiant campaigning efforts greatly impacted and aided in women’s rights and the widening of opportunities for all women.