Millicent Fawcett in 1892Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847–1929) was a leading campaigner for equal rights for women in Britain. A political leader and writer, she led the biggest suffrage organization, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS), from 1897 to 1919 and played a key role in gaining women the vote. Known as the Suffragists, members of the NUWSS sought peaceful means to achieve their aim, while the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), or Suffragettes, vowed to use any means necessary, including violence, to get the vote. Millicent Fawcett was also devoted to the struggle to improve women's opportunities for education.
Born in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, Millicent Garrett was sent to London at the age of 12, along with her sister Elizabeth (later Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first female doctor in the UK) to attend boarding school. When she was 19, Millicent went to hear a speech on equal rights for women given by the radical politician, John Stuart Mill. Impressed by Mills’ practical approach, Millicent decided to become actively involved in his campaign.
After marrying Henry Fawcett, the radical MP for Brighton, in 1867, she became noted as an effective speaker—at a time when women rarely spoke on public platforms. She also played a role in the founding of Newnham College, Cambridge, a college for women, in 1871. Henry Fawcett died of pleurisy 1884, leaving Millicent a widow at just 38.
An NUWSS poster
President of the NUWSS
The Representation of the People Act 1918, enfranchised all men as well as all women over the age of 30 who met minimum property qualifications. The act extended the franchise (people eligible to vote) by 5.6 million men and 8.4 million women.
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