Millicent Garrett Fawcett- the story of a suffragist
As part of our year-long celebrations of the 175th anniversary of Macmillan Publishers, we’ve taken a trip into our archive to discover the histories of some of our best-loved authors and books. Read on for the first Macmillan story; of trailblazining intellectual, political writer and suffragist, Millicent Garret Fawcett.
‘Courage calls to courage everywhere’
Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847–1929) was a hugely influential campaigner for women’s rights and was instrumental in gaining women the right to vote. Aged just nineteen, and too young herself to sign, she organized signatures for the first petition for women’s suffrage. In 1907 she became president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies – a position she held until 1919. The NUWSS sought to bring change by peaceful means rather than the more militant tactics of the Suffragettes and with its 50,000 members it was the largest women’s suffrage organization of the time.
Throughout her life, Millicent campaigned passionately for women’s right to education – her elder sister Elizabeth became the first female doctor in England so it was a cause was close to her heart. In 1875 she co-founded Newnham College for women at Cambridge and she also lectured and wrote numerous articles on women’s education and suffrage.
Together with her husband Henry Fawcett, Liberal MP and Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge, she published a number of books and articles with Macmillan. It’s most likely that Henry became friends with the Macmillan brothers during his lecturing days in Cambridge, where the Macmillans had a shop at 1 Trinity Street. Alexander and Daniel Macmillan were keen advocates of women’s rights, and through their ‘Tobacco Parliaments’ – literary salons hosted for authors and thought-leaders – they provided a platform for debate and discussion. In 1868 Millicent published her article The Education of Women of the Middle and Upper Classes in Macmillan’s Magazine, in which she declared ‘Let all, both men and women, have equal chances of maturing such intellect as God has given them’. The magazine would give voice to many leading campaigners for women’s rights, including Octavia Hill, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon.
The Macmillan editions book, detailing printing and reprinting of Political Economy for Beginners.
Not content with focusing solely on her campaign work, Millicent also published Political Economy for Beginners with Macmillan in 1870. It went to ten editions, sparked two novels and was translated into many languages. It remained in print with Macmillan until 1946 and totalled 106,500 copies – an extraordinary achievement for a period when far fewer people were studying the subject than today.
Millicent Fawcett died in 1929, a year after women were finally given full voting rights. 2018 marks one hundred years since women were first granted the right to vote and Millicent will be the first ever woman to have a statue unveiled in Parliament Square in her honour – a fitting tribute to such a remarkable, courageous woman.
Header image: 2 Gower Street, London, where Millicent Fawcett lived for 45 years.