Autograph Letter Collection: Becker Collection

Archive Collection
  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 9/28
  • Former Reference
      GB 106 Volume XXIII
  • Dates of Creation
      c.1815-1922
  • Language of Material
      English
  • Physical Description
      2 A boxes (2 volumes- 147 items)
  • Direct Link

Scope and Content

The collection contains correspondence by, to and between members of the Becker family discussing family concerns and suffrage issues.

9/28/A- Letters written by Lydia Becker 1836-1890; Letters written to Lydia Becker 1853-1890; Posthumous letters etc. concerning Lydia Becker 1890; Lady Lytton's Family Letters 1858-1881; Lady Lytton's Family Letters 1858-1881 - Begin AL/5321.

9/28/B- Becker Family Letters 5 Feb 1816-16 Feb 1857; Letters from Stratton Lodge, home of Eleanor Becker 1881-1895 - Begin AL/5357; Letters to Arthur Becker 1881-1921 - Begin AL/5372; Family letters 1909-1922 - Wilfred Becker, Fanny Price, Esther Becker - Begin AL/5383.

Administrative / Biographical History

Lydia Becker (1827-1890) was born in the Manchester area in Feb 1827 the eldest of 15 children the surviving siblings being Mary, Esther, Edward, Wilfred, Arthur, John and Charles. Her father, Hannibal Leigh Becker (1803-1877) was the son of Ernest Hannibal Becker (1771-1852) a German immigrant who had settled in England and become a naturalised citizen. Hannibal married Mary Duncroft and became the proprietor of first a calico-printing works at Reddish and then a chemical works at Altham in Lancashire. The couple had fifteen children. Her early life was conventional her main interests were in astronomy and botany, and she wrote one book on each subject. In 1865, the family moved to central Manchester where Becker founded the Manchester Ladies' Literary Society, which was a centre for scientific interests and at the first meeting a paper written by Darwin for the event was read. The previous year she had attended a Social Science Association meeting and heard Barbara Bodichon lecture on women's emancipation. Bodichon encouraged her to contact Emily Davis. Through these individuals, Becker became involved with local suffrage groups. In Feb 1867, she was named honorary secretary of the Manchester Committee for Women's Suffrage and was instrumental in rewriting its constitution as the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage. In 1868 she became treasurer of the Married Women's Property Committee. She travelled about the country organising meetings and support for the issue throughout the 1860s and was involved in the campaign to have women ratepayers included on the electoral register. She worked alongside Jacob Bright as the parliamentary agent of the National Society for Women's Suffrage to have the amendment to the Municipal Franchise Bill passed in 1869 so that this could be achieved at a local, if not a national, level. However, her efforts were not restricted to suffrage. In 1870, she was the first woman to be elected to the Manchester School Board, she was also the founder-editor of the 'Woman's Suffrage Journal' in 1870. In the 1870s she was active in the campaign to have the Contagious Diseases Acts repealed and worked beside Josephine Butler and Elizabeth Wolstenholme in the Vigilance Association for the Defence of Personal Rights. She organised a significant repeal meeting in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester, 1870 with JB, Elizabeth Wolstenholme and James Stuart. She also served on the LNA Executive Committee between 1872-1873. She introduced the first motion against Bruce's Bill at the Conference of Repeal Organisations, 29 Feb 1872. However, parliamentary developments in 1874 led many to believe that the vote might be granted to single though not married women. Becker pragmatically supported this as an interim measure, leading to criticism from the Pankhursts, the Brights and Wolstenholme Elmy. In the later part of that decade she was secretary to the Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage and remained with it when the London societies divided over opposition to the CD Acts in 1888. However, her health began to deteriorate and she withdrew from active work in 1889 and travelled to Aix-les-Bains to recuperate. On the 21 Jul 1890 she died in Geneva, Switzerland having contracted diphtheria.

Arrangement

The letters have been arranged into two parts. Part A consists of Letters written by Lydia Becker 1836-1890 Letters written to Lydia Becker 1853-1890 Posthumous letters re Lydia Becker 1890 Lady Lytton's & family letters 1858-1881. Part B consists of Becker family letters 1816-1857 Ernest Becker's journey to Maranham, Brazil & Charles Becker from Australia Becker 1881-1895 from Stratton Lodge, home of Eleanor Becker Arthur Becker 1881-1895 Family letters 1909-1922

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is available for research. Readers are advised to contact The Women's Library in advance of their first visit. Available on microfiche only.

Acquisition Information

The papers of Lydia E Becker and the Beckers were passed to the Fawcett Library in 1969 by the family.

Other Finding Aids

Abstracts of individual letters in the autograph letters collection were written and held alongside the letters. This work was done from the 1960s by volunteers including Nan Taylor. In 2004 Jean Holder completed a 3 year project to list the letters, copy-type the abstracts, and repackage the letters to meet preservation needs. In 2005 Vicky Wylde and Teresa Doherty proof read and imported the entries to the Special Collections Catalogue.

The original card index of all correspondents, including date of letter & volume reference, is available on the microfiche.

Alternative Form Available

A copy of this archive is available on microfilm held at The Women's Library.

Custodial History

At some point during the 1970s a large number of letters were removed from the Becker collection (ref. 7LEB) and placed in the Autograph Letter Collection, volume 28 (ref. 9/28) which is available on microfiche.

Related Material

Also held at The Women's Library are personal papers of Lydia Becker (7LEB) and a volume of the Manchester National Society for Women's Suffrage (for which Becker was secretary) (2MNS).

Also see Lydia Becker's correspondence as secretary of Manchester Society for Women's Suffrage (1867-90) in Manchester Archives and Local Studies Library (reference M50/1).