Papers of Millicent Garrett Fawcett

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 106 7MGF
  • Former Reference
      GB 106 M/MGF
  • Dates of Creation
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      6 A boxes; 2 volumes

Scope and Content

The archive consists of the personal papers of Millicent Garrett Fawcett; correspondence (related to suffrage; the Henry Cust case, the Northwest Durham by-election (1914) and on the status of women in India (1899-1918)); items relating to the Paris Women's Congress (1919) and Fawcett's Stansfeld lecture (1921-1902); papers relating to the creation of the Commission of Inquiry's report into South African Concentration Camps (1901-2), including Fawcett's personal diary of the visit and official report with photographs, pamphlets and tickets inserted; papers related to the role of Women in the Great War (including a large collection of press cuttings); personal memorabilia, including Philippa Fawcett's Irish holiday diary (1893) and albums and a bag owned by Millicent Garrett Fawcett; personal financial papers; a variety of working papers of Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1880-1929), including notes on speeches, volumes and articles she received or wrote herself.

Administrative / Biographical History

Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929) was born in Suffolk in 1847, the daughter of Newson and Louisa Garrett and the sister of Samuel Garrett, Agnes Garrett, Louise Smith and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson.

The sisters' early interest in the issue of women's suffrage and commitment to the Liberal party were heightened after attending a speech given in London by John Stuart Mill in Jul 1865. Though considered too young to sign the petition in favour of votes for women, which was presented to the House of Commons in 1866, Millicent attended the debate on the issue in May 1867. This occurred a month after she married the professor of political economy and radical Liberal MP for Brighton, Henry Fawcett. Throughout their marriage, the future cabinet minister supported his wife's activities while she acted as his secretary due to his blindness. Their only child, Philippa Fawcett, was born the following year and that same month Millicent Garrett Fawcett published her first article, on the education of women.

In Jul 1867, Millicent Garrett Fawcett was asked to join the executive committee of the London National Society for Women's Suffrage and was one of the speakers at its first public meeting two years later. She continued her work with the London National Society until after the death of John Stuart Mill in 1874, when she left the organisation to work with the Central Committee for Women's Suffrage. This was a step which she had avoided taking when the latter was formed in 1871 due to its public identification with the campaign for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts.

Fawcett, despite her support for the movement's actions, had initially believed that the suffrage movement might be damaged by identification with such controversial work. However, the two groups later merged in 1877 as the new Central Committee for Women's Suffrage and a new executive committee was formed which included Fawcett herself. Her influence helped guide the group towards support for moderate policies and methods. She did little public speaking during this period but after the death of her husband in 1884 and a subsequent period of depression, she was persuaded to become a touring speaker once more in 1886 and began to devote her time to the work of the women's suffrage movement.

In addition to women's suffrage Millicent Garrett Fawcett also became involved in the newly created National Vigilance Association, established in 1885, alongside campaigners such as J Stansfeld MP, Mr WT Stead, Mrs Mitchell, and Josephine Butler. In 1894 Fawcett's interest in public morality led her to vigorously campaign against the candidature of Henry Cust as Conservative MP for North Manchester. Cust, who had been known to have had several affairs, had seduced a young woman. Despite marrying Cust's marriage in 1893, after pressure from Balfour, Fawcett felt Cust was unfit for public office. Fawcett's campaign persisted until Cust's resignation in 1895, with some suffrage supporters concerned by Fawcett's doggedness in what they felt was a divisive campaign.

In the late nineteenth century, the women's suffrage movement was closely identified with the Liberal Party through its traditional support for their work and the affiliation of many workers such as Fawcett herself. However, the party was, at this time, split over the issue of Home Rule for Ireland. Fawcett herself left the party to become a Liberal Unionist and helped lead the Women's Liberal Unionist Association. When it was proposed that the Central Committee's constitution should be changed to allow political organisations, and principally the Women's Liberal Federation, to affiliate, Fawcett opposed this and became the Honorary Treasurer when the majority of members left to form the Central National Society for Women's Suffrage. However, in 1893 she became one of the leading members of the Special Appeal Committee that was formed to repair the divisions in the movement. On the 19 Oct 1896 she was asked to preside over the joint meetings of the suffrage societies, which resulted in the geographical division of the country and the formation of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. She was appointed as the honorary secretary of the Central and Eastern Society that year and became a member of the parliamentary committee of the NUWSS itself. It was not until the parent group's reorganisation in 1907 that she was elected president of the National Union, a position that she would retain until 1919.

By 1901, Fawcett was already eminent enough to be one of the first women appointed to sit on a Commission of Inquiry into the concentration camps created for Boer civilians by the British during the Boer War. Despite this, her work for suffrage never slackened and she was one of the leaders of the Mud March held in Feb 1907 as well as of the NUWSS procession from Embankment to the Albert Hall in Jun 1908. She became one of the Fighting Fund Committee in 1912 and managed the aftermath of the introduction of the policy, in particular during the North West Durham by-election in 1914, when other members opposed a step that effectively meant supporting the Labour Party when an anti-suffrage Liberal candidate was standing in a constituency.

When the First World War broke out in Aug 1914, Fawcett called for the suspension of the NUWSS' political work and a change in activities to facilitate war work. This stance led to divisions in the organisation. The majority of its officers and ten of the executive committee resigned when she vetoed their attendance of a Women's Peace Congress in the Hague in 1915. However, she retained her position in the group. During the war, she also found time to become involved in the issue of women's social, political and educational status in India, an area in which she had become interested through her husband and retained after the conflict came to an end. She remained at the head of the NUWSS when the women's suffrage clause was added to the Representation of the People Act in 1918 and attended the Women's Peace Conference in Paris before lobbying the governments assembled there for the Peace Conference in 1919. She retired in Mar 1919 when the NUWSS became the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship but remained on its executive committee. She also continued her activities as the vice-president of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance, to which she had been elected in 1902, for another year. After this she became the Chair of the journal, the 'Women's Leader', and appointed a Dame of the British Empire in 1925. It was in that year that she resigned from both NUSEC and the newspaper's board after opposing the organisation's policy in support of family allowances. She remained active until the end of her life, undertaking a trip to the Far East with her sister Agnes only a short time before her death in 1929.


Arrangement imposed by archivist. weeded sorted and arranged May 2007. All types of correspondence were placed in a single series (A), and material relating to the Fawcett family rather than the work of Millicent Garrett Fawcett was listed under series B. The small series of Financial papers was listed under series C and additions were made to it from previously uncatalogued material. An entirely new Working Papers series (D) was created from separate acquisitions and previously uncatalogued material and material relating to Millicent Garrett Fawcett and her work relating to both the Boer and Great Wars was arranged into an entirely new series, E. The bag belonging to Millicent Garrett Fawcett was included as a separate numerical series to identify it as separate from the papers. It was not included in 'Fawcettania' due to it being an object rather than archival material.

Access Information

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

Acquisition Information

This archive has been deposited by various people as 7 separate deposits.

Other Finding Aids

Women's Library Catalogue

Alternative Form Available

The Women's Library uses Mary Evans Picture Library (MEPL) to provide images from its collections, see For a copy of the attached image, showing Millicent and her husband Henry Fawcett, The Women's Library ref 2ASL/11/02/1, please contact MEPL, quoting the MEPL image reference 10048606.

[Staff see also AHDS image ref F25D].

Custodial History

This collection contains material from a variety of provenances. The majority of the material in this collection has no accession number and as a result its precise archival history is unknown. 7MGF/C was extracted from trunk of Speiling family papers and deposited by Taylor Garrett Solicitors, through the British Records Association, 1985. 7MGF/B/09 (Agnes Garrett's commonplace book) was deposited in 1981 and donated by Roger Garrett. 7MGF/D/07 was deposited as a gift by Bob and Beryl Jones in Sep 2002. The currently missing photocopies of 9 autograph letters of Millicent Garratt Fawcett to Mrs Mitchell was deposited by Cheltenham Ladies College in 1995. A photocopy only of Millicent Garrett Fawcett letter to Charles Rowley was deposited as a gift by Bob Jones of Northern Herald Books in 1995. A file relating to the Mrs Fawcett Victory Thanksgiving Fund was extracted from a press cuttings folder by the Archivist in Feb 1993, rediscovered during the move of the Library collections to the new building in 2003 and formally accessioned in Jul 2003. 7MGF/1 (originally containing publications and papers - see AccNo 1999/12) was deposited by Sebastian Garrett in 1999.

Related Material

The Women's Library holds further correspondence in its Autograph Letter Collection (ref 9/) of Millicent Garrett Fawcett with Philippa Strachey (1907-29) (ref 9/01) and Ray Strachey (ref. 9/08) as well as her correspondence with Mrs Badley (1894-1929) (ref 9/14), Lady Frances Balfour (1903-18) and Margery Irene Corbett Ashby (7MCA). 10/4 7 comprises a Scrapbook relating to the death of Dame Millicent Fawcett. The Women's Library also holds the Papers of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, her sister (7EGA) and the Papers of Louisa Garrett Anderson (7LGA). Several of the organisations Millicent Fawcett was a senior committee member of such as the London Society for Women's Suffrage (2LSW) are held at The Women's Library. The Printed Collections at the Women's Library hold over 60 publications by Millicent Fawcett. The Women's Library Museum Collection holds a number of photographs, postcards and other objects associated with Millicent Fawcett.

Note: The Women's Library was previously known as the Fawcett Society Library, and was originally founded as the Millicent Fawcett Memorial Library.

The Manchester Archives and Local Studies also hold her correspondence and papers (c1867-1920): Reference: M 50/2-8. Several of her letters (1888-1922) are also held by Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre, while her correspondence with Sir Charles Dilke (1871-84) (Ref. Add MSS 43909-913) and with Macmillan's (1878-1906, Ref. Add MS 55206) is in the British Library Manuscript Collections. Ten of her letters to WT Stead are held in the collection STED at Cambridge University: Churchill Archives Centre while her correspondence with Catherine Marshall is contained in the Cumbria Record Office. Fawcett's correspondence with the International Woman Suffrage Alliance is held by Manchester University's John Rylands Library (Ref. IWSA/2/9).

Geographical Names