Fabian Society: biographies of early members

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

A file of biographical papers on the lives of the early Fabians including: Charlotte Wilson. Edward Pease: notes on a meeting with Nicholas and Muriel Pease, 6 Jul 1973. Meeting with Mrs Amber Blanco White, 15 Feb 1972. Amber Blanco White interview, 21 Jun 1971. Margaret Harkness.

Administrative / Biographical History

Edward Pease 1857-1945 was the sixth of fifteen children, was born at Henbury Hill, near Bristol on 23rd December, 1857. Edward was the grandson of Edward Pease (1767-1858) the railway entrepreneur. His parents were devout Quakers. Pease moved to London in 1874 where he found work as a clerk in his brother-in-law's textile firm. Later he became a partner in a brokerage company. The business was very successful, but Pease, who was gradually developing socialists ideas, became increasingly uncomfortable about his speculative dealings on the Stock Exchange. In the early 1880s Pease became friends with Frank Podmore (1856-1910), who invited him to join the Society for Physical Research. The following year, the two men, joined a socialist debating group established by Edith Nesbit and Hubert Bland. In January, 1884, the group became known as the Fabian Society. Podmore's home, 14 Dean's Yard, Westminster, became the official headquarters of the organisation. The success of 'Fabian Essays in Socialism' (1889) convinced the Fabian Society that they needed a full-time employee. In 1890 Pease was appointed as Secretary of the Society. In 1894 Henry Hutchinson, a wealthy solicitor from Derby, left the Fabian Society £10,000. Hutchinson left instructions that the money should be used for 'propaganda and socialism'. Hutchinson selected Pease, Sidney Webb (1859-1947) and Beatrice Webb (1858-1943) as trustees of the fund, and together they decided the money should be used to develop a new university in London. The London School of Economics (LSE) was founded in 1895. Pease was also a member of the Independent Labour Party. On 27th February 1900, Pease represented the Fabian Society at the meeting of socialist and trade union groups at the Memorial Hall in Farringdon Street, London. The Conference established a Labour Representation Committee (LRC). Pease was elected to the executive of the Labour Representation Committee (named the Labour Party after 1906) and held the post for the next fourteen years. Pease established the East Surrey Labour Party and served on local council.

Charlotte Wilson (1854-1944)was born in Kemerton, Overbury, Tewkesbury. Her father was surgeon to the Shrewsbury Union and to the Worcester Friendly Institution. She was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge. Sometime between 1880-1883 she married Arthur Wilson, a stockbroker who became editor of 'The Investors Review'. In 1884 she met Edward Pease, who introduced her to the Fabian Society. Wilson was elected a member of the society on 17th October 1884 and on 7th November read a paper to the society on anarchism. When the executive was established on 19th December she was made one of its members. Wilson left the Fabian Society in 1915 on the grounds of ill health. She was honorary secretary to the Prisoner of War Fund, Oxford and Bucks Regiment 1918-1919, and died at Irvington-on-Hudson, New York in 1944.

Margaret Harkness (1854-c1921) was a relative of the social reformer Beatrice Potter, and was born at Upton-upon-Severn in 1854. Her father was an Anglican priest. In 1877 she went to London to train at Westminster Hospital. In January 1878 she began as an apprentice dispenser, but around 1881 decided to try to earn a living as a journalist and author. Her first known publication was an article entitled 'Women as Civil Servants' in the liberal monthly journal 'Nineteenth Century'. At the same time she began writing books and novels. During the early 1880s she became interested in the social problems of London's East End. In January 1888 Harkness joined the group around Henry Hyde Champion (1859-1928), editor of the Social Democratic Federation's journal 'Justice', for which she published several of her articles. She left the group in 1889. In 1906 she went to India, where she stayed for several years working as a writer and probably a journalist. Harkness appears to have died some time after 1921.

Amber Blanco White, nee Reeves (b 1887) was the eldest daughter of William Pember Reeves (1857-1932), High Commissioner of New Zealand, and Maud Pember Reeves (1865-1953), a member of the Fabian Society's executive and founder of the Fabian Womens Group. She was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge, gaining a double first in moral sciences. She was involved in the suffrage movement and the Fabian Society.

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Archivist's Note

Output from CAIRS using template 14 and checked by hand on May 8, 2002

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