The movement to gain the vote for women was a mass movement that evolved most fully in the latter part of the nineteenth century. It was not, however, the only area of activity with the aim of improving the social and political situation of women in Britain. Earlier in the century, the idea of the 'sacred' protective duty of women gave them a 'high' ideological status in society that far outstripped their legal status. The social work that was undertaken by women's groups in the areas of housing and nursing led to changes regarding national laws on the poor, education and the treatment of the infirm. However, despite these achievements, the women who were responsible for them still found themselves legally impotent. This was also a time when the proportion of women compared with men in the country was increasing and the number of unmarried women without the expected financial support of a husband was growing as a consequence. Reformers therefore began to focus on the most immediate ways of improving the status and economic position of women, focusing on improvements to female education and the employment opportunities available to them. Schemes in the 1860s such as Emily Faithfull's Victoria Press and the plethora of female emigration societies that sprang up at the time and directed by individuals such as Maria Rye were designed to give women who were reasonably educated the means of supporting themselves. These developments were followed by activities centred on women's legal status regarding property and their ability to stand for election at the local level. None of the strands of activity was independent from the other as attitudes towards one affected perceptions of the others, and those who were active in one area such as women's employment also worked with colleagues more commonly associated with others such as education.
Barbara Bodichon (1827-1891) née Leigh Smith was born in 1827. Her father was a progressive educationalist and MP for Norwich. Bodichon was the cousin of Florence Nightingale. Bodichon was educated at Westminster Infants School, a pioneering 'ragged school' and later at Bedford College. Thanks to her father Bodichon was financially independent. In 1852 Bodichon opened Portman Hill School in Paddington, a non-denominational, non-conventional school of mixed social class, which she ran together with Elizabeth Whitehead. Bodichon campaigned for women's rights, collecting signatures for the Married Women's Property Bill in 1856 and writing 'Women and Work' in 1857. Also in 1857 she married Eugene Bodichon a French doctor. She helped finance 'The Englishwoman's Journal' and was co-proprietor, with Miss Bessie Rayner Parkes of the Journal from 1858 to 1864. Bodichon was on the committee of the Female Middle Class Emigration Society from 1861 to 1886. Bodichon also read the first papers on suffrage in 1865, supported the first suffrage petition in 1866 and became Secretary of the Suffrage Committee in 1867. Bodichon fought for higher education for women and helped Emily Davies to found the college that later became Girton. Barbara Bodichon died in 1891.
Frances Power Cobbe (1822-1904) was a traveller and journalist, who was also a keen promoter of the emancipation of women. Cobbe was an early member of the Kensington Society, the Enfranchisement of Women Committee and later a founder of the London National Society for Women's Suffrage and a member of the executive committee of the Central Committee of the National Society for Women's Suffrage. She was also a member of the Married Women's Property Committee. She had strong religious and ethical beliefs on which she also wrote. For some years she was also joint secretary of the National Anti-vivisection Society and was a founding member of the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. She visited Italy frequently and spent several seasons at places such as Rome and Florence. She died in 1904.
(Jane) Ellice Hopkins (18361904), was born on 30 Oct 1836 in Cambridge, the youngest daughter of William Hopkins (17931866), geologist and mathematician. She was educated at home by her parents who were friends of Arthur Tennyson, and she later became a friend of the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Hopkins was a 'high-church' member of the Anglican Church, which influenced her commitment to social and moral purity movement. During the late 180s she was an evangilist;in the late 1860s she was active in rescue work (supporting the Albion Hill Home for prostitutes); and in the 1870s she became active in the social purity movement. She was influenced by people such as James Hinton (18221875), Sarah Robinson (b. 1834), Bishop George Wilkinson and Annie Ridley. Hopkins's was a committed campaigner in the debate about prostitution and the increased state legislation in the regulation of vice. In 1876 she undertook a gruelling tour of British towns, recruiting thousands of middle-class Christian women into the Ladies' Association for the Care of Friendless Girls. Later between 1883 and 1888 she addressed controversial mass meetings of men in a similar campaign, She influenced the passing of the Industrial Schools Amendment Act of 1880, which advocated reallocating brothel children into approved reform schools. She also canvassed support for the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885, which raised the age of sexual consent from thirteen to sixteen years. She attacked the prevailing sexual double standard in her essay, 'A plea for the wider action of the Church of England' challenging men to take equal responsibility for their own moral conduct. In 1883 she co-founded the White Cross Society, with Bishop Joseph Lightfoot of Durham. Hopkins wrote more than forty separate titles relating to personal chastity, the sanctity of marriage, and the centrality of Christian family life. Her publications included 'True Manliness' (1883) 'English Idylls and other Poems' (1865), 'The Power of Womanhood' (1899) and 'The Story of Life' (1902). In Aug 1903 Hopkins suffered an attack of aphasia from which she never fully recovered. She died on 21 Aug 1904 from cerebral apoplexy at her home, 5 Belle Vue Gardens, Brighton.
Louisa Maria Hubbard (1836-1906), promoter of employment for women and journal editor, was born in St Petersburg in 1836, the eldest daughter of an English merchant, William Egerton Hubbard, who returned to Britain in 1843. The family lived in Leonardslee near Horsham, Sussex, where she was educated at home. She began her public life in the 'deaconess movement', an organisation she supported between 1864-1874. From 1869, Louisa was editor of the 'Englishwoman's Yearbook'. This publication provided a list of all the institutions and societies which existed for the benefit of women and children. In 1873, Louisa was responsible for establishing Bishop Otter College in Chichester. It was a training college for ladies wishing to work as elementary teachers. In 1875 Louisa founded the 'Woman's Gazette'. This paper became known as 'Work and Leisure' from Jan 1880. She was the editor of these papers from 1875-1893. From 1884-1885, she was involved with the United Englishwoman's Emigration Association whose aim was to emigrate women of good character, to ensure their safety during and after their travel and to keep in touch with them for some time after their arrival. In Nov 1885, Ellen Joyce and Mrs Adelaide Ross replaced Louisa Hubbard at the head of the organisation. She was also involved with the United British Women's Emigration Association. Louisa Hubbard died 25 Nov 1906.
Emily Faithfull (1835-1895) was the youngest child of Reverend Ferdinand Faithfull, rector of Headley in Surrey, and his wife, Elizabeth Mary, on 27 May 1835. She was educated both at home in Headley, Surrey and at a boarding school in Kensington, from the age of 13 before being presented at court in 1857, aged 21. She was a member of the Langham Place Group. Emily had a keen interest in women's employment that later led her to write and give lectures on the subject. In 1859 she was a co-founder of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women, together with Jessie Boucherett, Barbara Bodichon and Bessie Rayner Parkes. Emily also served as secretary to the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science's Committee in Nov 1859. Bessie Rayner Parkes was also a member of this committee and it was she who introduced Emily to the printing press. Emily founded her own printing house, The Victoria Press, in Mar 1860. It was a printing office for women typesetters, housed in Great Coram Street, later in Farringdon Street and then Praed Street, London. Emily being appointed Printer and Publisher in Ordinary to Her Majesty in 1862 acknowledged its success. From 1863 to 1880 she published and edited the 'Victoria Magazine' that became a voice for those championing women's employment. In 1864, due to her close friendship with his wife, Helen Jane, she was involved in the public scandal of the divorce case of Admiral (Sir) Henry Codrington that affected her public reputation. Emily became one of the first women to join the Women's Trade Union League, founded in 1875 by Emma Paterson. She also served as Treasurer to a girls' club in Lamb's Conduit Street in Bloomsbury and on moving to Manchester, ran the local branch of the Colonial Emigration Society. In 1872 Emily made her first visit to the United States where her talks were well received, she re-visited in 1882 and 1883-4 and produced a book entitled 'Three Visits to America' (Edinburgh, 1884) which compared the movements for women's work in England and America. She also published two novels. In 1874 Emily was involved in establishing the Women's Printing Society and a few years later, in founding 1877, the 'West London Express', which unfortunately only lasted eighteen months. Emily was on also the staff of the 'London Pictorial'. Ownership of 'The Victoria Press' was transferred to the Queen Printing and Publishing Company in Apr 1881. In the same year Emily helped found the International Musical, Dramatic and Literary Association, which was concerned with securing better protection through copyright. Emily was fortunate to receive £100 from the royal bounty in 1886 and from 1889 received an annual civil-list pension of £50. After suffering for many years with asthma and bronchitis, Emily died 31 May 1895 in Manchester aged sixty.
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, she 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.
The National Vigilance Association (1885-1953) was founded at a time when the debate over the Contagious Diseases Acts and the regulation of prostitution had drawn public attention to the more general issue of the traffic of women and children. Investigations into child prostitution by WT Stead published in the Pall Mall Gazette increased pressure to pass a Criminal Law Amendment Bill. In order to achieve this immediate aim and support any future changes to the law deemed necessary, the National Vigilance Association was formed in Aug 1885 `for the enforcement and improvement of the laws for the repression of criminal vice and public immorality'. All local Vigilance Committees, and any other organisations with congruent aims, were to affiliate to this new body while in turn the central body was to stimulate the formation of new vigilance committees. The General Council consisted of delegates from the affiliated groups and other appointed members and early members included Mrs Fawcett, Mrs Percy Bunting, J Stansfeld MP, Mr WT Stead, Miss Ellice Hopkins, Mrs Mitchell, Mrs Lynch, Miss Bewicke, Mrs Bradley and Mrs Josephine Butler. At the initial meeting, an Executive Committee was appointed to manage the organisation's business and subcommittees were set up to deal with preventive, legal, organisational, parliamentary and municipal matters, as well as with registries, enquiries, the suppression of foreign traffic, finance and literature. The group grew rapidly at a local level and soon there were five branches of the association organised at a regional level: South Wales and Monmouthshire, Sunderland and North Eastern, Manchester and Northern Counties, Birmingham and Midland Counties and Bristol and South Western Counties. The new Association soon amalgamated with a number of other organisations working in the same field. The Minors' Protection Society merged with them in 1885, as did the Society for the Suppression of Vice, with the National Vigilance Association taking over responsibility for the work of the Belgian Traffic Committee. Discussions on a merger took place with the Central Vigilance Society from 1887 to 1891. The Association's activities also widened during this period. In 1899 the National Vigilance Association founded an international organisation, the International Bureau for the Suppression of Traffic in Persons. The Executive of the National Vigilance Association acted as the national committee for Britain within the framework of the International Bureau and in this context was known as the British National Committee though the personnel were identical at the time. Later, however, the British National Committee took on an extended role and became a separate, more broadly-based organisation in its own right which comprised representatives of all the major and some minor organisations for the protection of women and children. Subsequently, in 1917 the aims of the National Vigilance Association itself broadened once more to embrace the protection of women, minors (including young men) and children. To achieve this, they worked not only for the suppression of prostitution but also of `obscene' publications and public behaviour. A Special Council was established concerned with `the Suppression of the White Slave Traffic'. However, in the 1920s and 1930s the National Vigilance Association was constantly plagued with financial difficulties despite its merger with the Travellers' Aid Society in 1939. Rising costs and a diminishing income brought a financial crisis in 1951. In 1952 National Vigilance Association and British National Committee amalgamated once more, ending both their independent existences. Consequently, a new group emerged in 1953 which was named as the British Vigilance Association.