Papers of Frederick James Gould (1855-1938)

Scope and Content

Papers of Frederick James Gould, including pamphlets relating to moral and civic instruction; press cuttings of articles by Gould; and a little correspondence.

Administrative / Biographical History

Frederick James Gould was born in Brighton in 1855, the son of William James Gould, an opera-chorus singer, and his wife Julia. He was a choir-boy at St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle from 1865-1868. Educated in Chenies, Buckinghamshire, Gould became a day and Sunday school teacher, 1871-1877. He had been brought up an evangelical Anglican, but 'developed religious doubt' whilst the head teacher at Great Missenden church school, 1877-1879. He moved to London in 1879, where he married Mahalah Elizabeth Lash (1879) and worked for 16 years as an assistant master in London board schools. He disliked his teaching work, with the huge classes (sometimes over 100 boys) and stringent financial measures imposed by the Board. His fully-signed notes in the 'Agnostic Journal' in 1887 were seen by the School Board, and he was transferred from Bethnal Green to Limehouse and exempted from Bible-teaching duties. In 1891 he asked the Board to let him resume Bible-teaching on an ethical-agnostic basis, but was denied.

Gould joined the Ethical Movement in 1889, working with the East London Ethical Society and creating a scheme of ethical lessons (1892 onwards) for use in its Sunday school. He also wrote Humanist articles for the 'Literary Guide' (1886 onwards). In 1890, he joined Charles A. Watts and G.J. Holyoake in forming a Propagandist Press Committee, which evolved into the Rationalist Press Association by 1899.

Gould left teaching in 1896 and was active in the new Ethical Union until 1899. In that year the family moved to the Midlands, where Gould worked as Secretary to the Leicester Secular Society until 1908. He founded the Leicester Positivist Society in 1908 and ran it for 2 years. After this he was a lecturer and demonstrator for the Moral Education League. Although the League was ended by World War One, Gould continued to work with the help of a fraternal Committee. His work included writing books, lecturing and tours of Bombay, the USA, and the UK, all on ethical topics (1916-1923). He worked as Honorary Secretary to the International Congress of Moral Education from 1919-1927, and continued to participate in their work after this date, adressing the Congress at Krakow in 1934. The death of his son in World War One led to an increased interest in the League of Nations and and world peace. In 1924-1925, Gould edited the final volumes of 'Humanity' (the 'Positivist Review'). His numerous books and pamphlets cover a multitude of subjects, including religious history, Biblical criticism and educational methods.

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