By Tim Lambert
Her Early Life
Millicent Fawcett was a famous suffragist. She was born on 11 June 1847 in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. Her father Newson Garrett was a merchant. His wife was named Louisa. The couple had ten children. Millicent was eighth. When she was 12 Millicent was sent to a private school in Blackheath, London.
When she was 18 she heard the MP John Stuart Mill speak. At that time in Britain, men could not vote unless they met a property qualification. (most did not). Women were not allowed to vote. Mill argued that women should have equal rights with men. Millicent was impressed by his speech and in 1866 she helped organise a petition to parliament for women’s suffrage (right to vote). In 1867 Millicent joined the London National Society for Women’s Suffrage.
On 23 April 1867 Millicent married an MP named Henry Fawcett. They only had one child, a daughter named Philippa who was born in 1868. Henry fully supported women’s suffrage but he died in 1884.
Millicent Fawcett also became a writer. In 1870 she published a book called Political Economy for Beginners. Millicent also wrote a number of articles about women’s suffrage and women’s education. In 1872 she and Henry published Essays and Lectures on Social and Political Subjects, which contained articles by both of them. In 1869 Millicent Fawcett made her debut as a public speaker. She also helped to found Newnham College, Cambridge.
Millicent Fawcett continued to write. She wrote Some Eminent Women of Our Times in 1889. She wrote Five Famous French Women in 1905. Fawcett also continued to campaign for women’s suffrage. In 1897 local groups of women who demanded the vote joined to form the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS). The organization was moderate and its members were called suffragists. Millicent became its first president.
When the First World War began in 1914 many men in Britain could not vote. Many of the British soldiers could not. But the government eventually realized that all men must be given the right to vote. They decided to give some women the right to vote too. In 1918 all men and all women over 30 who met a property qualification were given the vote.
After the First World War Fawcett continued to write. She published a book called The Women’s Victory in 1920. In 1924 she published her autobiography, What I remember. Millicent Fawcett died on 5 August 1929. She was cremated in Golders Green. In 2018 a statue of her was unveiled in Parliament Square.