Saturday, 18 December 2010

Suffragette connections Part 6 - The Parents

George and Louisa MacDonald, and their children (Greville standing middle back) from the George MacDonald informational web

Whilst there are no direct links between Greville MacDonald and the suffragette movement, Greville MacDonald’s parents were friends with a number of key feminist campaigners of the mid 19th century.  Greville MacDonald writes of being the first son with many sisters (he had five sisters by the time his brother Ronald was born in 1860) “I had stood alone and the sisters sometimes would exult over my inferiority.  The first social axiom I was taught to express in words was “Ladies first!” My parents intimacy with such protagionists of the feminist movement as the beautiful and devoted Josephine Butler, Madame Bodichon of Girton renown, Mrs Reid, Principal of Bedford College, where my father was lecturer in English Literature, Anna Sidgwick, Miss Buss and Miss Beale, no doubt made deep, if forgotten impression upon me.  The power of suggestion, though not yet formulated, thoroughly convinced me of my sex’s inferiority.  I distinctly remember wondering how it could be that my adored mother had ever married my father who, in spite of his splendour, was only a man.” (MacDonald, Reminiscences of a Specialist,1932).

The women Greville mentions to be friends of his father, the writer George MacDonald, were all campaigners for women’s rights, women’s education being especially prevalent.   Josephine Butler (1828-1906) was a feminist particularly concerned with the welfare of prostitutes.  Barbara Bodichon (1827-1891) campaigned for women’s rights and established English Women’s Journal, and co-founded Girton College, Cambridge, the first women’s residential college.  Elizabeth Jesser Reid (1789-1866) founded Bedford College, University of London, the first higher education college for women.  Dorothea Beale (1831-1906) founded St Hilda’s College, Oxford, which remained an all-women’s college until 2006.  Frances Buss (1827-1894) was headmistress of what is now called the North London Collegiate School and was a campaigner for women’s education.

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