Childhood & Early Life
She was born on June 11, 1847 in an upper middle class family to Newson Garret and Louise Dunnell in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, England.
Her father was a ship-owner and a radical politician and had ten children out of which Millicent was seventh.
At the age of twelve, Millicent along with her sister was enrolled in a private boarding school in Blackheath, London, from where her inclination towards literature and education began.
When she was twelve her sister Elizabeth moved to London to study to qualify as a doctor, and Millicent regularly visited her there. These visits increased her interest in women's rights
At 19 her sister took her to attend a speech session by John Stuart Mill on women’s rights, which left Millicent immensely impressed.
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At the age of 19, she became secretary of the London Society for Women's Suffrage and J. S. Mill introduced her to many other women's rights activist.
In 1868, she became a member of London Suffrage Committee and spoke at the first public pro-suffrage meeting to be held in London in 1869. This speech was supported and guided by her husband, Henry Fawcett, a liberal Member of Parliament.
Her exemplary orating skills helped her political, academic and women issues.
The Newnham College in Cambridge was founded by the efforts Millicent Fawcett in 1871.
She was also a co-founder of Newnham Hall, and served on its Council.
Post her husband’s demise in 1884 she temporarily withdrew herself from public life only to resume work in 1885.
In 1890, she became President of the National Union of Women Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) which was the most acclaimed group struggling for women voting rights, where she continued till 1919.
Under her able leadership, the NUWSS also worked on issues such as slave trading and extending aid for the women and children sufferers in the Boer War.
After a lot of hue and cry in the social and political arena, it was only after the First World War that the situation improved. Seeing the active involvement of women in support of war effort, the right to vote for those over 30 was approved by the Qualification of Women Act, 1918.
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A year after the first women had been granted the right to vote, she left the suffrage movement, and devoted much of her time to writing books.
It was only ten years later in 1928 that the voting age for women became at par with the men.
She led a moderate campaign for the Women's suffrage in the United Kingdom and distanced herself from the militant and violent activities of the Pankhursts and the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU).
In July 1901, she went to South Africa to investigate atrocious conditions in concentration camps where the families of the Boer soldiers were interned.
Apart from the suffrage movement, she supported many other causes too. She worked towards curbing child abuse, ending cruelty to children within the family, ending the 'white slave trade', preventing child marriage and introduction of regulated prostitution in India.
She also campaigned for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts, which reflected sexual double standards.
She wrote ‘Political Economy for Beginners’ (1870, it continued for 10 editions and for 41 years); a novel, ‘Janet Doncaster’ (1875); ‘The Women’s Victory—and After’ (1920, about the fight for winning the voting rights) and ‘What I Remember’ (1924).
Awards & Achievements
Millicent Fawcett was granted an Honorary LLD by St. Andrew’s University in 1905.
She became Dame Millicent Fawcett in 1924 after getting the Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire.
The Fawcett Library, which is known for its collection on feminism and suffrage movement especially that of Great Britain is named after Millicent Garrett Fawcett.
Her memories are preserved in the form of Fawcett Society and Millicent Fawcett Hall, constructed in 1929 in Westminster as a place to discuss women issues. It is now under the drama department of the Westminster School as a 150 seat studio theatre.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1967, Millicent got married to Henry Fawcett who worked at the Cambridge University as an economics professor and was a radical politician.
The couple had a daughter in Philippa Fawcett, who later worked as a tutor at the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution.
Her husband Henry Fawcett passed away in 1884. After his death, she spent her remaining life working for women suffrage.
She passed away in London on August 5, 1929.