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Posts Tagged ‘THwomen40’

It has recently been announced that Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929), who led the campaign for women’s suffrage, will be the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Parliament Square.  This remarkable woman, also active in the struggle to improve women’s education, is well known as one of the principal founders of Newnham College Cambridge. So why does she feature in our series of blogs celebrating the TH Women40 anniversary? Well, she also had a connection to Trinity Hall!

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Milly (image from Wikipedia)

In 1867 “Milly”, as she was known to her family, married Trinity Hall man and Member of Parliament, Henry Fawcett – or “Harry” to his friends. Here we take a look at their story through one of Trinity Hall’s manuscripts: a proof copy of the “Life of Henry Fawcett” by Leslie Stephen, which is written and marked up for publication in the author’s hand.

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Extract from Leslie Stephen’s manuscript of “Life of Henry Fawcett”

Millicent Garrett as born in Aldeburgh in 1847 and came from a family of independent and high-achieving women. Her elder sister was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the first British female doctor. As a young woman, Milly became interested in women’s rights after attending a lecture on the subject by John Stuart Mill. At the age of just nineteen she became the Secretary of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage. Just one year later she married Henry Fawcett, a leading disciple of Mill! It was to be a happy marriage of like-minded radicals.

Henry Fawcett

Harry as a young man

Leslie Stephen and Henry Fawcett met as mathematics undergraduates when Fawcett migrated from Peterhouse to Trinity Hall in 1855. They became great friends – first as undergraduates and then as Fellows of Trinity Hall. Henry Fawcett was already a Fellow when tragedy struck in 1858. On a visit home he lost his sight in a partridge shooting accident. With great courage and determination he decided that this misfortune should have no effect on his life. He continued his fellowship at Trinity Hall with the help of a young guide and amanuensis, Edward Brown, and went on to achieve great things, with a distinguished career as Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge, as a radical Member of Parliament and subsequently as Post Master General.

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Here we have Stephen’s account of Harry’s marriage to Milly in 1867

Although Stephen’s biography of Harry makes only passing reference to Milly (out of Victorian delicacy about private life) when he does mention her it is always with admiration. He tells us that “in political and social questions their alliance implied the agreement of independent minds, not the relation of teacher and disciple” and that  Harry’s “marriage was a main source of the happiness and success of his later career”.

On marriage Harry gave up his Trinity Hall Fellowship, as he was forced to do under the old rules, and was re-elected under the new rules. Milly had a central place in her husband’s life and in the Cambridge circle of academics and their wives. She ran the couple’s houses in Cambridge and London, but she was no stay-at-home housewife! She took over the role of amanuensis and was Harry’s guide, escorting him to the Houses of Parliament. She “was his adviser in most serious matters; and … when she was temporarily absent he would put off a decision of great moment in his career until he had been able to obtain her opinion”.

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Stephen’s entry mentioning the Fawcett’s co-authorship of “Essays and lectures on social and political subjects”

She was also prolific author. Her first book “Political economy for beginners” (1870) was a great success, appearing in 10 editions. According to Stephen “she was fully qualified to take an interest in all his intellectual pursuits and shared his main political principles. They published together a volume of lectures and essays”. This volume was “Essays and Lectures on social and political subjects” (1872) which contained six chapters by Harry and eight chapters by Milly. Her biographer, David Rubinstein, states that she “was more talented than her husband”.

She was active in the movement for women’s suffrage and her husband “was always ready to support her efforts in a cause in which she naturally took the leading part”. After the death of her husband on 6 November 1884 she temporarily withdrew from public life. She later became president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (1897-1919) and was a tireless campaigner on a number of issues. In July 1901 she was appointed to lead the British Government’s commission to South Africa to investigate conditions in the concentration camps that had been created there in the wake of the Second Boer War.

Millicent Garret Fawcett is considered instrumental in gaining the vote for six million British women over 30 years old in 1918. Theresa May, said in a statement that Dame Millicent “continues to inspire the battle against the injustices of today”. All 11 statues in Parliament Square are currently of men. It is wonderful that this remarkable woman with such a strong connection to Trinity Hall will be the first woman to join them!

References

“Life of Henry Fawcett” by Leslie Stephen (London: Smith, Elder, & Co., 1886)

“A different world for women: the life of Millicent Garrett Fawcett” by David Rubinstein (London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1991)

“Essays and lectures on social and political subjects” by Henry Fawcett and Millicent Garrett Fawcett (London: Macmillan, 1872)

“Political economy for beginners” by Millicent Garrett Fawcett (London: Macmillan, 1870)

BBC News article “Millicent Fawcett to be first woman statue in Parliament Square” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-39471407

Wikipedia on Millicent Garrett Fawcett https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millicent_Fawcett

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This post continues our celebration of the THwomen40 anniversary and looks at the importance of two women in the life of Thomas Preston, a former Master of Trinity Hall.

The ante-chapel of Trinity Hall contains two monumental brasses, situated just a few feet apart, of Walter Hewke (Master 1512-1517/18) and Thomas Preston (Master 1585-1598). Preston’s brass is particularly interesting for the Latin inscription which contains the names of two women, Alicia and Elizabeth. Who were they and what role did they play in his life?

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Alicia’s inscription on Preston’s brass (from Warren’s Book)

Alicia

Thomas Preston has the distinction of being the first married Master of Trinity Hall! He was educated at Eton and King’s College Cambridge (1556-81) and it seems likely that he resigned his fellowship at King’s in order to marry Alicia. By this time Heads of Houses, unlike fellows, were allowed to marry but it is not clear whether Preston lived with his wife in College. According to Crawley, “The fact that Preston was buried in the ante-chapel does not prove that he resided in College, but his widow at least ensured that she would not be forgotten, for the inscription on his monument begins with her name ALICIA, alone on the first line.” In her inscription Alicia leaves us in no doubt about her importance in Preston’s life!

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Might Alicia have looked like this ?

We know little about Alicia and do not have an image of her. However, we can speculate that as a woman of some standing she might have looked something like the wealthy woman depicted in this brass in a church in Bruges (above).

Elizabeth I

Elizabeth, the other woman mentioned in the inscription, was in fact the Queen of England! Preston first came to the Queen’s attention as young fellow of King’s at the time of her stay in Cambridge in August 1564. This was a gala occasion for both town and gown, with speeches, disputations, religious services, banquets and plays.  Preston impressed Elizabeth I with his “gracefull gesture” and “propernesse of person” in his role in the play of “Dido” which was put on for her entertainment at King’s College. He also excelled in a disputation before the Queen on the subject “monarchy is the best form for a state” (and he had the delicate task of speaking against the motion!) and in his oration at her departure from Cambridge. Elizabeth I was so taken with him that she called him “her scholar” and gave him a pension of £20 a year, a substantial sum in those days.

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Elizabeth I, detail from the charter re-confirming Trinity Hall’s foundation (1559)

And she did not forget him! Many years later in 1585, when the Mastership of Trinity Hall fell vacant, Lord Burghley wrote to the fellows of Trinity Hall staying the election of a new Master. A few days later the fellows were instructed by royal mandate to elect Thomas Preston. The brass, which records that Elizabeth I called him “her scholar”, pays tribute to the importance of the Queen’s patronage in Preston’s fortunes.

Postscript

As Master, Preston set to work to sort out a number of problems including the College’s parlous finances which were burdened with debts “desperate to be remedied”. He was Vice-Chancellor, 1589-90, and was admitted an advocate in the Court of Arches in 1591. Perhaps he is best known today as the author of the play “Cambises King of Persia” which was lampooned by Shakespeare through the words of Falstaff in Henry IV, part I. His name lived on in Trinity Hall’s drama group, the Preston Society.

Over time the memory of Preston’s achievements may fade, but the inscription on his brass ensures that the importance of Alicia and Elizabeth in his life is recorded for posterity!

References

This post is an extended version of an article published in Front Court, Issue 21, Spring 2015.

For more about the visit of Queen Elizabeth I to Cambridge see the related post Vivat Regina!

Thomas Preston, The lamentable tragedie, mixed full of pleasant mirth containing the life of Cambyses king of Percia, Tudor Facsimile texts (London, 1910)

Charles Crawley, Trinity Hall. The History of a Cambridge College (Cambridge, 1976)

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The ‘Women in the special collections of Trinity Hall’ is an occasional series to celebrate the ‘TH Women 40’ anniversary. In this first post of the series we look at two very different depictions of Eve, the first woman, published two hundred years apart.

Nuremberg Chronicle

The Nuremberg Chronicle, or ‘Chronica Mundi’, is a history of the world. Written by Hartman Schedel and printed by Anton Koberger in 1493 (a year after Christopher Columbus sailed to the ‘new world’) the Nuremberg Chronicle reflects the medieval world view.

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Creation of Eve. Nuremberg Chronicle (detail).

It includes a large number of woodcuts by Michel Wolgemnut and Wilhelm Pleydenwurff of city scenes, historical figures and events. At this time, sources for European history were the Bible and the Classics which is why figures from the Old Testament mingle with those from Greek and Roman history. Some of the illustrations include women and give a fascinating insight into the medieval view of women – including Eve. An opening near the start of the book shows God creating Eve out of Adam’s rib. Eve is born, fully-formed, as a comely young woman who gazes directly at her Creator.

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Temptation of Adam and Eve in Paradise. Nuremberg Chronicle (detail)

On the facing page we see the temptation of Eve and the expulsion from Paradise.  Adam and Eve are of an equal height standing either side of the tree of knowledge. Each holds a red apple in their hands, while the serpent has another apple in its mouth. The couple cover their bodies in shame, although only Eve casts down her eyes. She is shown as curvaceous, vigorous and grounded. Moreover, in our hand-coloured copy she is alluring, with long blonde hair, red lips and pink flesh tones.

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Medieval face of Eve. Nuremberg Chronicle (detail)

The Nuremberg Chronicle abounds with other arresting images of women, who are often portrayed as lively and confident: from women of Roman antiquity to the women of the Old and New Testaments.

Paradise Lost

‘The poetical works of Mr. John Milton’, published in 1695, was the first collected edition of Milton’s poems. It includes the epic poem ‘Paradise lost’ which tells the tale of the Fall and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden.

Milton was a republican and a civil servant during the Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth. He composed his epic poem ‘Paradise Lost’ in 1667, after the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660. England had endured a period of religious and political upheaval. The trauma of the Civil War and the collapse of the Commonwealth brought tremendous soul searching: families had been torn apart and individuals were buffeted by changing fortunes. Gone were the medieval certainties.

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Frontispiece to Book 9 of Paradise Lost (1695)

A new insecurity is revealed in these illustrations to ‘Paradise Lost’. In the frontispiece to Book IX we see Adam and Eve in a sunny paradise but surrounded by dark forces. Their small figures are dwarfed by the coiled serpent and a prancing Satan in the gloomy foreground. Eve’s face is blank in her innocence and, as if in a dream, she seems powerless to withstand the inexorable sequence of events.  Both the engraving and Milton’s introduction leave us in no doubt about the prime mover: ‘Satan having compast the Earth, with meditated guile returns as a mist by night into Paradise, enters into the Serpent sleeping’.

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Milton’s Eve in Paradise

The engraving captures the moment when Satan wakes the serpent from his sleep. We see the serpent spiralling up above Satan’s head (almost like a thought bubble) and mesmerising Eve, who takes a bite of the apple. She then hands an apple to Adam, who takes it and bites into it. The fatal deed is done! Thunder clouds mass overhead and lightning strikes, symbolising the voice and wrath of God at their disobedience. The final vignette depicts their misery at having disobeyed God by tasting the forbidden fruit. They realise that they are naked and cover themselves with leaves. Here Eve, Adam and even the serpent are all depicted as pawns in Satan’s titanic battle with God.

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Detail of frontispiece to Book 12 of Paradise Lost (1695)

The frontispiece to Book XII reinforces this feeling of powerlessness. Adam and Eve are driven from the Garden of Eden by the Archangel Michael, who holds a flaming sword. The couple seems traumatised and full of guilt. Adam hides his face but we see the doleful face of Eve, with huge saucer eyes looking up towards heaven, or perhaps towards an uncertain future outside paradise.

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Milton’s Eve on her expulsion from Paradise

Milton tells us that she is ‘compos’d to quietness of mind and submission’. This is a very different Eve from the medieval Eve of the Nuremberg Chronicle, who looked confident and knew her place in the world. The seventeenth-century Eve is conflicted, haunted and worried about the future – a modern Eve for troubled times.

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