Millicent Garrett Fawcett 1847 - 1929, DBE 1925Millicent Garrett Fawcett was a daughter of the determinedly feminist Newson Garrett, corn and coal merchant of Aldeburgh, and his wife, Louisa. A sister was Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, the pioneer doctor, and Rhoda Garrett, the designer, was a cousin. In April 1867 Millicent married Henry Fawcett, the blind Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge and Radical Liberal MP for Brighton. Their only daughter, Philippa was born a year later.
The Fawcetts’ Cambridge drawing room was a key meeting place for the supporters of women’s education in Cambridge and Millicent herself gave help and shrewd advice both in the early planning and in the growth of Newnham. She was also active in the campaign for women’s suffrage, an involvement which expanded and dominated her life after Henry’s untimely death from pneumonia in 1886. She played an major role in the formation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1897 and did her best to prevent rifts in the suffrage campaign threatened by the militancy of the Pankhursts’ Women’s Social and Political Union. At the outbreak of war in 1914-15 Millicent saw off efforts to take the NUWSS into the international pacifist movement. Subsequently she had the satisfaction of seeing women enfranchised by the legislation of 1918 and 1928.
In 1937 Newnham named its newest building Fawcett; and in 1953 the London and National Society for Women’s Service, which worked to improve employment opportunities for women, was re-named the Fawcett Society.
Gill Sutherland, 2004
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