For a short time in the sixties and early seventies I had two great female friends. I was in my twenties, Frances Gordon in her fifties and Freda White in her late seventies. I had recently graduated from Glasgow University and was accumulating educational qualifications; Frances had a degree from the LSE gained in the 1930s and was a linchpin in the political and cultural life of Edinburgh; Freda was among the first graduates from Somerville College, Oxford, an author, journalist, campaigner and lecturer of international renown. Continue reading Freda White
Jane Addams was born in 1860–the daughter of a wealthy Illinois businessman. At the age of two, her mother died after falling on ice while pregnant. This left Jane empathetic to how fate could work against a person. Continue reading Jane Addams: Chicago’s Progressive Shero
Mary Quaile was born in Dublin on 8 August 1886. The Quailes emigrated to England in 1889 or 1890. Mary left school aged 12, working as a domestic servant, which she later described as “by no means a bed of roses.” She went abroad, working in the French port of Brest for a time where she gained a working knowledge of French, a skill that no doubt later proved very useful at international trade union meetings. Back in Manchester she became enthused by trade unionism after the well-known trade union organiser Margaret Bondfield came to Manchester to organise women workers. Continue reading Mary Quaile
South African writer Olive Schreiner was born in what is now Lesotho on 24 March 1855. The ninth of twelve children born to Rebecca Lyndall and her husband, Gottlob Schreiner (1814–1876), a German-born missionary, she and just six of her siblings survived childhood. In adulthood, she suffered debilitating ill-health, exacerbated for a time by grinding poverty.
For a time, Schreiner earned a living as a governess and teacher, but she devoted her free time to writing The Story of an African Farm, a radical feminist novel informed by her experience of growing up in Africa. As soon as she could afford to, she sailed for Britain where she hoped to train as a doctor. Unfortunately, although she attended lectures at the London School of Medicine for Women, established in 1874 by an association of pioneering women physicians, ill-health prevented her from completing her training. Continue reading Olive Schreiner