Remembering Eleanor Rathbone: Somerville symposium

Credit: by permission of Philip Norton Collins

2016 marks the 70th anniversary of Eleanor Rathbones death. An unsung hero of the twentieth century, Eleanor was a philanthropist, suffragist, social and welfare reformer, and humanitarian activist. A series of Remembering Eleanor Rathbone events are taking place throughout 2016 to highlight the value and relevance of these qualities today.

Rathbones sponsored a one-day symposium on 22nd January 2016, hosted by Somerville College, Oxford, honouring the life of Eleanor Rathbone. 'From Somerville to Westminster 1893 -1946' included lectures reflecting her service to society from Susan Pedersen, Professor of History, Columbia University, New York, Dr Julie Gottlieb, University of Sheffield and Professor Pat Thane, King’s College, London.  The day’s proceeding also included a room-naming ceremony.

Born in 1872, Eleanor Rathbone was a pioneering student at Somerville College who went on to lead the movement for the enfranchisement of women and instigated welfare and social reforms aimed at alleviating family poverty.  She was the first ever woman to serve on Liverpool City Council and launched a campaign for family endowment, leading to the Family Allowance Act entering the statute book in 1945.

Eleanor Rathbone’s influence was not limited to UK domestic policy.  As an independent member of parliament she championed female humanitarian issues in Kenya, India and Palestine and was the first female politician to denounce Hitler and the Nazi party.  She devoted most of her latter career to the cause of refugees, from children fleeing the Spanish Civil War to Jews within, and escaping from, Nazi-occupied Europe.

Julian Rathbone at Rathbones said, “Eleanor Rathbone made an enormous contribution to female welfare and the protection of some of the most vulnerable people during the 20th century in the UK and internationally.  Whilst at the time her campaigning was visionary, her achievements underline many aspects which we now see as fundamental to the fabric of society.  Rathbone Investment Management has a long tradition of philanthropy and Eleanor Rathbone’s work has a strong resonance with our own corporate ethos, which underlines our association with this symposium, held in her honour.”

Find out more about the events taking place.