This International Women’s Day I would like to celebrate, once again, the work of the women of the Garrett family.
In a couple of months’ time UCL Press will be publishing Millicent Garrett Fawcett: Selected Writings on which I have had the pleasure of working, alongside the lead editor, Prof Melissa Terras. In the volume, which will be open access as one of the publishing options, 35 texts and 22 images are contextualised and linked to contemporary news coverage, as well as to historical and literary references. This is the first opportunity to study in one volume Millicent Fawcett’s thinking on a range of topics concerning the advancement of women, of which the women’s suffrage campaign is only one.
In the photograph we chose as the cover for the book you see Millicent Fawcett seated at her desk in a corner of the first-floor front drawing-room of her home at 2 Gower Street, Bloomsbury. It may be the very same desk as that of which we catch a glimpse, to the right of the fireplace in the illustration below, taken from Suggestions for House Decoration (1876) by Rhoda and Agnes Garrett. Many years ago, after visiting 2 Gower Street when researching Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle, I came to the conclusion that the illustrations in House Decoration were taken directly from real life, that is they were pictures of the rooms in 2 Gower Street, as arranged by Rhoda and Agnes. Recently I have been delighted to have my educated guess vindicated by discovering that Lady Maude Parry, a friend of the Garretts, stated in an obituary article on Rhoda, published in Every Girls’ Annual 1884, that in Suggestions for House Decoration ‘are illustrations of their house in Gower Street’.
Rhoda died in 1882, but Agnes carried on the business of ‘R & A Garrett’, house decorators, until 1905, although in 1899 the lease on the firm’s warehouse in Morwell Street came to an end, necessitating the sale of its contents and, presumably, a reduction in the work undertaken. Incidentally the Morwell Street building and its neighbours has recently, 2022, been approved for demolition, to be replaced by a 6-storey building. When I first noted it c 2000, the Garrett’s ‘warehouse’ retained its original façade (illustrated in Enterprising Women), which has subsequently been altered – now another Garrett link will be utterly obliterated. However, that furniture sale, held at Phillips, Son and Neale on 27 July 1899, has provided me with considerable scope for research – allowing me to identify a number of individuals keen to buy furniture and house accoutrements that had the Garrett seal of approval – in that they had passed through Agnes’ hands – and to muse a little on the state of the ‘house furnishing’ market at the end of the 19th century. That research will appear in a subsequent post on this website.
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