The Garretts And Their Circle: Quite A Week: ‘Millicent Fawcett: Selected Writings’ And Two Plaques For Fanny Wilkinson

It’s been quite a week for members of the Garrett Circle – a week that included the 186th birthday of Elizabeth Garrett Anderson on 9 June and the 175th birthday of Millicent Garrett Fawcett on the 11th.

In addition, on Thursday 9 June 2022 a plaque to Fanny Wilkinson was unveiled in the Walled Garden at Middlethorpe Hall, which had once been her home and where she first, as she said, began to take a practical interest in gardening. This plaque was sponsored by both York Civic Trust and the National Trust and was unveiled by York’s Sheriff and heralded by the ringing tones of the York Town Crier – and his bell. As you can see, the plaque is placed in the idyllic surroundings of Middlethorpe Hall’s Walled Garden

As part of the launch event I was delighted to be invited to give a talk about Fanny and her work and then we – a large party – all enjoyed, courtesy of the Middlethorpe Hall team, a sumptuous tea – which I can’t resist showing

This was, in fact, the second plaque in remembrance of Fanny Wilkinson to be unveiled this week – for on Tuesday, 7 June, an English Heritage Blue Plaque was ‘launched’ on the building in Bloomsbury – now 239/241 Shaftesbury Avenue – where she once lived.

The hoarding you can see in this picture hides the work-in-progress now underway to transform a rather forlorn patch into what promises to be a rejuvenated green space, known as the Northern Triangle. Mind you, in her day, when gardener to the Metropolitan Gardens Association, Fanny, too, attempted to make this little area more attractive. It is likely she was responsible for the trees planted there, but the benches she added had soon to be removed – because they quickly become a trysting place for ‘ladies of the night’. Fanny also reordered an even smaller patch of land down the road, now known as the Southern Triangle, one that Camden Council are also at the moment in the midst of improving. For details of both these works see here.

And, to crown this really remarkable few days, on 9 June, as a slightly early birthday present to her, UCL Press published Millicent Garrett Fawcett: Selected Writings – edited by Prof Melissa Terras and myself. The book comprises 35 of Fawcett’s speeches and articles revealing, in her own words, her contribution to modern society over a span of 61 years. The topics she covered centred upon the campaign for the Vote for Women, but also the provision of education for women; feminist history; her love of literature (and her own attempt at fiction); purity and temperance; the campaign against employment of children; the British Army’s approach to the South African War; the Unionist cause against Home Rule for Ireland; and the role of suffrage organisations during the First World War. Each article has been fully annotated in order to provide the modern reader with easy access to Fawcett’s world view. Alongside the words, 22 artworks and photographs, fully identified and dated, depict Fawcett at various stages of her career. This is the first full-length scholarly study of Millicent Fawcett since the publication of David Rubinstein’s excellent 1991 biography and we hope it will give intellectual substance to the bronze representation of her now standing in Parliament Square. And, by the way, we fully explain the context of ‘Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere’, the aphorism with which now Fawcett is now most closely associated.

The 476-page book is ‘Open Access’ – free to read or download online – although paperback and hardback print copies are also available to buy. For full details see here .

You can read much more about all members of the Garrett Circle in Enterprising Women: the Garretts and their circle. (And buy a copy from me, if you so wish.)

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