Elgar original reference
Edited by Robert W. Dimand, Mary Ann Dimand and Evelyn L. Forget
(1872–1946) Eleanor Rathbone devoted her life to feminist and social reform campaigns in Britain, and is best known for her advocacy of family allowances. She was born in Liverpool to a wealthy and prominent family with a long tradition of public service. Her father, William Rathbone VI, was a shipowner and merchant involved in many philanthropic activities including relief for the poor and improvement of nursing education. He was a Member of Parliament from 1869 to 1895. The Rathbones’ prosperity left Eleanor in the rare position of needing to rely neither on a husband’s income nor on obtaining paid employment herself. Eleanor attended Somerville College, Oxford, receiving a degree in philosophy in 1896. Upon returning to Liverpool, she became active in both social work and the women’s suffrage movement. Through this work she met Elizabeth Macadam, who became her lifetime companion. From 1909–1914, Rathbone served on the Liverpool City Council, the ﬁrst woman elected to that position. As a social worker, Rathbone also pursued social research, conducting extensive studies of the conditions of Liverpool dock labourers (1909) and widows (1913). Her observations led her to sympathize strongly with working-class women, especially with their difﬁculties in supporting children on husbands’ low and irregular wages. During World War I, Rathbone helped to administer the system of separation allowances paid to wives of men in the armed forces. This experience convinced her of the need for and practicability of family allowances, and she led the campaign for allowances for the...
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