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Eleanor Florence Rathbone

Eleanor Florence Rathbone
(12 May 1872 – 2 January 1946)

Eleanor Florence Rathbone was born on 12 May 1872 she was the daughter of the social reformer William Rathbone VI and his second wife, Emily Lyle. Her family encouraged her to concentrate on social issues. Eleanor went to Kensington High School, London, and later studied in Somerville College Oxford.  However, she was not allowed to graduate as graduation was not allowed for women at Oxford until after October 1920. She began working alongside her father to investigate social and industrial conditions in Liverpool until William Rathbone died in 1902. She was without doubt one of  Liverpool's foremost pioneering daughters, campaigning to improve the lives of other women she was  a self confessed "whole-hearted feminist", is one of six women to appear on a commemorative set of stamps. She represented Granby ward for 25 years, from 1909 to 1934 and her family home, Greenbank House, is now marked with a blue plaque bearing her name.

Eleanor Rathbone (centre) at the Womens
Suffrage Shop in Liverpool, 1910
At the beginning of World War I, when many suffragettes called time on their campaigns, Eleanor continued, and set up the Town Hall Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Organisation, helping the women and children left behind. In 1919, she became the leader of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, she firmly believed "The interests of women should be directly addressed by someone of their own sex". She became an independent MP in 1929, a job she kept until the year before her death in 1946. She was always dedicated to relieving the country's poverty-stricken people, from 1918 onwards she campaigned for the introduction of a family allowance to be paid to the woman of the household. The Family Allowance Act became law in 1945, the year before her death.

Suffragettes on Lime Street at St Georges Hall 1908

In 1919, when Millicent Fawcett retired, EleanorRathbone took over the presidency of the National Union of Societies for Equal Citizenship (the renamed National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies), and as such was responsible for the creation of the Liverpool Personal Service Society. Eleanor was the first woman to be elected to Liverpool City Council, the Eleanor Rathbone Charitable Trust was settled by Trust Deed (charity no. 233241) on February 4th 1947 by the late Dr. BL Rathbone with money left by his aunt Eleanor.
Eleanor wrote a number of books and supported socialist and feminist causes around the world.

Artwork commemorating Eleanor Rathbone, one of Liverpool’s greatest political figures, has been unveiled in the walled garden of Greenbank Park, formerly the estate of the Rathbone family.

The work by renowned artist Lulu Quinn is a significant contribution to the national “Remembering Eleanor Rathbone” campaign marking the 70th anniversary of her death.

It was officially unveiled on Friday 9 December at 12 noon in a ceremony attended by Lulu Quinn, Councillor Ann O’Byrne, the Deputy Mayor of Liverpool,  Louise Ellman MP, Lesley Urbach, from the national Remembering Eleanor Rathbone campaign, Lynn Collins, the Secretary of North West TUC, local councillors and community representatives.

Eleanor Florence Rathbone (12 May 1872 – 2 January 1946)


Robert F Edwards
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