The Representation of The People Act was passed exactly one hundred years ago today on 6 February 1918. It gave women aged over 30 and “of property” the right to vote. On this historic day, we look back at the formidable Garrett sisters; nieces of Richard Garrett, one of the founders of Framingham College. Dame Millicent Fawcett née Garrett was an intellectual, political and union leader, and writer. She campaigned tirelessly for women to have the vote and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson was the first woman to qualify in Britain as a physician and surgeon and as Mayor of Aldeburgh, became the first female mayor and magistrate in London.
Extract from “On an eminence…” by Mark Robinson & Michael Cooke – available to order here.
As the first full academic year was starting at Framlingham in September 1865, Elizabeth Garrett, whose family had been so inextricably linked with the founding of the College and its development thereafter, became the first woman to complete a recognised course of medical training and to achieve a modern legal qualification to practise medicine in Britain. The Lancet was quick to commend her on this, albeit in somewhat facetious fashion, under the patronising heading ‘Frocks and Gowns’ and the establishment remained profoundly suspicious. Such was her pioneering spirit that Elizabeth was to ensure that in future the medical elite contained women as well as men. Her sister, Millicent Fawcett, played a leading role in the Suffrage movement which won votes for women in 1918 and 1928. Both ladies supported the College financially and each presided at prize-givings in 1899 and 1906. At the celebrations on 10th April 1915 to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the school’s opening, the retiring headmaster, Dr. Inskip, warmly thanked the Garrett family in general and Elizabeth and Millicent in particular for all the support they had given the College.
In spite of these links with early female emancipation, a biographer of The Pioneering Garretts dryly notes, ‘Framlingham did not help the cause of education for girls until it became co-educational in 1976’ (Jenifer Glynn).
Photo: Millicent Fawcett née Garrett addressing Suffragists in Hyde Park in 1913