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Cover of Women’s History Review

Women’s History Review

Volume 15, Issue 3, Jul 2006
Pages 385-412

  • DOI: 10.1080/09612020500530133
  • Print ISSN: 0961-2025
  • Online ISSN: 1747-583X

‘An Unexpected Recruit to Feminism’: Jessie Boucherett’s ‘Feminist Life’ and the importance of being wealthy

In 1859 Jessie Boucherett, the daughter of a Lincolnshire landowner possessed of an independent income, was inspired by press discussions of the need to find alternative occupations for women to make contact with the women who were already spreading this message through the English Woman’s Journal. With their rather grudging support she founded a society, which still exists, to further this aim, the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women (now the Society for Promoting the Training of Women). Using the records of this Society, now housed at Girton College, Cambridge, this article looks at the way commitment to this cause allowed a woman from a wealthy, high Tory, landed background to turn herself in six years into the feminist who put up the initial money for the women’s suffrage campaign, and went on to be a leading figure in campaigns to reform the married women’s property laws and against legislation restricting women’s work. It examines in particular the use she made of her personal wealth to direct the strategies of the activist groups to which she belonged.