Today I had the honour of speaking at The 1918 Club. A lunch club for women set up in 1918 by Eleanor Rathbone and her great friend and companion Elizabeth Macadam, and thought to be the longest established gathering place for women in Liverpool. It was simply wonderful to be there.I often mention Eleanor Rathbone on this blog and the fact that throughout my life she has been an inspiration to me, never more so than now as a group of us get our latest ‘Coming Home’ social venture going.
The thinking behind The 1918 Club was:
“After the armistice of 1918 the luncheon club idea was developed to preserve many of the friendships made during the war-period and many of the alliances forged through the suffrage campaign, and also to form new contacts amongst professional working women and social welfare workers.”
Up to this point of course clubs had been the preserve of men with women being expected to meet each other at home where they could talk about sewing or church-based activities. So the two suffragists and social activists will have been well aware of the radical nature of what they were up to.
And the club has met ever since, without interruption, and in many places over the years.
Today we met at the Adelphi and before lunch I was asked to add my name and my ‘Lecture Subject’ in this treasured book. Naturally I scanned through the book for my inspiration, and found her.Eleanor Rathbone’s subject there on 16th May 1922 being ‘What Lady Astor has done for women.’
Nancy Astor of course being the first ever female MP in Britain. Though she was a Conservative her and Eleanor Rathbone, an Independent, remained firm friends throughout their lives and did much work together. Eleanor Rathbone always happy to work with sympathetic individuals wherever she could find them on her many campaigns for the rights of women.
Nancy Astor had this to say about her as they both got the Family Allowances bill passed by Parliament:
“When Family Allowances were first mooted people on this side of the House said that it would break up the home, and the Labour Party and the trade unions would not have them at all.
We have come a great way since then, and all because of one revolutionary woman. It is very difficult, when we look at the hon. Lady the Member for the English Universities, to think of her as a revolutionary, but she is, and it is her work, and her vision and courage, that have really brought us where we are today.”
So my name and subject matter are now in the same book as my revolutionary inspiration.Yes of course I spoke about the Granby 4 Streets and the Community Land Trust so many of us are running there, plus a few minutes on ‘Coming Home’ as I’m sure you’d expect.
And so enjoyed being there, part of a continuing tradition of radical independent thought. In the questions afterwards one of the members of The 1918 Club mentioned Margaret Simey, who we had both known personally, and her continuing of the dignity and works of Eleanor Rathbone and Elizabeth Macadam. I was so glad for her to have done so, thereby linking all of us there to nearly a hundred years of discussions on society and women’s liberation.
Obviously I can’t join The 1918 Club, men are only there by invitation. But you might like to. The club is nearly 100 years old now and so always looking to replenish itself with new members who will see it into its next century. They meet twice a month at lunch-time and vary the days of the week so all members can make at least some of the gatherings.
So if you’d like to join you should write to:
The 1918 Club,
c/o The Brittania Adelphi Hotel,
Liverpool L3 5UL
I’ll add more direct contact details if I find them. And yes, here’s where to email: firstname.lastname@example.org
So, thank you so much for inviting me to tell my version of the story of Granby. It was an honour, a privilege and I will always remember my lunch-time at The 1918 Club. Thank you all.
The Club’s Vice-President Judith Barker says “Membership of the 1918 Club is open to all women for a, currently, nominal fee of £10. We meet twice every month and there is always a speaker. On each occasion members attend we make a charge of £14 for the meal. There is no stipulation about attending a minimum number of times.”
Thanks to Janet Hollinshead who wrote the Club’s book that I’ve quoted from here. I met Janet today and she told me she reads the blog!