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. Continue reading “Eleanor Rathbone and The 1918 Club”
For all of my life, though she died before I was born, Eleanor Rathbone has been around me.
When I got my first proper job working in Everton for the Liverpool City Housing Department, I would pass the Victoria Settlement on my way to work every day. Still going then, it had been Liverpool’s first women’s and children’s community centre, set up and run at the beginning of the 20th century by a group of enthusiastic feminists, including Eleanor Rathbone.
Then doing my social sciences degree at the University of Liverpool I was based in the Eleanor Rathbone building. She founded the department.
Working at Liverpool Housing Trust I once booked Greenbank House, owned by the University by then, for a Board meeting. And when we got there LHT Board member Margaret Simey said to me ‘You know, the last time I was here I was taking tea with Eleanor Rathbone.’ This had been the Rathbone family home from the 18th century until after Eleanor Rathbone’s death.
Margaret of course was a City Councillor representing Granby Ward for many years, as was Eleanor Rathbone from 1909 to 1935, Liverpool’s first female Councillor. And these last few years much of my own time has gone into helping the people in Granby work on the future of their place.
As I set out on the first run of 2013 there is hardly anybody about. I could have crossed and recrossed the Smithdown dual carriageway at the end of our road several times before the first car appeared. And all the way round the rest of the run, apart from a Dad and his two daughters with their new Christmas bikes and a couple of dog walkers in the park, I see no one.
Later I persuade Sarah out on a walk. It’s cold, so it won’t be a long one.