Suffragette Isabella Ormston Ford

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Suffragettes were members of women's organizations in the late-19th and early-20th centuries which advocated the extension of the "franchise", or the right to vote in public elections, to women. It particularly refers to militants in the United Kingdom such as members of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU). Suffragist is a more general term for members of the suffrage movement.

This week we look at Isabella Ormston Ford. She was born on the 23rd May 1855, the youngest the youngest of eight children. Her parents, Robert and Hannah, were Quakers and the young Isabella was brought up in a family greatly concerned with women’s rights and humanitarian causes, an upbringing which would affect her entire life’s work.

Isabella became, arguably, one of the most important women ever to write about women’s rights, and women’s working conditions, bringing to the masses, through her pamphlets, speeches and Union actions, the true plight of working-class women, and the conditions they faced in the workplace.

She wanted to focus on ‘restoring life and happiness to women, a vast proportion of whom would never have required any such help if the conditions of their working lives, and especially their wages, had been such as to bring even the smallest amount of happiness or comfort within their reach.’ (Women’s Wages, p.4)

This is an extract from an article written by Dr Amanda Wilkinson, who graduated with a PhD in 2012 from the University of Essex. Her thesis examined Women and Occupations in the Victorian Censuses: 1851-1901. 

She is a teacher specialising in British history and research officer, and also the Deputy Director of Admissions for the Dept of History at Essex.  Her main research interests include women’s occupations in the nineteenth century, and the ways in which the state chose to record the economic contribution of women.

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