Jump to content
The Education Forum

Kathleen Courtney


John Simkin
 Share

Recommended Posts

In 1908 Kathleen Courtney was appointed secretary of the North of England Society for Women's Suffrage. One of its members, Helena Swanwick, later revealed that Courtney arrived in Manchester "with a big reputation" as an outstanding organiser. In 1911 she moved to London where she worked closely with Millicent Fawcett as honorary secretary of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS).

Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Suffragette Movement (1999) has argued: "Her (Kathleen Courtney) arrival at the London headquarters coincided with the implementation of the federation scheme and her organizational skills were much appreciated. She was a member of the first Election Fighting Fund Committee in 1912."

In July 1914 the NUWSS argued that Asquith's government should do everything possible to avoid a European war. Two days after the British government declared war on Germany on 4th August 1914, Millicent Fawcett declared that it was suspending all political activity until the conflict was over. Although the NUWSS supported the war effort, it did not follow the WSPU strategy of becoming involved in persuading young men to join the armed forces.

Despite pressure from members of the NUWSS, Fawcett refused to argue against the First World War. Her biographer, Ray Strachey, argued: "She stood like a rock in their path, opposing herself with all the great weight of her personal popularity and prestige to their use of the machinery and name of the union." At a Council meeting of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies held in February 1915, Fawcett attacked the peace efforts of people like Mary Sheepshanks. Fawcett argued that until the German armies had been driven out of France and Belgium: "I believe it is akin to treason to talk of peace."

After a stormy executive meeting in Buxton all the officers of the NUWSS (except the Treasurer) and ten members of the National Executive resigned over the decision not to support the Women's Peace Congress at the Hague. This included Kathleen Courtney, Chrystal Macmillan, Margaret Ashton, Catherine Marshall, Eleanor Rathbone and Maude Royden, the editor of the The Common Cause.

Kathleen Courtney wrote when she resigned: "I feel strongly that the most important thing at the present moment is to work, if possible on international lines for the right sort of peace settlement after the war. If I could have done this through the National Union, I need hardly say how infinitely I would have preferred it and for the sake of doing so I would gladly have sacrificed a good deal. But the Council made it quite clear that they did not wish the union to work in that way."

According to Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Suffragette Movement (1999): "Mrs Fawcett afterwards felt particularly bitter towards Kathleen Courtney, whom she felt had been intentionally and personally wounding, and refused to effect any reconciliation, relying, as she said, on time to erase the memory of this difficult period."

In April 1915, Aletta Jacobs, a suffragist in Holland, invited suffrage members all over the world to an International Congress of Women in the Hague. Some of the women who attended included Kathleen Courtney, Mary Sheepshanks, Jane Addams, Alice Hamilton, Grace Abbott, Emily Bach, Lida Gustava Heymann, Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence, Emily Hobhouse, Chrystal Macmillan, Rosika Schwimmer. At the conference the women formed the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WIL). Courtney was elected as chairperson of the British section.

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/WcourtneyK.htm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...