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March 2013

Two pamphlets to mark International Women's Day

Helmshore Local History Society kindly brought us some very interesting pamphlet material on 1 March this year. Amazingly this donation included a pamphlet by Esther Roper and another by Eva Gore-Booth. This couple featured in our Lesbian and Gay History Month talk by Sonja Tiernan just last month.

In 1896, at the age of twenty-six, Eva Gore-Booth was sent to recover from illness in the picturesque village of Bordighera in Italy. In the garden, standing under an olive tree, she first met a young English woman, Esther Roper. The encounter was to change the two women's lives forever.

Eva Gore-Booth was the daughter of an Anglo-Irish landlord who owned one of the largest estates in the West of Ireland. In stark contrast, Esther Roper was from working class stock. Within months of her return to Ireland, Eva made an extraordinary decision in order to be with Esther. In 1897, she rejected her aristocratic lifestyle, moving from an opulent mansion in the beautiful countryside of Sligo to a mid-terrace property in the smog-bound quarters of industrial Manchester.

Once labelled as ‘a pair of oddities', it is now clear that the women were open about their 30-year relationship, mixing with an eclectic group of radical gay and lesbian activists. The couple became formidable political advocates in England, often organising successful and radical campaigns for social justice.

Eva Gore-Booth

Women's right to work is a strongly-worded 8-page pamphlet written by Eva Gore-Booth on behalf of Manchester and Salford Women's Trade and Labour Council, probably in 1909.

‘It is easy', she says, ‘to blame working men politicians for their hostility to women's labour, but it must never be forgotten that it is an undoubted fact that, under the present system, men's and women's interests in industry clash, and human nature being what it is, it is idle to expect people whose interests clash with yours to represent your cause in the House of Commons'.

Esther Roper writes with equal passion in her pamphlet of around 1904 on behalf of the Lancashire and Cheshire Women's Suffrage Society, The industrial position of women and women's suffrage.

‘Women's Suffrage has for a long time been considered an academic question existing for the amusement of the House of Commons: only by degrees have people come to realise that it is essentially a labour question, and one pressing for immediate settlement'.

For details of our 2013 International Women's Day event, click here