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Frances Power Cobbe, The Life of Frances Power Cobbe by Herself

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Abstract

Frances Power Cobbe (1822–1904), journalist, philanthropist and women’s rights campaigner, was the only daughter of an Anglo-Irish Dublin family, owners of Newbridge House in Donabate, where she spent the first 36 years of her life. Her early rejection of her family’s evangelical Christianity and corresponding struggle for moral and intellectual autonomy caused tensions with her autocratic father, whose small legacy left her in straitened circumstances. Freed from familial duties by his death in 1857, Cobbe moved first to Bristol, where she worked with street children, and then to London, where she wrote for The Echo and The Standard and contributed polemical articles on social, scientific and religious issues to numerous periodicals. Over the next three decades she became an outspoken feminist contributor to the debate about women’s civil, legal and political rights in late nineteenth-century England. As the following extract from her autobiography shows, Cobbe’s journalism was underpinned by a determination to prove herself the intellectual equal of her male colleagues and to surpass them in her attentiveness to the social and domestic plight of impoverished women. She herself remained unmarried, but lived with her companion Mary Lloyd for over 30 years. A conservative unionist in politics, Cobbe was also a vehement anti-vivisectionist, seeing a close correlation between the sufferings of animals and those of women in Victorian society. She was instrumental in the passage of the Cruelty to Animals Act (1876) and the Matrimonial Causes Act (1878). Cobbe’s espousal of these causes features prominently in her two-volume autobiography, which she describes in the preface to Volume 1 as ‘the true and complete history of a woman’s existence as seen from within; a real Life, which he who reads may take as representing fairly the joys, sorrows and interests, the powers and limitations, of one of my sex and class in the era which is now drawing to a close’.

Keywords

  • Street Child
  • Male Colleague
  • Religious Issue
  • Early Rejection
  • Home Rule

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

(London: Richard Bentley, 1894). 2 vols, Vol. 2, 662pp.; pp. 390–8

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© 2009 Liam Harte

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Harte, L. (2009). Frances Power Cobbe, The Life of Frances Power Cobbe by Herself . In: The Literature of the Irish in Britain. Palgrave Macmillan, London. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230234017_15

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230234017_15

  • Publisher Name: Palgrave Macmillan, London

  • Print ISBN: 978-1-349-52602-4

  • Online ISBN: 978-0-230-23401-7

  • eBook Packages: Palgrave History CollectionHistory (R0)