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  • Woman Killing No Murder

    Florence Fenwick Miller's famous letter to the Editor of the Daily News....October 1888.

    Daily News
    October 2, 1888

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  • #2
    Daily News
    October 4, 1888
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    • #3

      Florence Fenwick Miller (1854–1935) by Rosemary T. Van Arsdel in Journal of New Woman Studies --

      Florence Fenwick Miller was a British woman of modest origins who became a prominent leader in the trans-century struggle for women’s suffrage and the general emancipation of women, through her roles as a medical pioneer, lecturer, journalist, editor, and activist, in both England and the United States.

      The daughter of a thoughtful but frequently absent merchant marine ship captain and an excitable, frustrated mother, Florence early felt the need to make something significant of her life. In 1871, at age 17, she persuaded her parents to allow her to join the Sophia Jex-Blake group of women seeking medical degrees at Edinburgh University. When that program was cancelled, amidst much controversy, she returned to London and graduated with honours from the new Ladies School of Medicine; she practiced briefly out of her parents’ home.

      At this time, a friend introduced her to the London Dialectical Society, a mixed group of both men and women comprising some the most radical thinkers in London, where she was exposed to debates on birth control, cremation, land reform, and other largely taboo subjects. As she gained confidence, she lectured frequently to the group on physiology and medical matters, then largely unknown subjects for women. In 1874, she was invited to lecture before the Sunday Lecture Society, devoted to bringing education to the lower classes on a day when they could attend; here she became so popular she was invited back repeatedly over the next ten years. At the same time she also embarked on a successful lecture tour taking her to many parts of England, including London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Glasgow and northern Scotland.

      At the Dialectical Society, she met Frederick Alfred Ford, a stockbroker’s clerk, whom she married in 1877, while keeping her own name, thus becoming Mrs. Fenwick Miller. For this unconventional act she was severely criticized by traditionalists. In order to support the marriage she turned to journalism and paid public lecturing on physiology, public health, and the rights of women, contributing to such journals as Fraser’s Magazine, Lett’s Illustrated Household Magazine, Belgravia, and the Governess.

      Her increasing fame led to her first campaign, in 1876, for a seat on the newly formed London School Board where she mingled with men of power, wealth, and importance much older than herself; here she served successfully for three consecutive three-year terms. Her early advocacy for birth control during her first term, brought about by her support of the Bradlaugh/Besant controversy, led to anguished and controversial calls for her resignation, which were ultimately unsuccessful.

      An invitation in 1886 to write a weekly column, ‘Ladies Notes,’ for the Illustrated London News marked the beginning of the second half of her public career. For over 33 years she wrote in this influential periodical on women’s accomplishments and women’s affairs, sometimes using the pen name ‘Filomena.’ She ’profiled‘ prominent women, wrote freely on education, suffrage, public affairs, legal issues, and fashion, always with the view of supporting the suffrage of married women and their emancipation from male dominance. In 1889, she was one of the founders of the Women’s Franchise League.

      In 1895, because of her prominence, Lady Henry Somerset ceded ownership of the Woman's Signal—then a radical but failing venture, largely devoted to temperance issues—to Fenwick Miller. For three and a half years Fenwick Miller increased its circulation and converted it to one of the most outspoken advocates for women’s suffrage, although ultimately it failed financially.

      In 1893, Fenwick Miller traveled to America to cover the Chicago World’s Fair, the ‘Columbian Exposition,’ for her British paper, the Echo, where she, in turn, was lionized for her advocacy of women. She lectured frequently and successfully to sold out audiences of American women, eager to hear about suffragists in other lands. Here she also met and became intimately acquainted with American suffrage leaders, among them Susan B. Anthony, who became a friend, and such stalwarts as Rachel Foster Avery, May Wright Sewall, Carrie Chapman Catt, and Anna Howard Shaw. In 1902, she came again to the United States as a founding member of the International Council of Women, for which she also served as treasurer, thus becoming influential in the international suffrage movement.

      In the new century Fenwick Miller’s column reflected changing times: she rode a bicycle, wrote her column on a typewriter, used an electric vacuum, and wrote about automobiles and ’aeroplanes.’ During World War I she urged women’s participation in the military and advocated home gardening to augment scarce wartime foods.

      In 1918, her Illustrated London News column came to an abrupt end, with no editorial notice of its long and distinguished service. Fenwick Miller retired essentially from public life, emerging only occasionally to write on controversial women’s issues. She died 24 April, 1935 at age 80 and, true to her principles, was cremated and her ashes returned to earth.


      Dr. Rosemary T. Van Arsdel, Distinguished Professor of English, Emerita, has published widely on Victorian periodical literature, including the only biography of Florence Fenwick Miller (2001).

      See also:

      Rosemary T. Van Arsdel, Entry on Florence Fenwick Miller, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, and Dr. Van Arsdel’s biography of Fenwick Miller, Florence Fenwick Miller. Feminist, Journalist and Educator (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001).
      Christopher T. George, Lyricist & Co-Author, "Jack the Musical" Hear sample song at

      Organizer, RipperCon #JacktheRipper-#True Crime Conferences, April 2016 and 2018.
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      • #4
        Good article, CG...thanks !
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