Eleanor Rathbone influenced Beveridge and won Family Allowances - is Radio 4 to credit the man but not the woman?
Eleanor Rathbone greatly influenced Beveridge and should be acknowledged in this programme. She fought for money for mothers and campaigned for what became Family Allowances. She believed mothers made a contribution to society and didn’t get their fair share in return. She believed mothers should be financially independent of their husbands. She was one of the most famous feminists of her time and she doesn’t get the recognition she deserves. She was an independent MP.
Quotes from Rathbone’s ‘The Disinherited Family
“. . . nothing can justify the subordination of one group of producers – the mothers – to the rest, and their deprivation of all share of their own in the wealth of a community which depends on them for its very existence.”
“Direct provision for the mother has the moral advantage that it recognizes the value to the community of the function of motherhood…”
What Rathbone fought for is as relevant today as it was then. Mothers continue to be among the poorest in society, especially single mothers. The work of raising children continues to be devalued and demeaned – never more so than since politicians began witch-hunting single mothers as ‘workless’. Since then they have cut One Parent Benefit, Income Support and Child Benefit as a universal benefit.
There was a split in the women’s movement then as there is now, between individual women wanting to rise to the top – many of whom have been very successful – and women like Rathbone who fought for working class women at the bottom.
These points should be made on your programme.
I am a colleague of Selma James who launched the Wages for Housework Campaign and has just had her anthology published. We were involved in republishing ‘The Disinherited Family’ with Falling Wall Press, and defended the first attack on Family Allowances in the 70s and won. The fight for welfare going on now, in which we are very involved, is central to the kind of society we want to live in.
Co-ordinator of Global Women's Strike
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