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Image of Susanna Watts
Susanna Watts was born in Leicester and was dedicated to bringing about the immediate abolition of slavery. She started one of the first fair trade campaigns, wrote hymns and pamphlets and even locked horns with William Wilberforce.
When Susanna Watts's father died, her wealthy family's finances became tight and she had to find a way to support herself and her mother.
At the age of 15 or 16 she began writing to earn money, and as well as penning the first guide to Leicester, she wrote poetry to promote the emancipation of slaves.
BBC Leicester's Bridget Blair went to find out more about Susanna Watts…
To be a young woman and a published author in the late 18th Century would not have been an easy task, so the fact that she prevailed shows how passionate Susanna was in her desire to make her antislavery views known.
One of the first fair trade campaigns
According to Shirley Aucott, a local historian and author, Susanna worked on a periodical called 'The Hummingbird', which brought together different ideas on the antislavery moment, and she organised what must have been one of the first fair trade campaigns!
She visited local households and shops to persuade them not to use sugar produced in the Caribbean, claiming that, "abstinence from sugar would sign the death warrant of West Indian slavery."
Susanna kept a scrapbook of her work and interests, and it is now kept at the Records Office for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.
Standing up to Wilberforce
It includes contemporary of views of famous figures like William Wilberforce, who she idolised at first, but eventually took exception to because of views on female abolitionists.
He said that for women to campaign for antislavery was, "unsuited to the female character as delineated in scripture", so Susanna published a poem as a reply.
The only known surviving image
Susanna's Poem to Willerforce
On a Gentleman saying that,
Ignoring Wilberforce's words, she and her friend, Elizabeth Heyrick, continued to press for the immediate abolition of slavery.
Shirley also says, Susanna has to be admired for her courage. "I think Susanna's really important in the fact that she dared to stand up to someone like Wilberforce.
"Both of them dared stand up against a Member of Parliament and insist that they were right.
"And it wasn't just Wilberforce, they dared to stand up in front of all these men and say what they thought was right – two women from the provincial town of Leicester – doing that is quite amazing."
last updated: 16/04/2008 at 14:09