Liverpool

Eleanor Rathbone: Liverpool-born Family Allowance pioneer celebrated

Eleanor Rathbone Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Eleanor Rathbone was Liverpool's first female councillor

The woman who led the campaign for the creation of Family Allowance has been celebrated with a new public artwork.

Lulu Quinn's work, marking the 70th anniversary of Liverpool-born MP Eleanor Rathbone, can be found in the walled garden at Greenbank Park, the Rathbone family's former estate.

Ms Rathbone waged a 25-year battle for cash to be paid directly to mothers.

Her perseverance resulted in the 1945 Family Allowance Act - which originally saw weekly payouts of five shillings.

Among those attending the unveiling of the artwork were Liverpool's Deputy Mayor Ann O'Byrne, Louise Ellman MP, and Lesley Urbach of the Remembering Eleanor Rathbone campaign.

Ms Rathbone represented the Combined Universities seat (which covered all English universities except for Cambridge, London and Oxford) in the House of Commons from 1929 until shortly before her death.

Image copyright Christian Smith
Image caption Part of the artwork reads: "The struggle for the right to become politicians in itself made women into politicians".

The artwork features three quotations taken from her writings about women's suffrage, the Family Allowance Act and her campaigns for refugee rights.

It is created out of Corten steel sheets which are used in shipbuilding - a nod to her family's business.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption She represented the Combined Universities seat at Westminster for 16 years until shortly before her death in 1946

"I wanted to use Eleanor Rathbone's words to animate the garden," said Ms Quinn. "In the current political climate her words are the voice of reason and rationality."

Jenny Rathbone, who represents Cardiff Central for Labour in the Welsh Assembly, said it was "fantastic" that her great aunt's achievements were being recognised and that she would have been "very pleased to see her words commemorated" rather than her personally.

Image copyright Labour Party
Image caption Jenny Rathbone said her great aunt's work inspired her and she was happy this "important part of Liverpool's story" is being remembered

Who was Eleanor Rathbone?

Born in 1872, Eleanor Florence Rathbone has been described as one of the 20th Century's greatest humanitarian activists.

She also became known as the "MP for refugees" for her campaigning on behalf of people fleeing Nazi persecution.

The future MP attended Oxford University but, as a woman, was not allowed to graduate.

She was the first woman to be elected to Liverpool City Council, representing Granby Ward from 1909 to 1934.

She was later elected as an independent MP for the Combined Universities constituency.

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