History Podcasts

Fabian Women's Group

Fabian Women's Group

The Fabian Women's Group (FWG) was established in 1908 by members of the Fabian Society. The main purpose of the group was to lobby Labour Party members of the House of Commons, in an effort to persuade them for women's suffrage legislation. In May 1913 the FWG joined the Women's Social and Political Union in a demonstration in Hackney.


Beatrice Webb

It’s a tough gig to summarise the contribution of Beatrice Webb (1858-1943) to the Labour movement in a few words. A list of her accomplishments – some achieved alone, most achieved in partnership with her husband, Sidney – are formidable: the foundation of the London School of Economics, the intellectual relaunching of the Labour Party, the shaping of the Fabian Society, the creation of the New Statesman and the composition of a ‘blueprint’ for the National Health Service. At most, a short summary captures only the spirit of an extraordinary woman who was given the space and encouragement to flourish despite her Victorian birth.

Beatrice’s childhood explains a great deal. The eighth of ten children (nine of whom were daughters), she was born into considerable wealth and enjoyed a highly unconventional upbringing. Beatrice later claimed that her father was the only man she ever knew who genuinely believed that women were superior to men, a view which led him to ensure that all his daughters had rigorous educational training. Lively debate and intellectual curiosity were encouraged, causing great anxiety for Beatrice’s mother whose own prolific child-rearing had curtailed her personal ambitions. Perhaps more realistic about social realities than her husband, she feared the tension between nurturing daughters who were fully-rounded human beings and daughters who would make ‘good wives’.

Beatrice’s unusual upbringing fostered her deep interest in social questions from an early age. She initially explored these ideas through philanthropic work with the Charity Organisation Society (COS) among the poor of Soho, in central London, yet the piecemeal nature of charitable efforts led to her nagging conviction that the causes of poverty were not yet fully understood. Beatrice came to realise that there was a logical step in the process which was missing: ‘social diagnosis’.

Influenced by the scientific enquiry that was fashionable at the time, she set about observing and classifying the circumstances of poverty in the hope that this would help her to understand its causes. Working in Lancashire and the East End, she developed observational techniques which led her to conclude that private philanthropy was largely ineffective in the face of poverty on an industrial scale. The poverty she had witnessed in the East End could not be accounted for by individual acts. It was structural and it required a structural response. With these central revelations in mind, Beatrice began to develop a political narrative based on the the need to find ‘municipal means’ for curtailing capitalism’s worst effects.

As such, the building blocks of Beatrice Webb’s particular brand of socialism were taking shape long before she met the man who would become her lifelong partner. When Beatrice met Sidney, it was not exactly love at first sight. He was distinctly unattractive and Beatrice initially viewed it as a purely professional relationship. She was, at that time, still deeply in love with Joseph Chamberlain, a fact that she later recorded as ‘the catastrophe of my life’. More than twenty years older than her, Chamberlain was a difficult personality and had little time for a temperamental young woman who would not know her place. Beatrice tormented herself with her love. While she recognised that Chamberlain would deny her the freedom of expression she craved, this rational understanding did not alter the emotional force of her attachment. Chamberlain’s later marriage threw Beatrice into bouts of prolonged depression which continued throughout her life. Despite this unpromising start, slowly Sidney won her over. They proved to be well-matched. Believing instinctively that Sidney would not curtail her personal ambitions, Beatrice married him, committing her life to political research and activism. At his prompting, she joined the Fabian Society in January 1891, from which time on they came to dominate its political direction. The Webbs were evolutionary rather than revolutionary socialists and they shaped the Fabian Society into that mould.

Theirs was an extraordinary partnership. His writing skills complemented her research to produce some of the outstanding political works of their time. Their seminal History of Trade Unionism was widely read within the movement. Along with other works, it promoted the Webbs’ central doctrine of ‘the national minimum’ – the idea that there was a minimum level of wages and of quality of life to which the worker was entitled as a citizen and below which s/he could not, as a citizen, be allowed to fall. It is difficult to overstate the power of this fundamental idea on the policy and actions of the Labour movement in the middle decades of the twentieth century.

By the late 1890s, Beatrice had developed a solid belief in the need to ‘permeate’ existing social structures, in order to achieve lasting change. Her reasoning was based on the assumption that ‘since most citizens were uninterested in most political issues’, it was more profitable to work on the knowledgeable and the influential. Her regular social events attracted most of the heavyweight politicians of the day, including Conservative and Liberal ministers. By this means, Beatrice was nominated to the royal commission on the Poor Laws. The commission took four years to investigate the current state of the Poor Laws and to propose ‘next steps’. Halfway into the four-year investigation, Beatrice resolved to write a separate minority report, which would be ‘a thoroughly Webbian document’. Yet the legendary Minority Report which she produced was a failure in its own time. Beatrice was unable to persuade her commission colleagues to countenance a radical overhaul of the Poor Law system. Nor did she persuade the government. Rather than heed the message of Beatrice’s work, the Liberal government remained determined to tackle poverty by other means.

The failure of her Minority Report hit Beatrice hard. In terms of her political development, it was a turning-point. Having embarked on a tour of India, it was at this time that she committed to the Labour Party. During the party’s early years, her attitude towards it had been condescending. ‘Do we want to organise unthinking persons into Socialistic Societies, or to make the thinking persons Socialistic?’ she had asked Ramsay MacDonald rhetorically, before answering on behalf of the Fabian Society: ‘We believe in the latter process.’ Yet the failure of the Minority Report had demonstrated the failure of the Webbs’ attempts to influence the powerful rather than use a more formal mechanism to advance their ideas. While Beatrice remained sceptical of the Labour Party (and in particular, the influence of the trade unions), she saw it as the most likely vehicle to ensure that socialist ideas were given political effect.

When Sidney stood for and won the constituency of Seaham, Co. Durham in 1922, Beatrice played the constituency wife. She bought a flat for the use of the parliamentary party and founded the Half-Circle Club where she organised lunches with a view to bringing together the wives of Labour members. This ‘Queen Bee’ role suited her well. Famously anti-feminist until the early twentieth-century, Beatrice remained an intimidating figure for young female activists within the Labour Party. She was self-aware enough to note that she was ‘more admired than liked’ by her Labour colleagues, a point that chimes with the young Ellen Wilkinson’s account of meeting Beatrice at a local Fabian society event:

“She came to speak for us one afternoon in a dress of scarlet velvet and ermine…Rather frightened, I took the great lady for tea. ‘How do you like my dress,’ she asked. ‘I have had it made from my aunt’s coronation robes’ … We then went on to discuss the wages of the outworker seamstresses whom I was organising into a trade union in my spare time.”

Yet Ellen, like others, eventually came to regard Beatrice with affection and became a regular visitor to her home. She inherited from Beatrice an absolute belief in the power of facts, an idea which we now take for granted but which was, in its time, revolutionary.

Following the collapse of the 1931 Labour government, and with Sidney Webb’s brief parliamentary career at an end, Beatrice turned away from domestic political reform. Deeply disillusioned with Ramsay MacDonald, the Webbs became increasingly interested in the ‘new civilization’ of the Soviet Union. In May 1932 they toured the USSR and returned home eulogising what they had seen. The Webbs’ love affair with the USSR is something of an embarrassment within Labour hagiography. The fact that neither of them spoke Russian, and that their travels were carefully circumscribed by the Soviet hierarchy, barred them from authentic access to the political realities of the country. This may account in part for the rose-tinted accounts Soviet progress which the Webbs espoused in their later years. From this distance in time, there is a staggering naivety to Beatrice’s conversion to Stalinist collectivism. So convinced was she of its merits that the Nazi-Soviet pact of August 1939 appeared incomprehensible, ‘a great disaster’. While Beatrice did not live to know of the true nature of collectivisation and the Terror, her inter-war association with the Soviet regime discredited her in the eyes of many later commentators.

In a sense it is an artificial exercise to consider the life and works of Beatrice Webb without examining Sidney Webb as well. They were an intellectual partnership: they fortified each other and together created works of lasting value. Their ideas helped to shape the post-war welfare settlement pushed through under Attlee’s leadership. Their legacy was evident across the ‘New Jerusalem’ of 1945: the nationalization programme, the health service and the welfare state could all be said to have Webbian roots. Yet it is also important to identify Beatrice’s individual achievements. Her rigorous use of factual analysis to underpin socialist argument left its mark on a whole generation of Labour thinkers. The practice of empirical investigation has become central to British political science and sociology in the twentieth century. It is arguably her most enduring legacy. To my mind, Beatrice Webb stands as the earliest and perhaps the greatest example of a woman within the Labour movement who was allowed the space and support to flourish intellectually. The beauty of her ideas continue to tease and challenge us.


Hammering out a new world – the Fabian Window at LSE

On the 20 April 2006 Tony Blair unveiled the Fabian Window, newly installed in the Shaw Library on a long term loan by the Webb Memorial Trust. In 2017 thanks to the generosity of the Webb Memorial Trust, the window became part of the School’s art collections. LSE Archivist, Sue Donnelly, writes about the window’s creation and its chequered history.

On 11 January 1911 an illustration of the Fabian Window appeared in The Sketch entitled “GBS in stained glass: a remarkable window containing portraits of Messrs George Bernard Shaw, Sidney Webb, Edward Pease and other prominent Fabians. The window “the work of Miss Caroline Townsend [sic] has been presented to Mr George Bernard Shaw”. However the background to the design and creation of the window is unclear – both Margaret Cole and Patricia Pugh include the Fabian Window in their illustrations but say nothing about its commissioning or creation in the text. Both describe the window as being ordered by Shaw and designed and executed by Caroline Townshend. A pamphlet on Beatrice Webb House, where the window was installed from 1947-1978, by John Parker, the Labour MP and Fabian Society member, follows the same wording.

The Fabian window was unveiled by the Prime Minister Tony Blair in the Shaw Library on 20 April 2006. LSE/Nigel Stead

G Bernard Shaw is well known as a writer, Fabian Society member, close friend of Sidney and Beatrice Webb and one of the School’s founders. The artist Caroline Townshend (1878-1944) was also part of the Fabian network. Her father Chambré Corker Townshend was an architect and her mother Emily Gibson Townshend was amongst the first five students to study at Girton College. Caroline studied at Slade School of Art and the Central School of Arts and Crafts where she was a pupil of Christopher Whall (1849-1924), a leading stained glass designer. She established her own studio at The Glass House in Fulham. Caroline, like her mother, was a member of the Fabian Society and in 1912 she stood for election to Fulham Borough Council as a Fabian and Independent Labour Party candidate. In 1918 she designed a banner for the Fabian Society. She was also the sister in law of Frederick Hillersdon Keeling, an occasional teacher at LSE who is listed on the LSE war memorial. In 1920 she set up the company of Townshend and Howson with her partner Joan Howson and designed stained glass windows for churches across England and for the cathedral at Rockhampton, Queensland.

Caroline Townshend, Labour candidate for Fulham borough council (ILP/6/21/2)

The Fabian window is among her earliest works and there is some debate as to how far Shaw was involved in the design. The original cartoon for the design was given to the William Morris Meeting Rooms in Wimbledon by Joan Howson and the window is said to have been made in the Morris Works at Merton Abbey Mills. The completed window is in the style of a Tudor family memorial. At the top Sidney Webb and Shaw himself are shown hammering out a new world on an anvil beneath an emblem of a wolf in sheep’s clothing reflecting the Society’s gradualist approach. On their left the secretary of the Fabian Society, Edward Pease is working the bellows and below are the smaller figures of active members of the Fabian Society.

The women are led by Maud Pember Reeves (1865-1953), founder of the Fabian Women’s Group and author of Round about a Pound a Week, who was married to the School’s third Director, William Pember Reeves. The figure at the far right is said to be Caroline herself. In between is Mary Hankinson (1868-1952), a gymnastics teacher claimed as the model for St Joan Mabel Atkinson (1876-1958), who was involved in organising Fabian summer schools and later moved to South Africa and Mrs Boyd Dawson author of a Fabian Tract on co-operative education.

The Sketch, 11 January 1911 (FABIAN SOCIETY/E/121/4)

The men include the actor manager, Charles Charrington (1854-1926) Aylmer Maude (1858-1938), translator of Tolstoy George Stirling Taylor (died 1939) a lawyer and member of the Executive Committee and Frederick Lawson Dodd (1868-?) who was the instigator of the Fabian summer schools. At the far left is the writer H G Wells. He is shown cocking a snook at his former colleagues in the Society following his failure to oust the old guard, including Shaw and Webb, from their leadership of the Fabian Society.

For some unknown reason the window was never collected from Caroline Townshend’s studio where it remained until her death in 1944. In 1947 the Webb Memorial Trust was established to pursue the intellectual legacy of Beatrice Webb and “‘the advancement of education and learning with respect to the history and problems of government and social policy” and it acquired the window for its conference centre, Beatrice Webb House in Surrey. Among the Trust’s first trustees were the economic historian, R H Tawney, and political scientist Harold Laski. Beatrice Webb House was opened by the Prime Minister, Clement Attlee – also a former member of LSE staff – and the window was installed in the Webb Room.

The Fabian Window in the Shaw Library, Old Building, LSE. LSE/Nigel Stead

Sadly in 1978 the window was stolen and disappeared from view. It reappeared briefly in Arizona, USA and then came up for sale at Sothebys in July 2005. The Webb Memorial Trust repurchased the window and placed it at LSE on a long term loan where it has been installed in the Shaw Library. The Fabian Window with its fascinating connections to the history of the School has found a long term home.


Barack Obama, Fabian Socialist

Barack Obama is a Fabian socialist. I should know I was raised by one. My Grandfather worked as a union machinist for Ingersoll Rand during the day. In the evenings he tended bar and read books. After his funeral, I went back home and started working my way through his library, starting with T.W. Arnold's The Folklore of Capitalism. This was my introduction to the Fabian socialists.

Fabians believed in gradual nationalization of the economy through manipulation of the democratic process. Breaking away from the violent revolutionary socialists of their day, they thought that the only real way to effect "fundamental change" and "social justice" was through a mass movement of the working classes presided over by intellectual and cultural elites. Before TV it was stage plays, written by George Bernard Shaw and thousands of inferior "realist" playwrights dedicated to social change. John Cusack's character in Woody Allen's "Bullets Over Broadway" captures the movement rather well.

Arnold taught me to question everyone--my president, my priest and my parents. Well, almost everyone. I wasn't supposed to question the Fabian intellectuals themselves. That's the Fabian MO, relentless cultural and journalistic attacks on everything that is, and then a hard pitch for the hope of what might be.

He's telling the truth when he says that he doesn't agree with Bill Ayers' violent bombing tactics, but it's a tactical disagreement. Why use dynamite when mass media and community organizing work so much better? Who needs Molotov when you've got Saul Alinski?

So here is the playbook: The left will identify, freeze, personalize and polarize an industry, probably health care. It will attempt to nationalize one-fifth of the U.S. economy through legislative action. They will focus, as Lenin did, on the "commanding heights" of the economy, not the little guy.

As Obama said, "the smallest" businesses will be exempt from fines for not "doing the right thing" in offering employer-based health care coverage. Health will not be nationalized in one fell swoop they have been studying the failures of Hillary Care. Instead, a parallel system will be created, funded by surcharges on business payroll, which will be superior to many private plans.

The old system will be forced to subsidize the new system and there will be a gradual shift from the former to the latter. The only coercion will be the fines, not the participation. A middle-class entitlement will have been created.

It may not be health care first it might be energy, though I suspect that energy will be nationalized much more gradually. The offshore drilling ban that was allowed to lapse legislatively will be reinstated through executive means. It may be an executive order, but might just as well be a permit reviewing system that theoretically allows drilling but with endless levels of objection and appeal from anti-growth groups. Wind and solar, on the other hand, will have no permitting problems at all, and a heavy taxpayer subsidy at their backs.

The banking system has already been partially nationalized. Bush and Paulson intend for their share purchases to be only non-voting preferred shares, but the law does not specify that. How hard will it be for Obama, new holder of $700 billion in bank equity, to demand "accountability" and a "voice" for the taxpayers?

The capital markets are not freezing up now, mostly because of what has happened, although community organizers' multidecade push for affirmative-action mortgages has done enormous harm to the credit system. Markets are forward looking.

A quick review of the socialist takeovers in Venezuela in 1999, Spain in 2004 and Italy in 2006 show the same pattern--equity markets do most of their plummeting before the Chavez's of the world take power. Investors anticipate the policy shift in advance that's their job.

It's not just equity markets, though debt markets do the same thing. Everywhere I turn I hear complaints about bankers "hoarding" capital. "Hoarding" is a word we've heard often from violent socialists like Lenin and Mao. We also hear it from the democratic left as we did during the 1930s in America. The banks, we're told, are greedy and miserly, holding onto capital that should be deployed into the marketplace.

Well, which is it, miserly or greedy? They're not the same thing. Banks make money borrowing low and lending high. In fact, they can borrow very, very low right now, as they could during the Great Depression.

So why don't they lend? Because socialism is a very unkind environment for lenders. Some of the most powerful members of Congress are speaking openly about repudiating mortgage covenants. Local officials have already done so by simply refusing to foreclose on highly delinquent borrowers. Then, there's the oldest form of debt repudiation, inflation. Even if you get your money back, it will not be worth anything. Who would want to lend in an environment like this?

Will Obama's be the strong-man socialism of a Chavez, or the soft socialism that Clement Atlee used to defeat Churchill after WWII? I don't know, but I suspect something kind of in between. Despite right-wing predictions that we won't see Rush shut down by Fairness Doctrine fascists. We won't see Baptist ministers hauled off in handcuffs for anti-sodomy sermons. It will more likely be a matter of paperwork. Strong worded letters from powerful lawyers in and out of government to program directors and general mangers of radio stations. Ominous references to license renewal.

The psychic propaganda assault will be powerful. The cyber-brown-shirts will spew hate, the union guys will flood talk shows with switchboard-collapsing swarms of complaint calls aimed at those hosts who "go beyond the pale" in their criticisms of Obama. In concert with pop culture outlets like The Daily Show and SNL, Obama will use his podium to humiliate and demonize those of us who don't want to come together and heal the planet.

You've heard of the bully pulpit, right? Well, then get ready, because you're about to see the bully part.

Jerry Bowyer is chief economist of Benchmark Financial Network and a CNBC contributor.


I WAS IN my office in Arizona when the phone rang. It was President Ronald Reagan. “Sandra, I’d like to announce your appointment tomorrow to the Supreme Court. Is that okay with you?” From that day on my life changed.

As the first female justice, I didn’t have a choice of robes. Most of what was available was a choir or academic robe. I brought my judicial robe from Arizona.

No one made collars for women. The only place I could find them was in Europe. I did manage to get one or two from France.

Sandra Day O’Connor’s robe, worn at her swearing-in, is at the Smithsonian. It will be used to tell her story and other women’s stories of blazing new trails.

Credits

Photo: Sandra Day O’Connor ducks behind a potted plant before making a statement to reporters after she was named to the United States Supreme Court, September 15, 1981, AP Images PHOTO DENNIS COOK

Content: Terry Gross, Fresh Air, WHYY, March 5, 2013 Jan Smith, interview with Sandra Day O’Connor, 2015. National Portrait Gallery Sandra Day O’Connor Explores Supreme Court History, Inner Workings, PBS NewsHour, April 4, 2013


When Geoff Dea became CEO of SuniTAFE several things were clear to him. The opportunity for TAFE was great but the culture needed work. Partnering with Dattner Group.

Fabian Dattner: Speaker - Motivator - Agent for Change

Fabian Dattner: Why people work with Dattner Group

Fabian Dattner: Five Leadership Learnings


Fabian Strategy: Wearing Down the Enemy

Fabian strategy is an approach to military operations where one side avoids large, pitched battles in favor of smaller, harassing actions in order to break the enemy's will to keep fighting and wear them down through attrition. Generally, this type of strategy is adopted by smaller, weaker powers when combating a larger foe. In order for it to be successful, time must be on the side of user and they must be able to avoid large-scale actions. Also, Fabian strategy requires a strong degree of will from both politicians and soldiers, as frequent retreats and a lack of major victories can prove demoralizing.

Fabian strategy draws its name from the Roman Dictator Quintus Fabius Maximus. Tasked with defeating the Carthaginian general Hannibal in 217 BC, following crushing defeats at the Battles of Trebia and Lake Trasimene, Fabius' troops shadowed and harassed the Carthaginian army while avoiding a major confrontation. Knowing that Hannibal was cut off from his supply lines, Fabius executed a scorched earth policy hoping to starve the invader into retreat. Moving along interior lines of communication, Fabius was able to prevent Hannibal from re-supplying, while inflicting several minor defeats.

By avoiding a major defeat himself, Fabius was able to prevent Rome's allies from defecting to Hannibal. While Fabius' strategy was slowly achieving the desired effect, it was not well received in Rome. After being criticized by other Roman commanders and politicians for his constant retreats and avoidance of combat, Fabius was removed by the Senate. His replacements sought to meet Hannibal in combat and were decisively defeated at the Battle of Cannae. This defeat led to the defection of several of Rome's allies. After Cannae, Rome returned to Fabius' approach and ultimately drove Hannibal back to Africa.

American Example:

A modern example of Fabian strategy is General George Washington's later campaigns during the American Revolution. Advocated by his subordinate, Gen. Nathaniel Greene, Washington was initially reluctant to adopt the approach, preferring to seek major victories over the British. In the wake of major defeats in 1776 and 1777, Washington changed his position and sought to wear down the British both militarily and politically. Though criticized by Congressional leaders, the strategy worked and ultimately led the British to lose the will to continue the war.


Prologue to a social movement

In the aftermath of World War II, the lives of women in developed countries changed dramatically. Household technology eased the burdens of homemaking, life expectancies increased dramatically, and the growth of the service sector opened up thousands of jobs not dependent on physical strength. Despite these socioeconomic transformations, cultural attitudes (especially concerning women’s work) and legal precedents still reinforced sexual inequalities. An articulate account of the oppressive effects of prevailing notions of femininity appeared in Le Deuxième Sexe (1949 The Second Sex), by the French writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir. It became a worldwide best seller and raised feminist consciousness by stressing that liberation for women was liberation for men too.

The first public indication that change was imminent came with women’s reaction to the 1963 publication of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. Friedan spoke of the problem that “lay buried, unspoken” in the mind of the suburban housewife: utter boredom and lack of fulfillment. Women who had been told that they had it all—nice houses, lovely children, responsible husbands—were deadened by domesticity, she said, and they were too socially conditioned to recognize their own desperation. The Feminine Mystique was an immediate best seller. Friedan had struck a chord.


We are a Professional Society dedicated to supporting women in architecture and allied design fields

The Association for Women in Architecture + Design’s mission is to advance and support women who work in the built environment. We encourage and foster high levels of achievement by providing innovative and informative programming, one on one as well as group mentoring, special programs and events, and illuminating career opportunities for students as well as professionals. We also provide scholarships and a mid-career fellowship via our Foundation, sister organization, AWAF. We do this through an open inclusive environment that facilitates relationships and comradery for people at every stage of their career.

OUR HISTORY

Our organization has a rich and proud history dating back almost one hundred years and our membership has included many renowned leaders in the design professions.

Learn More

AWA+D event at Judson Glass Studio

GET INVOLVED!

The Association for Women in Architecture and Design, a smaller, more personal and more affordable professional organization, offers you a vehicle for greater connection to the design community and a greater voice as a woman within it.


BET To Assemble All-Women R&B Supergroup For New Series ‘BET Presents The Encore’

BET is set to bring together nine of the most memorable solo female artists and groups from the 1990s and 2000s to form the ultimate R&B supergroup in the new original series, BET Presents The Encore.

Among those involved include Shamari DeVoe of Blaque, Irish Grinstead and LeMisha Grinstead from 702, Nivea Nash and Felisha King of Cherish, Fallon King and Pamela Long form the group Total, Aubrey O’ Day from Danity Kane, and Kiely Williams of 3LW have signed on to the one-of-a-kind music experiment to become the next big musical sensation.

The talented singers turned wives, moms, and entrepreneurs, will move in together, write new music, learn choreography, record an album, and put on a live performance. And they’ll have to do so in only 30 days and with none of them knowing who their bandmates will be ahead of time.

The ladies will have to go beyond their musical and personal comfort zones to succeed as a team. An esteemed roster of music industry experts will drop in each week to prepare them for their big debut and deliver a chart-topping record, including music producer Kosine, choreographer Aliya Janell, songwriter Elijah Blake, and vocal coach Cynnamyn.


Watch the video: how to drop-off with Fabien Barel (January 2022).