Ida B. Wells-Barnett, 1862–1931
“The American Negro and His Place,” Nineteenth Century: A Monthly Review, September 1899.
Liverpool was often the point of entry for Americans on their way to London. When the journalist Ida B. Wells (later Wells-Barnett), arrived there in 1894, on the second of her campaigns to drum up political and financial support for the anti-lynching movement in the U. S., her thoughts, unlike those of most white American travelers, were of the Middle Passage. As she wrote in the weekly newspaper, the Chicago Inter-Ocean, “Liverpool was the center of slave interests from the days of good Queen Bess to the Abolition. . . . More than half the slave ships which carried human merchandise from Africa to the West Indies and America were built in the Liverpool docks.” Wells, who had been forced to flee Memphis, Tennessee, ahead of the white racist mobs that destroyed her newspaper office and to make her home instead in New York (and eventually, in Chicago), arranged her first British lecture tour in 1893 at the urging of Catherine Impey (1847), a white English Quaker who edited the radical paper, Anti-Caste. On both her 1893 and 1894 trips, she was welcomed by feminist writers such as Annie Besant (1847–1933), who moved in William Morris’s socialist circles, and Sarah Grand (1854–1943), the bestselling “New Woman” novelist. Wells also received extensive coverage in the British press. Even five years after her second lecture tour, she remained a subject of interest for commentators such as Elizabeth L. Banks, who had left Wisconsin to make her career in London and profit from the opportunities offered by the so-called “New Journalism.” Banks was most famous for journalistic “stunts,” especially for going undercover (posing, for instance, as a Salvation Army worker), in order to write exposés. As her article about race for the Nineteenth Century shows, she could also be a serious analyst of political issues. The position she argued there, however, was an appalling one, questioning Wells’s campaign and defending white Southern racism—thus illustrating the problems that Wells had in Britain, which were rarely with the English themselves, but with white racist Americans abroad.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, 1860–1935
Women in Professions, Being the Professional Section of the International Congress of Women, London, July 1899, with an Introduction by Mrs. Bedford Fenwick, Convener of the Professional Section Committee. London: T. Fisher Unwin, 1900. Volume in series, The International Congress of Women ’99, ed. The Countess of Aberdeen.
In 1899, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, the American feminist famed today as author of “The Yellow Wallpaper,” arrived in London for the International Congress of Women. Her work preceded her there, for in 1898 the publisher T. Fisher Unwin issued a British edition of her book Women and Economics. Introduced at the Congress as “Mrs. Stetson”—the surname belonged to her first husband, from whom she was divorced—she participated, along with the Aesthetic poet Alice Meynell, in discussing a lecture titled “The Art of Poetry with Regard to Women Writers.” The writer of this talk was Lady Lindsay, née Caroline Blanche Fitzroy (1844–1912), a noted musician and artist, as well as co-founder, with her husband, of the Grosvenor Gallery, which exhibited paintings by J. M. Whistler, Edward Burne-Jones, and other Aesthetes and second-generation Pre-Raphaelites. But Gilman had already enjoyed more direct contact with the Pre-Raphaelite world during her first visit to London, in the summer of 1896. Then, she had come as a delegate to a different gathering, the International Socialist Workers and Trade Union Congress, and one of the highlights of that earlier trip was meeting William Morris, who died later that year. On her return to London in 1899, she spent time on several occasions with Morris’s daughter, the artist May Morris.
Elizabeth Robins, 1862–1952
Program for Votes for Women! A Dramatic Tract in Three Acts. London, May 1907.
William Archer’s biographer, Peter Whitebrook, has suggested that Elizabeth Robins—the Kentucky-born actress, novelist, playwright, and later suffragist—preferred the company of Aesthetes such as “the homosexual [Oscar] Wilde” and “the homosexually-inclined [Henry] James,” after she arrived in London in 1888, because they were among the few men who did not pursue her. Certainly, G. B. Shaw, her fellow Ibsenite, tried to pressure her into a relationship. Her publisher, William Heinemann, was smitten with her as well. She did engage in an affair with William Archer, the influential drama critic for the World and translator of Ibsen, though she was conflicted from the start about doing so. Years later, in her play for Harley Granville-Barker’s Court Theatre, Votes for Women!, Robins could attack openly the patriarchal system that not only encouraged, but forced, vulnerable young women to rely on the so-called “protection” of men, who often made these women their mistresses and abandoned them at will. Votes for Women! proved to be more than merely a pro-suffrage “tract,” as Robins subtitled her political drama, though it did contain fictionalized representations of actual members of the Women’s Social and Political Union, including Annie Kenney, the working-class associate of the Pankhursts. It was also a wide-ranging assault on the social and sexual hypocrisy underpinning the “double standard” that kept women unequal. In composing it, Robins drew on the conventions of Victorian drawing-room comedy, but made even more explicit the challenges to social morality that had been implicit in works such as A Woman of No Importance (1892), by her late friend, Oscar Wilde.
Emma Goldman, 1869–1940
Anarchism and Other Essays, with Biographic Sketch by Hippolyte Havel. New York: Mother Earth Publishing Association, 1910.
By birth a Russian Jew, Emma Goldman, who emigrated to the U. S. at the age of sixteen, truly could be called a citizen of the world, as she was unwanted in, barred from entry into, and thrown out of so many countries. The much caricatured and greatly maligned face of radical politics wherever she went, Goldman was an activist, a writer, a magazine editor and publisher, a feminist and advocate of birth control, and a brilliant platform lecturer, who used her lifelong fascination with theater—the inspiration for a lesser known work, The Social Significance of the Modern Drama (1914), in which she discussed playwrights such as the Anglo-Irish socialist, G. B. Shaw—and her brief experiences as an actress to good effect. (Among her stranger careers, though, was as proprietor of ice cream shops, first in Worcester, Massachusetts, and then in New York City.) Goldman made her first trip to London in 1895. There she met Peter Kropotkin, the Russian “Anarchist Prince,” who was also an associate of William Morris (though she did not, it seems, meet Morris himself, whose work she later would reprint in her magazine, Mother Earth). On her next trip to Britain, in 1899, she gave highly controversial speeches opposing the Boer War, while traveling from England to Scotland. In her view, London was not a romantic city, but a dirty and dark hole where, as she wrote in her autobiography, Living My Life (1931), the “fog was like a monster,” and where the poverty and violence of the East End resulted in sights “more terrible than any conceived by Dante.” Nevertheless, she did find romance of a different sort there, engaging in a love affair with a Czech anarchist, Hippolyte Havel, who in 1910 would provide a long biographical Introduction to her Anarchism and Other Essays. The volume had to be issued by the “Mother Earth Publishing Association,” which she had founded; as the Prefatory Note announced, “This is not an ordinary book. The MS. has been refused by several publishers as ‘too extreme.’”
W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt) DuBois, 1868–1963
“The Negro Race in the United States of America,” in Papers on Inter-Racial Problems: Communicated to the First Universal Races Congress Held at the University of London, July 26–29, 1911, Edited, for the Congress Executive, by G. Spiller, Hon. Organiser of the Congress. London: P. S. King & Son, 1911.
His participation as Honorary Secretary for the United States at the Universal Races Congress marked neither W. E. B. DuBois’s first visit to London nor his first international meeting there. In 1900, he had attended the Pan-African Congress, which brought together delegates from Africa and the Caribbean with African Americans such as the feminist writer Anna Julia Cooper, as well as DuBois, to address British imperialism and to petition Queen Victoria. The Universal Races Congress, held at the University of London in 1911, was an even more ambitious attempt to create transnational political dialogue, although, as many commentators have remarked, its accomplishments ultimately fell far short of its goals. Elliot M. Rudwick has described DuBois as “caught up in the idealism of the Congress,” in part because it offered “acceptance and recognition . . . denied him in his own country” by the white intellectual community, despite his leadership role in the NAACP and position as editor of the Crisis. While in London, DuBois was welcomed by British writers such as H. G. Wells and by Margaret, Lady Brooke, Ranee of Sarawak (1849–1936), who had been a friend of Oscar Wilde. DuBois submitted to the Congress a position paper, “The Negro Race in the United States of America.” He also delivered a poem, “A Hymn to the Peoples,” that showed the influence of Tennyson and Swinburne and demonstrated why Vanessa D. Dickerson, in Dark Victorians (2008), has called him “one of America’s consummate black Victorians.” Dubois’s “Hymn” appeared in his 1911 article about the conference for the Independent, and his paper was included in the Congress’s published proceedings. The latter volume featured on its front cover and title page a device—an image of “Concordia” that combined neo-classicism with Pre-Raphaelitism—designed by Walter Crane (1845–1915), the children’s British book illustrator, exponent of Arts-and-Crafts principles, and socialist comrade of William Morris.
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This exhibition is associated with the conference, "Useful & Beautiful: The Transatlantic Arts of William Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites," which will be held October 7–9, 2010, at the University of Delaware (Newark, DE) and at the Delaware Art Museum and the Winterthur Museum & Country Estate (Wilmington, DE).