Wednesday 4 April 2018 8.30 - 10.30Z-1 - SOC01 : Biography and Humanitarianism
Music Lecture Theatre School of Music
Celia John (1877-1955) was an Australian pacifist and feminist who campaigned against the introduction of military conscription during the war years. She was involved in various organisations including the Women’s Peace Army, Women’s Political Association and the Children’s Peace Army. She gained considerable notoriety when she sang ‘I didn’t ... (Show more)
Celia John (1877-1955) was an Australian pacifist and feminist who campaigned against the introduction of military conscription during the war years. She was involved in various organisations including the Women’s Peace Army, Women’s Political Association and the Children’s Peace Army. She gained considerable notoriety when she sang ‘I didn’t Raise my son to be a soldier’ with such effectiveness that it was banned. It was after attending the 1919 Women’s International Peace Congress in Zurich with her fellow pacifist and feminist, Vida Goldstein – where she witnessed images of starving children – that she was inspired ‘that the message of the need of Europe should be carried to Australia’. The Save the Children Fund provided the perfect organisation for her to do so. In 1919, she became the founder of Save the Children Fund in Australia. During the inter-war years she was active in promoting internationalism and humanitarianism through the activities of Fund and ensured Australia heard ‘the crying of Europe’s children’. This paper will consider the issues John faced in establishing the organisation in Australia which was seen as vital to the organisation's global reach and the national and international forces which challenged her in undertaking a leadership role in the organisation.
A biographical approach will provide a framework through which to bring together disparate parts of John’s life that have been studied in isolation. In doing so, the aim is to explore the broader relationship between gender, humanitarianism and the British Empire in the first decades of the twentieth century. (Show less)
Rebecca Gill , Helen Dampier : Constructing a Humanitarian Self: Emily Hobhouse's Auto/Biographical Traces, 1899 - 1926
One of the central features of the biographical turn in the humanities and social sciences in the last three decades has been a recognition of the interplays between biography and autobiography - hence, auto/biography - and an acknowledgement that autobiography always constructs rather than simply reflects the self. Taking this ... (Show more)
One of the central features of the biographical turn in the humanities and social sciences in the last three decades has been a recognition of the interplays between biography and autobiography - hence, auto/biography - and an acknowledgement that autobiography always constructs rather than simply reflects the self. Taking this theoretical premise as its starting point, this paper explores the auto/biographical traces of the British social reformer and humanitarian Emily Hobhouse (1860-1926). Following her rise to public prominence during and after the 1899-1902 South African War and until her death in 1926, Hobhouse made a sustained attempt to testify to her humanitarian work in a number of different auto/biographical forms: private and public letter-writing, editing and publishing women's wartime accounts, personal testimonies of her witnessing of civilian suffering in the South African War, and the drafting in the early 1920s of her own (unpublished) memoir.
This linking of humanitarian work and auto/biography is not incidental, but generative. Indeed, while we might dispute historical origins, the whole of the Red Cross movement is usually attributed to Henri Dunant’s A Memoir of Solferino. Interestingly, while reflecting on the suffragettes, Krista Cowman has noted the dearth of female autobiography, humanitarian work was one area in which there was a convention of biographers and female memoirists taking up Leslie Stephen’s exhortation to account for themselves and in doing so write the conventions of their role (Florence Nightingale most famously, but also lesser known women such as the Quaker Ruth Fry, the Balkan relief workers Paulina Irby and Edith Durham, and the nursing memoirists who took up the pen in the First World War).
The memoir in its form and style as much as its content operated as a personal testament to ‘humane’ credentials, attested to by something akin to a spiritual sensibility, requiring a refined and educated, but by no means sentimental, eye. In this paper we wish to explore the leitmotif of suffering, self-sacrifice, compassion, Love, and martyrdom as a function in Hobhouse’s auto/biographical accounts in order to draw out the spiritual authority both which with she constructs herself as a humanitarian, and by which the accounts themselves become 'untouchable' testimonies. Humanitarianism is, at least in part, then, a literary pursuit – and with its conventions of suffering and deliverance, these personal intimations of suffering provide a necessary conduit (Hobhouse frequently referred to herself as a ‘bridge’). Like many such humanitarian biographies, Hobhouse’s memoirs thus functioned as a humanitarian campaigning text in its own right. In this way, Hobhouse’s auto/biographies not only constructed her humanitarian self, they were also incidences of humanitarian agency alerting us to the role of personal testimony as a key way in which she – and other women - perpetuated a humanitarian critique of modern war, and thus on both counts were instrumental in contributing to the humanitarian imagination of the early twentieth century. Yet, as the very varied history of the publication and reception of her various auto/biographical texts in South Africa and Britain suggests, literary acts of humanitarianism will always require a sympathetic reader and remain subject to the politics of memory. (Show less)
Melanie Oppenheimer : ‘In the Service of Others her Life was Spent’: Re-creating the Humanitarian Life of Helen Munro Ferguson & her Impact on the Red Cross Movement in the First Decades of the Twentieth Century
Raised at Clandeboye, outside Belfast, Lady Helen Munro Ferguson née Blackwood (later Viscountess Novar) played a significant leadership role in many areas of women’s activism, most notably the state registration of nurses and the Red Cross Movement in Scotland, Australia and the League of Red Cross Societies from the early ... (Show more)
Raised at Clandeboye, outside Belfast, Lady Helen Munro Ferguson née Blackwood (later Viscountess Novar) played a significant leadership role in many areas of women’s activism, most notably the state registration of nurses and the Red Cross Movement in Scotland, Australia and the League of Red Cross Societies from the early 1900s through to her death in 1941. Labelled a ‘woman of influence’, she was a well-connected individual who could affect others with her oratory and well honed writing skills and astute political judgement. Yet this important and influential leader has received limited attention from historians and her transnational career remains largely unknown outside of Australia where she was the foundational President of Australian Red Cross (1914-1920). This is due, in part, to the lack of a personal collection of papers. Notwithstanding the extensive Dufferin Collection held by PRONI, a question that this paper seeks to address, therefore, is how does a historian construct a biographical narrative when such a personal collection does not exist, where there is no memoir rather haphazard remnants of a life scattered throughout other people’s records (including that of her husband, Ronald Munro Ferguson) in various repositories around the world. How does the use of official humanitarian organizational records, such as minutes and reports of a globally recognised organisation like Red Cross impact and affect our understanding and interpretation of such a humanitarian reformer and practitioner?
This paper uses the intersection of biography and humanitarianism to explore the life and transnational career of an influential but little remembered leader of one of the largest and oldest humanitarian organisations. Taking humanitarianism to mean a ‘morally complicated creature…defined by the passions, politics and power of its times’ (Barnett 2011), this paper explores how biography, too, can provide us with a historical context for this life, and assist us in exploring the complexities of the development of humanitarianism over time. In this example, I take Lady Helen Munro Ferguson, her wealth, social standing and privilege, an imperial ‘lady of rank’ making her mark through the Scottish and Australian Red Cross Societies in particular, and through a biographical lens explore the connections between individuals, their networks and the role of humanitarians over time. (Show less)
Rosemary Wall : Voluntarism, Politics, and Humanitarianism: the Role of Lord Woolton as the Chair of the Executive Committee of the British Red Cross, 1943-1963
Between 1943 and 1963, Frederick James Marquis, Lord Woolton, was the Chair of the Executive Committee of the British Red Cross. This paper examines why the Director of a Liverpool department store, Lewis’s, who became a member of the Conservative Party’s Cabinet, became the spokesman for the British Red Cross ... (Show more)
Between 1943 and 1963, Frederick James Marquis, Lord Woolton, was the Chair of the Executive Committee of the British Red Cross. This paper examines why the Director of a Liverpool department store, Lewis’s, who became a member of the Conservative Party’s Cabinet, became the spokesman for the British Red Cross at such a key time in its history – the reframing of the charity after the Second World War and the launch of the National Health Service. Woolton not only had experience in retail but also in politics, having served as a non-party member of the government as Director-General of Equipment and Stores in the Ministry of Supply, the Minister of Food, and then Minister for Reconstruction during the Second World War. Yet from 1946-55, the time when he more actively took over the leadership of the BRC’s Executive Committee, he served as Conservative Party chairman, as well as holding roles such as Minister for Materials, so having a political stance but leading an apolitical charity. In addition, he was Chancellor of the University of Manchester from 1944 to 1964. This paper analyses the responsibilities of the Chair within the organisational structure of the British Red Cross. It explores Woolton’s involvement in some of the key strategies of BRC work during his time as Chair, including humanitarianism, for example his particular concern for the care of disabled veterans and the Red Cross’ involvement in leading the development of the Disasters Emergency Committee, in contrast with civil defence in preparation for nuclear or chemical war, and the increase in paid workers alongside volunteers within the local and national Red Cross teams. This research takes a biographical approach, utilising Woolton’s personal papers at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, and the archives of the British Red Cross. Expanding research on voluntarism by Matthew Hilton, the paper furthers our understanding of how a charity mitigating suffering by working in healthcare and welfare in peace, war, and during disasters, continued within the British Welfare State, particularly focussing on the role of the elite figures within the organisation who chose to donate extensive time.
Dr Rosemary Wall is a Senior Lecturer in Global History at the University of Hull. Her current research on the history of the British Red Cross and on first aid benefits from Arts and Humanities Research Council funding and a University of Oxford Bodleian Libraries Sassoon Visiting Fellowship (Show less)