Frances Power Cobbe

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As one of the most prominent Victorian writers of non-fiction prose, and the only feminist of the period who wrote regularly in periodicals, FPC published prolifically in a range of genres from reportage and travel writing to social criticism, theology, and ethics. As a professional journalist she wrote more than a hundred periodical essays, and above a thousand anonymous newspaper leaders. She published, at a conservative estimate, eighteen books and innumerable tracts. A key figure in the Victorian women's movement, she produced ground-breakingly trenchant as well as frequently witty analyses of women's social and political disabilities, representing womanly duty as feminist praxis. All her social writings are grounded in her life-long effort to promulgate a nondenominational theistic system of ethics. In her later career she dedicated herself to fighting animal vivisection (a cause she characterized as an abolitionist crusade analogous to anti-slavery) and the campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts. For the anti-vivisection campaign alone she produced considerable journalism and at least two hundred tracts. Her theology, ethics, feminism, and anti-vivisection converged in her argument that sympathy—beyond as well as within the human community—was an index of true civilisation.
Hamilton, Susan. “Locating Victorian Feminism: Frances Power Cobbe, Feminist Writing, and the Periodical Press”. Nineteenth-Century Feminisms, No. 2, pp. 48 -66.
48
Mitchell, Sally. Frances Power Cobbe: Victorian Feminist, Journalist, Reformer. University of Virginia Press, 2004.
2, 220
Black and white photograph of Frances Power Cobbe in middle age. She faces forward, but looks out slightly to her right. Her expression is resolute. Her grey hair is pulled away from her face, and she wears a coat with a large fur collar, under which is visible a shirt with a stiff white collar and a silver chain.
"Frances Power Cobbe" Retrieved from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Portrait_of_Frances_Power_Cobbe.jpg. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0) Public Domain Dedication license. This work is in the public domain.

Milestones

4 December 1822
FPC was born in Dublin, the youngest of five and the only girl in her family.
Cobbe, Frances Power. Life of Frances Power Cobbe. Houghton, Mifflin, 1894.
1: 2, 26
Mitchell, Sally. Frances Power Cobbe: Victorian Feminist, Journalist, Reformer. University of Virginia Press, 2004.
11, 20, 23
December 1868
FPC published in Fraser's Magazine her signed, landmark claim for women's civil and property rights: Criminals, Idiots, Women, and Minors.
Cobbe, Frances Power. “Criminals, Idiots, Women, and Minors”. Fraser’s Magazine, pp. 777 - 94.
prelims
May 1903
FPC published her last major essay, Woman Suffrage, in the Contemporary Review. It concluded: In short, in the lump, women are better than men.
Mitchell, Sally. Frances Power Cobbe: Victorian Feminist, Journalist, Reformer. University of Virginia Press, 2004.
420
Cobbe, Frances Power. “Woman Suffrage”. Contemporary Review, pp. 653 - 60.
660
5 April 1904
FPC died at Hengwrt near Dolgelley in Wales.
Matthew, Henry Colin Gray, Brian Harrison, and Lawrence Goldman, editors. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Biography

Birth and Family

4 December 1822
FPC was born in Dublin, the youngest of five and the only girl in her family.
Cobbe, Frances Power. Life of Frances Power Cobbe. Houghton, Mifflin, 1894.
1: 2, 26
Mitchell, Sally. Frances Power Cobbe: Victorian Feminist, Journalist, Reformer. University of Virginia Press, 2004.
11, 20, 23