Monday 17 July: Jocelyn Robson on her book “Radical Reformers and Respectable Rebels: How the two lives of Grace Oakeshott defined an era” (Palgrave MacMillan, early 2016)
Something of a “narrative non-fiction” pageturner, this is about three leftwing people active in religious, social and political movements in fin de siècle South London. The local connection is that Grace Oakeshott was associated with a forerunner of South Bank University.
She improved the training of young working-class women through the first Trade School for Girls (1904) and the Women’s Industrial Council, fought for better working conditions and educational opportunities for women, and became inspector of women’s technical classes for the progressive London County Council.
Then in 1907, Grace faked her own death by drowning. Aged 35, she left a marriage and her successful professional life in England and fled with her lover, Dr Walter Reeve, to re-invent herself in the far colony of New Zealand. What prompted her to do so?
Jocelyn Robson traces her life story through the reform movements of the period. She looks at education for girls, the changing nature of marriage, and women in the early trade union movement.