Joan B Huffman provides a compelling and meticulously-researched insight into one of the highest-ranking members of the British aristocracy to assume a leadership role in the women’s suffrage movement.
The book depicts in rich detail the life of Lady Frances Balfour, a little-known character who did a lot for British women.
With detailed accounts of Lady Balfour fighting for the rights of working women to jobs and reasonable incomes, supporting Dr Elsie Inglis in her quest to found Scottish Women’s Hospitals, and serving on various government committees, this biography attempts to set the record straight.
Lady Balfour was interested in politics from an early age but being a woman in the 19th century, she found it difficult to pursue her interests.
In 1889 she found her calling in the fight for suffrage where she was the constitutionalists’ main lobbyist with parliament.
The book follows her development as a politician and, most importantly, as a human being. Although at some points the text is a little heavy on details and dates, it flows very well for a biography of this kind and it represents a fascinating window into 19th-century Britain.
The many quotations from Lady Frances’ letters and diaries connect the reader directly with her as a person, and not merely as an abstract name on a history page.
The book’s publication comes at a timely juncture for the feminist movement in the UK, as this year marks the centenary of some women gaining access to the vote in 1918.
This well-crafted, balanced and fascinating portrait of an incredible and overlooked character from our past will appeal to readers interested in British history and particularly those with an interest in feminist history.
It also provides an opportunity for new generations to get to know more about this inspirational figure.
Lady Frances: Frances Balfour, Aristocrat and Suffragist, by Joan B Huffman, Troubador Publishing, £19.99.