Cornish woman, international welfare, suffrage and social justice campaigner

Cornish woman, international welfare, suffrage and social justice campaigner

Campaigning for a statue to Emily Hobhouse and pioneering women in Cornwall

There are no statues to named women in Cornwall. There are several plaques and memorials to women who have achieved or supported good causes but look around you and you will struggle to see a woman celebrated in a public place in the Duchy. We want to change that.

National 100 pioneers

Emily Hobhouse has been chosen to be part of a national campaign to honour 100 female pioneers.

The national campaign is organised by the Women's Local Government Society Suffrage project with supported in local government, parliament and the House of Lords.

Being included as one of our 100 pioneers will begin a campaign to see Emily Hobhouse become a household name so others can be inspired by her courage and dedication.

We want to use her inclusion in the national 100 to raise Emily Hobhouse’s profile in Cornwall and to create a permanent memorial/statue/legacy in her name.


Unlike many suffrage campaigners Emily Hobhouse chose to pioneer her cause outside the barriers of region or country. She was not afraid to speak out against populist sentiment, and endure being ignored and derided in the course of her campaigning. 

She was an inspiration for other women and men who took up the cause of peace or social justice. 

A lone woman without political or media backing to highlight the plight of people thousands of miles away in a land that was poorly understood and badly treated, is the very definition of a pioneer. 

These words have inspired me not to be afraid to speak out against injustice and change by holding up a mirror to colleagues, friends and society when the time requires it. 

As a personality Hobhouse is intriguing and complex. 

John Hall, her biographer sums her up:

“The mention of her name would bring an audience to its feet cheering and booing, and an appearance in the flesh guaranteed bouquets and missiles. No other woman was more loved and more loathed” (2010).

Join me in my campaign to see a statue of Emily Hobhouse in Cornwall. Email or Tweet me @tehm.

A bit about Emily and her amazingly brave work

Emily Hobhouse was born in St Ive in 1860, near Liskeard, Cornwall to Caroline Trelawny and Reginald Hobhouse, an Anglican rector and Archdeacon of Bodmin. She was the sister of Leonard Trelawny Hobhouse, a proponent of social liberalism and a second cousin of the British peace activist Stephen Henry Hobhouse. Her work was a major influence on him. 

Emily was educated at home and lived with her parents. After her father's death in 1895 she moved to Minnesota to perform welfare work for the Cornish mining community. She was briefly engaged to John Carr Jackson until 1898 when she lost her money in a business venture and returned to Britain. 

"I think you will agree with me that if her Gracious Majesty the Queen, to whom you have sung, were present here now, she would be heartily ashamed of her Cornish subjects." 

Emily Hobhouse's words at a rowdy Peace Meeting in Liskeard in 1900.

Political reform, peace campaigns and suffrage

Emily Hobhouse's political and social awareness began while she lived in Cornwall at a time when the Liberal politics of Leonard Courtney was shaping her world view, and vice versa.

From 1895, with other social reformers she became a major supporter of the Adult Suffrage Society which opposed the idea that only certain categories of women should be given the vote and was an early proponent of equal suffrage. 

Political reform inspired by the suffrage movement was equalled by Emily's disgust at the treatment of civilians and prisoners during the South Africa (Boer) Wars. 

From 1900, in the face of huge opposition she organised peace meetings all over Britain and in her home town of Liskeard to highlight the injustices of the war and the treatment of South Africans interred in concentration camps.

International welfare campaigns

In 1899 Emily became a leader of the South African Conciliation Committee. From 1900, Emily organised nation-wide peace meetings to speak out against social injustice, especially evidenced by mass British concentration camps during the South Africa (Boer) Wars. 

She founded the Relief Fund for South African Women and Children and made several trips to South Africa to personally supervise its distribution while continuing to campaign against Kitchener’s Scorched Earth policy. At the outbreak of the First World War she continued her pacifist stance and spoke out against its futility.

She had the courage to speak out against the populist imperialist spirit in British politics and society in October 1900 when she formed the Relief Fund for South African Women and Children, its purpose:

"To feed, clothe, harbour and save women and children - Boer, English and other - who were left destitute and ragged as a result of the destruction of property, the eviction of families or other incidents resulting from the military operations".

Except for members of the Society of Friends, very few people were willing to contribute to this fund.

Hobhouse and Millicent Fawcett

Hobhouse's campaign led the British government to establish a commission headed by Millicent Fawcett to visit South Africa to carry out an investigation into the condition in the South African camps.

While the government did not immediately take action her campaigns are widely regarded as having been major milestones in raising public consciousness of civilian victims of war. 



After her South Africa welfare missions she divided her time between Cornwall and London and died in Kensington at the age of 66 in 1926.

In 1921 the people of South Africa raised £2,300 for Hobhouse in recognition for the work she had done on their behalf—specially so she could buy a house on the coast in Cornwall where she could convalesce and retire.

She was also given honorary citizenship of South Africa and in 1913 the National Women's Monument was erected in Bloemfontein largely in her honour. Her death was ignored in her home country of Cornwall and her ashes were sent to be interred in the centre of the monument.

Tehmina Goskar, Heritage Lead.

 Women's Memorial, bloemfontein, south africa dedicated to emily hobhouse and other welfare campaigners.

Women's Memorial, bloemfontein, south africa dedicated to emily hobhouse and other welfare campaigners.