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A woman for all seasons – Georgiana Burne-Jones (continued)

Frederick_Hollyer_portrait_of_Georgiana_Burne-Jones_c1882Steve Williams has written an account of the political activity of the remarkable Georgiana Burne-Jones in Rottingdean, near Brighton, from her arrival there in 1880 until her death in 1920. Here Peter Willsman continues his digested summary for readers (you can read the first part here).

In the lead-up to the Boer War Georgiana declared against British military action and was a signatory of a national petition in favour of a ‘patient and pacific policy’ of negotiation. She joined the South African Conciliation Committee and was active in its Women’s section. Georgiana was dismayed when her nephew, Rudyard Kipling, who also lived in the village, became a focus for support for the war, whipping up jingoism among the locals. This manifested itself on the day peace was declared in 1902 in a protest against a custom made banner – Georgiana was an able embrioderess – hanging from her house condemning the war and its outcome. Kipling interceded to protect his aunt and the local policeman advised Georgiana to take the banner down, which she did.

Incidentally, if Georgiana was unfortunate in having to deal with Kipling’s politics, things were compounded as another nephew, Stanley Baldwin – latter Conservative prime minister – became politically active in his early years.

In later years much of Georgiana’s energies were directed at building up a village district nursing association which, like many organisations across the UK, eventually became incorporated into the NHS. Georgiana was the largest single donor of the association, acted as its secretary for many years and consistently encouraged working women to take an active role on its management so that it would become ‘self-managing, as a co-operative society of this kind ought to be’.

In April 1917 Georgiana ‘rejoiced at the Russian Revolution’, but as a pacifist she had been traumatised by the Great War – she called it ‘this hideous war’. So that when in 1920 villagers considered erecting a traditional memorial, which she feared would become a symbol of glorification of war, Georgiana proposed instead endowing a bed in a local hospital as a memorial.

Georgiana once wrote to a friend that her motivation was ‘a desire to make daily life as useful and beautiful as possible’. This sentiment was shared with Morris and Georgiana did her best to live it out in a purposeful existence.

Image credit: photograph of Georgiana Burne-Jones c1882 by Frederick Hollyer in public domain

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