Eleanor Marx, the youngest daughter of Karl Marx, was born in London on 16th January 1855. A very intelligent child, she was mainly taught by her father and by the age of three she could recite passages by Shakespeare. Marx, who treated his daughter as a "friend and companion" could converse with her as a child in German and French as well as English. By the time Eleanor was sixteen (1871) she acted as her father's secretary, accompanying him to international conferences on socialism.
When seventeen Eleanor fell in love with a French journalist, Hippolyte Lissagaray. Although Lissagaray and Marx shared the same political views, he disapproved of the relationship because at 34, Lissagaray was twice the age of his daughter.
To emphasize her independence, Eleanor left the family home and found work as a schoolteacher in Brighton. After a year in Brighton she joined up with Hippolyte Lissagaray and helped him write the History of the Commune of 1871. Although Karl Marx liked the book enough to translate it into English, he still refused to give his approval to his daughter's relationship with Lissagaray. In 1876 Eleanor Marx became involved in the campaign for female equality when she helped a female candidate win a seat on a London School Board.
In 1880 Karl Marx now gave Eleanor permission to marry Hippolyte Lissagaray. However, Eleanor was now having doubts about the relationship and in January 1882, Eleanor terminated her long engagement with Lissagaray.
In the early 1880s Eleanor nursed her aging parents. Her mother died in December, 1881, and her father in March, 1883. Before his death, Karl Marx had given Eleanor the task of preparing his unfinished manuscripts for publication. Eleanor also had the task of dealing with the English publication of Das Kapital .
In 1884 Eleanor began involved with Edward Aveling. The two shared the same views on politics and religion and Aveling made his living from giving lectures on these subjects. As Aveling was already married, Eleanor lived with him as his common law wife.
Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling joined Hyndman's Social Democratic Federation. Eleanor became a close friend of another member of the SDF, Annie Besant. Eleanor Marx, who had a reputation as one of the best orators in England, was elected to the SDF Executive.
Eleanor disagreed with the dictatorial way H. M. Hyndman was running the SDF and in December 1884 joined with William Morris to form the Socialist League. Eleanor now openly advocated "Revolutionary International Socialism" and in 1885 helped organize the International Socialist Congress in Paris. Eleanor also made a successful speaking tour with Aveling of the United States.
In 1886 Eleanor met Clementina Black and began working with her in the Women's Trade Union League. She also helped Annie Besant in her successful Bryant & May match-girl strike. The following year Eleanor helped Will Thorne to organize the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers and in 1889 became involved in the Docker's Strike led by her close friend, Ben Tillet.
In 1880s Eleanor took a close interest in the theatre and for a time considered a career in acting. Like Elizabeth Robins, Eleanor was a strong advocate of the plays of Henrik Ibsen. Eleanor believed that the theatre could play an important role in rejecting the traditional views of love and marriage and as a means of propagating socialism.
Eleanor wrote several books and articles including The Factory Hell (1885), The Women Question (1886), The Working Class Movements in America (1888), Shelley's Socialism (1888), and the The Working Class Movement in England (1896). She also contributed many articles for Justice, the political journal edited by H. H. Champion.
In January 1898, Edward Aveling became seriously ill, and Eleanor spent many months nursing him back to health. Soon afterwards she discovered that Aveling had secretly married another woman. Unable to bear the pain of this latest betrayal, Eleanor Marx committed suicide on 31st March, 1898.