On this day on 8th May

On this day in 1869 Flora Murray was born. She trained at the London School of Medicine for Women and finished her course at Durham. She then worked in Scotland before returning to London in 1905. She was a medical officer at the Belgrave Hospital for Children and then anaesthetist at the Chelsea Hospital for Women.

In November 1908 she signed a petition sponsored by the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. Soon afterwards she joined the Women Social & Political Union. It has been argued by Rebecca Jennings, the author of A Lesbian History of Britain (2007), that Murray was a lesbian and lived for many years with Elsie Inglis.

In 1909 she stood surety for Marion Wallace-Dunlop. She attended several demonstrations where along with her great friend, Louisa Garrett Anderson, she helped treat those members of WSPU who were injured. She was also involved with Anderson and Catherine Pine in running the Notting Hill nursing home that WSPU members went to while recovering from hunger strikes. In 1912 the two women established the Women's Hospital for Children in the Harrow Road.

On 4th August, 1914, England declared war on Germany. Two days later the NUWSS announced that it was suspending all political activity until the war was over. The leadership of the WSPU began negotiating with the British government. On the 10th August the government announced it was releasing all suffragettes from prison. In return, the WSPU agreed to end their militant activities and help the war effort.

During the First World War a group of wealthy suffragettes, including Janie Allan, decided to fund the Women's Hospital Corps. Murray joined forces with Louisa Garrett Anderson to run a hospital in Claridge Hotel in Paris. Fellow WSPU member, Evelyn Sharp, who visited them in France, remarked: "It was in a way a triumph for the militant movement that these two doctors, who had been prominent members of the W.S.P.U., were the first to break down the prejudice of the British War Office against accepting the services of women surgeons." In February 1915 Anderson and Murray took charge of the Endell Street Military Hospital in London. Anderson was chief surgeon and the hospital treated 26,000 patients before it closed in 1919.

Flora Murray never married and was the constant companion of Louisa Garrett Anderson until her death from rectal carcinoma in 1923. She was buried in the churchyard at Holy Trinity Church near to her home in Penn, Buckinghamshire.

Flora Murray
Flora Murray

On this day in 1884 Harry S. Truman, to son of a farmer, was born in Lamar, Missouri. After an education in Independence, he farmed on his parents' land. In 1917, soon after the United States entered the First World War, he enlisted in the army. Truman served on the Western Front and achieved the rank of captain.

On returning from the war Truman ran an unsuccessful haberdashery before studying law in Kansas City. Truman became active in local politics. A great admirer of Woodrow Wilson, Truman joined the Democratic Party and in 1922 was elected county judge (1922-24). This was followed by eight years as presiding judge, a post he held until being elected to the Senate in 1934.

Truman loyally supported Franklin D. Roosevelt and his New Deal policies, and in 1944 he was asked to replace Henry Wallace as his vice president. Truman only served 82 days as vice president when Roosevelt died on 12th April, 1945. In his first address to Congress he promised to continue Roosevelt's policies. In July he attended the Potsdam Conference and in August authorized the dropping of the atom bomb on Hiroshima.

Henry Wallace, Secretary of Commerce, favoured co-operation with the Soviet Union. In private he disagreed with Truman about what he considered to be an aggressive foreign policy. Wallace went public about his fears at a meeting in New York City in September, 1946. As a result, Truman sacked Wallace from his administration.

On 12th March, 1947, Truman announced details to Congress of what eventually became known as the Truman Doctrine. In his speech he pledged American support for "free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures". This was followed by the Marshall Plan, a proposal to offer American financial aid for a programme of European economic recovery.

Truman showed a stronger interest in civil rights than previous presidents. He was a proud defender of the Fair Employment Act that he had instigated during the war to prevent discrimination against African Americans, Jews and other minority groups. A supporter of the Wagner Act, he opposed the Taft-Hartley Bill which limited labour action, claiming it was bad for industry and workers alike. When Congress passed it he denounced it as a "slave-labor bill".

At the Democratic National Convention of 1948, Storm Thurmond led the opposition to Truman and his Fair Deal proposals that included legislation on civil rights, fair employment practices, opposition to lynching and improvements in existing public welfare laws. When Truman won the nomination, Southern Democrats formed the States' Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrats) and Thurmond was chosen as its presidential candidate.

It was thought that with two former Democrats, Strom Thurmond and Henry Wallace standing, Truman would have difficulty defeating the Republican Party candidate, Thomas Dewey. However, both Thurmond and Wallace did badly and Truman defeated Dewey by 24,105,812 votes to 21,970,065.

Truman had difficulty getting Congress to pass his Fair Deal program and most of these measures were not enacted during his term in office. He was criticised for not doing more to halt the activities of Joe McCarthy. After losing power, Truman described McCarthyism as: "The use of the big lie and the unfounded accusation against any citizen in the name of Americanism or security. It is the rise to power of the demagogue who lives on untruth; it is the spreading of fear and the destruction of faith in every level of society."

In 1950 group of Conservative senators, including Pat McCarran, John Wood, Karl Mundt and Richard Nixon sponsored a measure to deal with members of the Communist Party. Truman opposed the measure arguing that it "would betray our finest traditions" as it attempted to "curb the simple expression of opinion". He went on to argue that the "stifling of the free expression of opinion is a long step toward totalitarianism." Congress overrode Truman's veto by large margins: House of Representatives (248-48) and the Senate (57-10) and the Internal Security Act became law in 1950.

On 25th June, 1950, communist forces in North Korea invaded the Republic of South Korea, crossing the 38th parallel at several points. Harry S. Truman immediately announced that he would use American forces for the defence of South Korea.

Truman upset conservative forces in the United States when he took the side of Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State, in his dispute with General Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War. Acheson and Truman wanted to limit the war to Korea whereas MacArthur called for the extension of the war to China. Joe McCarthy once again led the attack on the administration: "With half a million Communists in Korea killing American men, Acheson says, 'Now let's be calm, let's do nothing'. It is like advising a man whose family is being killed not to take hasty action for fear he might alienate the affection of the murders."

In April 1951, Truman removed General Douglas MacArthur from his command of the United Nations forces in Korea. McCarthy called for Truman to be impeached and suggested that the president was drunk when he made the decision to fire MacArthur: "Truman is surrounded by the Jessups, the Achesons, the old Hiss crowd. Most of the tragic things are done at 1.30 and 2 o'clock in the morning when they've had time to get the President cheerful."

Dean Acheson was the main target of McCarthy's anger as he believed Truman was "essentially just as loyal as the average American". However, Truman was president "in name only because the Acheson group has almost hypnotic powers over him. We must impeach Acheson, the heart of the octopus."

In 1952 Truman decided not to stand again and retired to private life, publishing two volumes of Memoirs in 1955 and 1956.

Harry S. Truman died on 26th December, 1972.

Harry S. Truman
Harry S. Truman

On this day in 1928 Theodore (Ted) Sorensen, the son of a Danish father and a Russian-Jewish mother, was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. He studied at the University of Nebraska where he graduated first in the class in 1949. He took a keen interest in politics and as a young man he had been influenced by the career of George Norris.

Sorensen developed left-wing political views and was member of the Americans for Democratic Action. He then went on to obtain a law degree from Nebraska's College of Law. Sorensen moved to Washington where he was an attorney with the Federal Security Agency (1951-53).

Sorensen did some Senate committee staff work for Paul H. Douglas of Illinois. Douglas introduced Sorensen to the recently elected John F. Kennedy. Another colleague, Pierre Salinger claimed: "They hit it off magnificently. Sorensen not only had strong social convictions echoing those of the young senator, but a genius for translating them into eloquent and persuasive language." According to Godfrey Hodgson: "He worked very closely for eight years with Kennedy, travelled with him, shared his political aims and ambitions and acquired a deep and instinctive understanding of Kennedy's sometimes idiosyncratic political philosophy."

In 1956, Kennedy won a Pulitzer Prize for his book, Profiles in Courage. Rumours began to circulate that the book had actually been written by Sorensen. The following year, the investigative journalist, Drew Pearson, wrote: "Jack Kennedy is the only man in history that I know who won a Pulitzer prize on a book which was ghostwritten for him." Kennedy fiercely denied it, and Sorensen signed an affidavit confirming Kennedy's story that the book was all his own work. Kennedy later offered, and Sorensen accepted, a substantial sum as his share in the proceeds of the book.

In 1960 John F. Kennedy appointed Sorensen as his chief speechwriter. He is believed to have been the main contributor to Kennedy's inaugural address. Richard J. Tofel of the Wall Street Journal did a detailed analysis of the speech and has argued that Kennedy was responsible for no more than 14 of the speech's 51 sentences, and that "if we must identify one man as the author of that speech, that man must surely be not John Kennedy but Theodore Sorensen."

Sorenson, who was officially Kennedy's special counsel, wrote a large number of Kennedy's speeches. He was also the coordinator of planning for domestic policy and had a key role in formulating Kennedy's recommendations to Congress. Sorensen was also a member of the executive committee that Kennedy set up to advise him during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. Later Sorensen claimed that the work of which he was most proud was his contribution to the messages the president sent to the Soviet leader, Nikita Khrushchev, during the crisis. He was also the author of Decision Making in the White House (1963)

The assassination of John F. Kennedy was according to Sorensen "the most deeply traumatic experience of my life." He immediately sent a letter of resignation to President Lyndon Johnson but was persuaded to stay on as his speechwriter. Sorensen eventually left in February 1964.

Sorensen joined the New York City law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, and wrote several books, including Kennedy (1965) and The Kennedy Legacy (1969). He was also one of the key political advisers to Robert Kennedy in his bid for the presidency in 1968. He also helped Edward Kennedy with his speech following the death of Mary Jo Kopechne.

In 1977 President Jimmy Carter nominated Sorensen as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Carter withdrew the nomination after he discovered that the Senate had grave doubts about his suitability for the job. This was because of his past membership of the Americans for Democratic Action and his registration as a conscientious objector in 1946.

Other books by Ted Sorensen included Watchmen in the Night: Presidential Accountability After Watergate (1975), Different Kind of Presidency: A Proposal for Breaking the Political Deadlock (1984), Let the Word Go Forth: The Speeches, Statements, and Writings of John F. Kennedy (1988), The Kennedy Legacy: A Peaceful Revolution for the Future (1993), Why I Am a Democrat (1996) and Leaders of Our Time: Kennedy (1999). His autobiography, Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History was published in 2008.

Ted Sorensen died on 31st October, 2010.

Ted Sorensen
Ted Sorensen

On this day in 1939 Duke of Windsor made a radio broadcast in Paris condemning Neville Chamberlain for introducing conscription. "I speak for no one but myself and without the previous knowledge of any government. I speak simply as a soldier of the last war whose most earnest prayer is that such cruel and destructive madness shall never again overtake mankind. I break my self-imposed silence now only because of the manifest danger that we may all be drawing nearer a repetition of the grim events which happened a quarter of a century ago. You and I know that Peace is a matter far too vital for our happiness to be treated as a political question. We also know that in modern warfare victory will only lie with the powers of evil."

Over 400,000,000 people heard the broadcast and was much discussed in the rest of the world. However, it has remained entirely unknown in Britain as it was banned by the BBC on the orders of Chamberlain. The Duke of Windsor used his contacts in the American broadcasting network and the speech was leaked to journalists all over the world. However, it remained banned in Britain. The way this information was suppressed indicated the way censorship would work during the Second World War.

Wallis Simpson and Duke of Windsor meet Adolf Hitler in October 1937.
Wallis Simpson and Duke of Windsor meet Adolf Hitler in October 1937.

On this day in 1943 Mordechai Anielewicz is murdered at Treblinka. Mordecai Anielewicz was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1919. After finishing secondary school Anielewicz joined the Zionist movement and became a full-time organizer of the movement. When the German Army invaded Poland in September 1939, Anielewicz managed to escape to Romania.

In October 1939, the Schutz Staffeinel (SS) began to deport Jews living in Austria and Czechoslovakia to ghettos in Poland. Transported in locked passenger trains, large numbers died on the journey. Those that survived the journey were told by Adolf Eichmann, the head of the Gestapo's Department of Jewish Affairs: "There are no apartments and no houses - if you build your homes you will have a roof over your head."

In Warsaw all 22 entrances to the ghetto were sealed. The German authorities allowed a Jewish Council (Judenrat) of 24 men to form its own police to maintain order in the ghetto. The Judenrat was also responsible for organizing the labour battalions demanded by the German authorities. Conditions in the Warsaw ghetto were so bad that between 1940 and 1942 an estimated 100,000 Jews died of starvation and disease in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Anielewicz returned to Warsaw where he attempted to organize resistance to the Nazi occupation and in November 1942 was elected as chief commander of the Jewish Fighter Organization in the ghetto.

Between 22nd July and 3rd October 1942, 310,322 Jews were deported from the Warsaw ghetto to extermination camps. Information got back to the ghetto what was happening to those people and it was decided to resist any further attempts at deportation. In January 1943, Heinrich Himmler gave instructions for Warsaw to be "Jew free" by Hitler's birthday on 20th April.

Anielewicz now played a prominent role in organizing resistance in Warsaw. On 19th April 1943, the Waffen SS entered the ghetto. Although though only had two machine-guns, fifteen rifles and 500 pistols, the Jews opened fire on the soldiers. They also attacked them with grenades and petrol bombs. The Germans took heavy casualties on the first day and the Warsaw military commander, Brigadier-General Jürgen Stroop, ordered his men to retreat. He then gave instructions for all the buildings in the ghetto to be set on fire.

As people fled from the fires they were rounded up and deported to the extermination camp at Treblinka. The ghetto fighters continued the battle from the cellars and attics of Warsaw. On 8th May the Germans began using poison gas on the insurgents in the last fortified bunker. About a hundred men and women escaped into the sewers but the rest were killed by the gas, including Mordechai Anielewicz.

Mordechai Anielewicz
Mordechai Anielewicz

On this day in 1945 Bernhard Rust commits suicide when it was clear that Germany had lost the war. Bernhard Rust was born in Hannover, Germany, on 30th September, 1883. After studying philosophy, philology, art history and music at Munich, Göttingen, Berlin and Halle, he became a secondary schoolteacher in his home town.

Rust joined the German Army in the First World War and won the Iron Cross for bravery. He reached the rank of lieutenant before he received a bad head wound that it was later claimed affected his mental stability.

In 1922 Rust joined the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP). He made good progress in the party and in 1925 was appointed Gauleiter of Hanover-Braunschweig. Rust lost his job as a schoolteacher in 1930 after being accused of having a sexual relationship with a student. He was not charged with the offence because of his "instability of mind". However, this did not stop him being elected to the Reichstag later that year.

When Adolf Hitler gained power in 1933 he appointed Rust as Minister of Science, Art, and Education for Prussia. In a speech he made on 6th November, 1933, Adolf Hitler, announced what he intended to do with the education system: "When an opponent declares I will not come over to your side. I calmly say, Your child belongs to us already. What are you? You will pass on. Your descendants, however, now stand in the new camp. In a short time they will know nothing else but this new community."

In 1934 he was promoted to the post of Education Minister for the Reich. Rust's task was to change the education system so that resistance to fascist ideas were kept to a minimum. Teachers who were known to be critical of the Nazi Party were dismissed and the rest were sent away to be trained in National Socialist principles. As a further precaution schools could only use textbooks that have been approved by the party. On one occasion he remarked that "the whole function of education is to create Nazis."

Rust introduced a Nazi National Curriculum. Considerable emphasis was placed on physical training. Boxing was made compulsory in upper schools and PT became an examination subject for grammar-school entry as well as for the school-leaving certificate. Persistently unsatisfactory performance at PT constituted grounds for expulsion from school and for debarment from further studies. In 1936 timetable allocation of PT periods was increased from two to three. Two years later it was increased to five periods. All teachers below the age of fifty were pressed into compulsory PT courses.

Other subjects to be upgraded were history, biology and German. The importance of biology was derived from the special emphasis the regime placed on race and heredity. Pupils were trained to measure their skulls and to classify each other's racial types. There were also courses on the origins of the Nazi Party and racial science. The amount of time on religious instruction was reduced and it ceased to be a subject for school-leaving examinations and attendance at school prayers was made optional. Prayers written by Baldur von Schirach, the head of the Hitler Youth, that praised Adolf Hitler, were introduced and had to be said before eating school meals.

Bernhard Rust wrote in Education in the Third Reich (1938): "The systematic reform of Germany's education system was started immediately after the coming into power of National Socialism. If these far-reaching changes were to materialize, teachers had first to be made capable of introducing them. Numerous courses, camps and working communities have been arranged to provide the necessary instruction, which includes the teaching of the philosophy of National Socialism in addition to the strictly educational subjects."

Richard Grunberger, the author of A Social History of the Third Reich (1971), has argued: "The profession's gradual loss of public esteem after 1933 was related to the anti-intellectual mood engendered by the Nazis' transformation of all traditional values. Teachers and priests tended to be the only members of village communities with educational qualifications above elementary or trade-school level - i.e. the only ones accustomed to conceptual thinking. Nazi egalitarianism - we think with our blood - encompassed a pseudo-revolution across a wide segment of rural society by inflating the self-esteem of villagers, while simultaneously lowering that of teachers."

One of the most important changes made by Bernhard Rust was the establishment of élite schools called Nationalpolitische Erziehungsanstalten (Napolas). Selection for entry included racial origins, physical fitness and membership of the Hitler Youth. These schools, run by the Schutzstaffel (SS), had the task of training the next generation of high-ranking people in the Nazi Party and the German Army. The syllabus was that of ordinary grammar schools with political inculcation in place of religious instruction and a tremendous emphasis on such sports as boxing, war games, rowing, sailing, gliding, shooting and riding motor-cycles. Only two out of the thirty-nine Napolas constructed over the next few years catered for girls.

After leaving school at the age of eighteen students joined the German Labour Service where they worked for the government for six months. Some young people then went on to university. Bernhard Rust claimed that the new education system would benefit the children of the working-class that made up 45 per cent of Germany's population. This promise was never fulfilled and after six years in office, only 3 per cent of university students came from working-class backgrounds. This was the same percentage as it was before Adolf Hitler came to power.

One of the major problems for schools in Nazi Germany was attendance. School authorities were instructed to grant pupils leave of absence to enable them to attend Hitler Youth courses. In one study of a school in Westphalia with 870 pupils showed that 23,000 school days were lost because of extra-mural activities during one academic year. This eventually had an impact on educational achievement. On 16th January, 1937, Colonel Hilpert of the German Army complained in Frankfurter Zeitung, that: "Our youth starts off with perfectly correct principles in the physical sphere of education, but frequently refuses to extend this to the mental sphere... Many of the candidates applying for commissions display a simply inconceivable lack of elementary knowledge."

By 1938 it was reported that there was a problem recruiting teachers. It was claimed that one teaching post in twelve was unfilled and Germany had 17,000 less teachers than it had before Adolf Hitler came to power. The main reason for this was the fall in teacher's pay. Entrants to the profession were offered a starting salary of 2,000 marks per annum. After deductions, this worked out at approximately 140 marks per month, or twenty marks more than was earned by the average lower-paid worker. The government tried to overcome this problem by introducing low-paid unqualified auxiliaries into schools.

Bernhard Rust also purged the universities of Jews and those with left-wing views. Over a thousand people lost their jobs including Albert Einstein, James Franck, Fritz Haber and Otto Meyerhof. Rust justified his actions by claiming that: "We must have a new Aryan generation at the universities, or else we will lose the future."

Bernhard Rust
Bernhard Rust

On this day in 1952 Elizabeth Robins died at 24 Montpelier Crescent, Brighton. Elizabeth Robins, the first child of Charles Ephraim Robins (1832–1893) and Hannah Maria Crow (1836–1901), was born in Louisville, Kentucky on 6th August, 1862. Elizabeth's mother, an opera singer, was committed to an insane asylum when she was a child. Her father was an insurance broker and banker. He was also a follower of Robert Owen and held progressive political views. Robins sent Elizabeth to Vassar College to study medicine but at eighteen she ran away to become an actress.

In 1885, Elizabeth Robins married the actor, George Richmond Parks. Whereas Elizabeth was in great demand, George struggled to get parts. On 31st May 1887, he wrote Elizabeth a note saying that "I will not stand in your light any longer" and signed it "Yours in death". That night he committed suicide by jumped into the Charles River wearing a suit of theatrical armour.

In 1888 Elizabeth travelled to London where she introduced British audiences to the work of Henrik Ibsen. Elizabeth produced and acted in several plays written by Ibsen including Hedda in Hedda Gabler, Rebecca West in Rosmersholm, Nora in A Doll's House and Hilda Wangel in The Master Builder. These plays were a great success and for the next few years Elizabeth Robins was one of the most popular actresses on the West End stage.

In 1898 Robins joined with her lover, William Archer, to form the New Century Theatre to sponsor non-profit productions of Ibsen. The company produced several plays including John Gabriel Borkman and Peer Gynt. After one production, the actress, Beatrice Patrick Campbell called her performance in "the most intellectually comprehensive piece of work I had seen on the English stage". According to her biographer, Angela V. John: "In the 1890s her incipient feminism had been fuelled by witnessing the exploitation of actresses by actor–managers and by Ibsen's depiction of strong-minded women."

1898 saw the publication of Robins' popular novel The Open Question. In 1900 Elizabeth travelled to Alaska in an attempt to find her brother, Raymond Robins, who had gone missing while on an expedition. Later she wrote about her experiences in Alaska in the novels, Magnetic North (1904) and Come and Find Me (1908).

Raymond returned to the United States and became an important figure in the social reform movement. He was a member of the Hull House settlement in Chicago and served on the national committee of the Progressive Party. In 1905 he married Margaret Dreier, who was later to become president of the Women's Trade Union League (WTUL).

Elizabeth was a strong feminist and initially had been a member of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies. However, disillusioned by the organisation's lack of success, she joined the Women's Social and Political Union. Soon afterwards Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence commissioned Elizabeth to write a series of articles for her journal Votes for Women. She also asked her to write a play on the subject.

Evelyn Sharp saw Elizabeth Robins make a speech on women's suffrage in Tunbridge Wells in 1906: "The impression she made was profound, even on an audience predisposed to be hostile; and on me it was disastrous. From that moment I was not to know again for twelve years, if indeed ever again, what it meant to cease from mental strife; and I soon came to see with a horrible clarity why I had always hitherto shunned causes."

In 1908 two members of the Women's Social and Political Union, Bessie Hatton and Cicely Hamilton formed the Women Writers Suffrage League. Later that year the women formed the sister organisation, the Actresses' Franchise League. Elizabeth Robins became involved in both organisations. So also did the militant suffragette, Kitty Marion. Other actresses who joined included Winifred Mayo, Sime Seruya, Edith Craig, Inez Bensusan, Ellen Terry, Lillah McCarthy, Sybil Thorndike, Vera Holme, Lena Ashwell, Christabel Marshall, Lily Langtry and Nina Boucicault.

Inez Bensusan oversaw the writing, collection and publication of Actresses' Franchise League plays. Pro-suffragette plays written by members of the Women Writers Suffrage League and performed by the AFL included the play Votes for Women by Elizabeth Robins and was performed by suffragists all over Britain. Robins also used the same story and characters for her novel The Convert. Both of these works of art deal with how men sexually exploit women. The heroine in the story, Vida Levering, a militant suffragette, rejects men because in the past, a lover, Geoffrey Stoner, a Conservative MP, forced her into having an abortion because he feared he would lose his inheritance. The heroine was initially named Christian Levering and was based on Elizabeth's close friend, Christabel Pankhurst. When Emmeline Pankhurst raised fears about what the play might do to Christabel's reputation, Elizabeth agreed to change the name to Vida. Elizabeth Robins, like her heroine in the play and novel, turned down offers of marriage from many men, including the playwright, George Bernard Shaw and the publisher William Heinemann.

In 1907 Elizabeth Robins became a committee member of the WSPU. In July 1909, she met Octavia Wilberforce. Octavia later recalled: "It was a turning point in my life… I had always read omnivorously and longed to write myself, and to meet so distinguished an author in the flesh was a terrific adventure. It was a small family luncheon at Phyllis Buxton's house. Elizabeth Robins was dressed in a blue suit, the colour of speedwell, which matched her beautiful deep-set eyes. I was introduced as Phyllis's friend who lives near Henfield... Elizabeth Robins.... with a charming grace and in an unforgettable voice asked me if I would come to tea one day and she would show me her modest little garden." The two women became lovers.

When the British government introduced the Cat and Mouse Act in 1913, Robins used her 15th century farmhouse at Backsettown, near Henfield, that she shared with Octavia Wilberforce, as a retreat for suffragettes recovering from hunger strike. It was also rumoured that the house was used as a hiding place for suffragettes on the run from the police.

Elizabeth wrote a large number of speeches defending militant suffragettes between 1906 and 1912 (a selection of these can by found her book Way Stations). However, Elizabeth herself never took part in these activities and so never experienced arrest or imprisonment. Emmeline Pankhurst told her it was more important that she remained free so that she could use her skills as a writer to support the suffragettes. It was also pointed out that as Elizabeth was not a British citizen she faced the possibility of being deported if she was arrested. Elizabeth once told a friend that she would "rather die than face prison."

Like many members of the WSPU, Elizabeth Robins objected to Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst's dictatorial style of running the organisation. Elizabeth also disapproved of the decision in the summer of 1912 to start the arson campaign. When the Pankhursts refused to reconsider this decision, Robins resigned from the WSPU.

In 1908 Elizabeth became great friends with Octavia Wilberforce, a young woman who had a strong desire to become a doctor. When Octavia's father refused to pay for her studies, Elizabeth arranged to take over the financial responsibility for the course.

After women gained the vote, Robins took a growing interest in women's health care. Robins had been involved in raising funds for the Lady Chichester Hospital for Women & Children in Brighton since 1912. After the First World War Robins joined Louisa Martindale in her campaign for a much more ambitious project, a fifty-bed hospital run by women for women. Elizabeth persuaded many of her wealthy friends to give money and eventually the New Sussex Hospital for Women was opened in Brighton.

Elizabeth Robins also became involved in the campaign to allow women to enter the House of Lords. Elizabeth's friend, Margaret Haig, was the daughter of Lord Rhondda. He was a supporter of women's rights and in his will made arrangements for her to inherit his title. However, when he died in 1918, the Lords refused to allow Viscountess Rhondda to take her seat. Robins wrote numerous articles on the subject, but it was not until 1958, long after Viscountess Haig's death, that women were first admitted to the House of Lords.

Robins remained an active feminist throughout her life. In the 1920s she was a regular contributor to the feminist magazine, Time and Tide. Elizabeth also continued to write books such as Ancilla's Share: An Indictment of Sex Antagonism that explored the issues of sexual inequality.

Elizabeth Robins joined Octavia Wilberforce and Louisa Martindale in their campaign for a new fifty-bed, women's hospital in Brighton. After the New Sussex Hospital for Women in Brighton opened, Octavia became one of the three visiting doctors. Later she was appointed as the hospital's head physician.

In 1927 Octavia Wilberforce helped Elizabeth Robins and Marjorie Hubert set up a convalescent home at Backsettown, for overworked professional women. Wilberforce used the convalescent home as a means of exploring the best way of helping people to become fit and healthy. Patients were instructed not to talk about illness. Octavia believed diet was very important and patients were fed on locally produced fresh food. Whenever possible, patients were encouraged to eat their meals in the garden.

During the Second World War Elizabeth Robins went back to the United States. However, at the age of eighty-eight, she returned to live with Octavia Wilberforce at her home at 24 Montpelier Crescent in Brighton.

One of her regular visitors was Leonard Woolf. He recalled in his autobiography, The Journey Not the Arrival Matters (1969): "Elizabeth was, I think, devoted to Octavia, but she was also devoted to Elizabeth Robins; when we first knew her, she was already a elderly woman and a dedicated egoist, but she was still a fascinating as well as an exasperating egoist. When young she must have been beautiful, very vivacious, a gleam of genius with that indescribably female charm which made her invincible to all men and most women. One felt all this still lingering in her as one sometimes feels the beauty of summer still lingering in an autumn garden. After the war, when she returned from Florida to Brighton, a very old frail woman, she used every so often to ask me to come and see her in bed, surrounded by boxes full of letters, cuttings, memoranda, and snippets of every sort and kind. In stamina I am myself inclined to be invincible, indefatigable, and imperishable, and I was nearly twenty years younger than Elizabeth, but after two or three hours' conversation with her in Montpelier Crescent, I have often staggered out of the house shaky, drained, and debilitated as if I had just recovered from a severe attack on influenza."

Elizabeth Robins (c. 1890)
Elizabeth Robins (c. 1890)