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Elizabeth Robins

Elizabeth Robins books and biography

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The Magnetic North


By Elizabeth Robins
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Elizabeth Robins

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Elizabeth Robins (1862 - 1952) was an actress, playwright, novelist, and suffragist.

Contents

Early life

Robins was the first child of Charles Robins and Hannah Crow, and was born in Louisville, Kentucky. Her mother, an opera singer, was committed to an insane asylum when she was a child. Her father was a follower of Robert Owen and held progressive political views. Charles Robins sent Elizabeth to Vassar to study medicine but at eighteen she ran away to become an actress.

Acting career

In 1885, Robins married actor George Richmond Parks. Her acting career began to gain momentum and she was beginning to be in great demand. Her husband, however, struggled to get parts. On May 31st, 1887, Parks left her a note that he would stay 'in her light no longer' and that he was hers till death, then committed suicide.

In 1888 Robins travelled to London, and starred in the plays Hedda Gabler, Rosmersholm, A Doll's House, and The Master Builder. She quickly became one of the most popular actresses in London's 'West End'.

Women's rights involvement

She became a member of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, as well as the Women's Social and Political Union, and became a strong advocate of women rights.

Robins became involved in the campaign to allow women to enter the House of Lords. Her friend, Margaret Haig, was the daughter of Viscount 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 House of Lords refused to allow Robins to take her seat. Robins wrote numerous articles on the subject, but members of the House of Lords refused to change its decision. In fact, it was not until 1958 that women were first admitted to the House.

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

She collected and edited speeches, lectures, and articles dealing with the Women’s Movement, some of which had never previously appeared in print, in "Way Stations" published by Dodd, Mead and Company, New York, 1913.

Personal life

Robins was primarily lesbian. Although she rejected her father's plans to have her educated as a doctor, she retained a strong interest in medicine. In 1908 she became close friends with Octavia Wilberforce, a young woman who had a strong desire to become a doctor. When Wilberforce's father refused to pay for her studies, Robins arranged to take over the financial responsibility for the course. The two later became lovers.

Robins was a strong believer that single women should be able to adopt children. She and her partner, now Dr. Octavia Wilberforce, were granted permission to adopt and bring up a child. Their daughter, Margaret Robins, was later to become one of the leaders of the Women's Trade Union League in the United States of America. [1]

Elizabeth Robins died in Brighton in 1952.



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