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Beatrice Webb (1858-1943)

Born in 1858 to a wealthy businessman who firmly believed in women's rights, Beatrice grew up in a household of lively debate and intellectual curiosity. Beatrice's unusual upbringing prompted a deep interest in social questions from an early age.

She initially explored these ideas through philanthropic work with the Charity Organisation Society in London, however her findings led her to believe that poverty was not yet fully understood. Working in Lancashire and the East End of London, Beatrice developed a political narrative based on the need to find “municipal means” for curtailing capitalism’s worst effects.

Committing her life to political research and activism, Beatrice joined the Fabian Society in 1881 alongside her husband, Sidney. By the late 1890s, Beatrice had developed a solid belief in the need to permeate existing social structures in order to achieve lasting change. Her regular social events were attended by prominent politicians of the day, but she failed in persuading the Government to overhaul the Poor Law System. This failure led Beatrice to commit to the Labour party and in 1922, Sidney stood for and won the constituency of Seaham, County Durham. However, following the collapse of the Labour government in 1931, the Webbs turned their attention to the “new civilisation” of the Soviet Union and toured the USSR in May 1932.

Beatrice’s works and ideas could be said to have influenced the nationalisation programme, the health service and formed the template for the creation of the Welfare State 30 years later.

Beatrice passed away in 1943.

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