English feminist and social reformer. She made an extensive study of the position of widows under the poor law, and became the leading British advocate for family allowances, her campaign resulting in the passage of the Family Allowance Act (1945). A leader in the constitutional movement for female suffrage in its latter phases, Rathbone was also closely concerned with the position of women in India and other parts of the Commonwealth. From 1909 she was an independent member of Liverpool city council, working in the housing campaign between the wars. She was elected as an independent member of Parliament for the Combined English Universities 1929–46, and was vociferous in her condemnation of appeasement before World War II.
Rathbone was born in Liverpool, England, and educated at Kensington High School and Somerville College, Oxford University, where she read classics. She advocated intervention in the Spanish Civil War, and denounced Italian aggression in Ethiopia. She fought to gain the franchise for Indian women, denounced child marriage in India, and was a vigorous worker on behalf of refugees, as a result of which she became a supporter of Zionism.
Her publications include ‘The Disinherited Family’ (1924), ‘The Case for Family Allowances’ (1940), Child Marriage: The Indian Minotaur (1934), and War Can Be Averted (1937), in which she attacked appeasement of Hitler.
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