The publication of a new book about suffragette Rhoda Garrett has been celebrated with a book signing at Rustington Museum.
As the country marks a hundred years since women were first given the right to vote, author Graeme Taylor, who lives in Tarring, has focused on the life of one of the most prominent speakers in the early days of the struggle by women for equal rights.
Rhoda Garrett and her cousins Millicent Fawcett, Agnes Garrett and Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, all stayed in Rustington at various times, and all would go on to play a pivotal role in the campaign for women’s rights.
Millicent became president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, Elizabeth was the first English woman to qualify as a physician and surgeon, while Agnes and Rhoda were the first women in the country to own and run their own business, as interior designers and decorators.
Rhoda and Agnes rented The Firs (now Old Orchard House), in The Street, Rustington, in 1879 where their social circle involved other notable characters including Jerusalem composer Sir Hubert Parry – who dedicated a piece of music to Rhoda – and his wife Maude, another leading suffragist, as well as Peter Pan author J. M. Barrie.
Composer Dame Ethel Smyth, who also wrote The March of the Women, which became the anthem for women’s suffrage, also dedicated a piece to Rhoda.
Rhoda died in 1882 at the age of just 41 and is buried in the churchyard of St Peter and St Paul Church, in The Street, Rustington, though her gravestone has disappeared over the years.
Graeme hopes to have a memorial placed somewhere in Rustington in the near future to honour Rhoda and Agnes.
A statue of Rhoda’s cousin Millicent Fawcett is set to be unveiled in Parliament Square next month – the first statue of a woman to be erected in the square.
The Remarkable Rhoda Garrett is published by Graeme Taylor in conjunction with Writersworld, and is produced entirely in the UK. It is available to order from most bookshops and online.
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