Remember Eleanor Rathbone
Mother of Child Benefit
Calling Grandmothers, Great-grandmothers. On the 70th anniversary of the
first payment of Family Allowance, now Child Benefit, share your memories of
what this money meant to you by being interviewed for our Oral History Project
This year (2016) we celebrate the 70th
anniversary of the first payment of Family Allowance, now known as Child
Benefit, and commemorate Independent feminist MP Eleanor Rathbone (1872-1946)
who made it happen.
Eleanor Rathbone campaigned for decades from
1917 for greater equality of income between women and men, and a wage to be paid
directly to mothers for their work of raising children and taking care of the family. Rathbone was determined to end mothers’ and
children’s poverty and dependency.
She won the historic Family Allowance Act in
1945, the first measure of the post-war Welfare State. Mothers collected their
first payment from the post office on 6 August 1946. Family Allowance was paid
to every mother – five shillings a week for second and subsequent children.
Eleanor Rathbone was one of the most famous and
respected women of her time, and generations of mothers and children have
benefitted from Family Allowance or Child Benefit since 1946.
Yet few today know anything about Eleanor
Rathbone and how long and hard she fought to ensure that mothers’ contribution
to society was financially recognised.
Women have had to repeatedly defend their right
to this recognition of their caring work. Some may remember that in 1972 the
government tried to transfer Family Allowance to men’s pay packets
A national network coordinated by the Wages for
Housework Campaign succeeded in keeping the money in mothers’ hands. Soon after
it was paid from the first child as women had pressed for, and Eleanor Rathbone
Oral History Project
Crossroads Women, the Remembering Eleanor Rathbone
Group, and students and
staff at Parliament Hill School have teamed up to reverse the lack of
information with this Oral History Project part-funded by the Heritage Lottery
We will interview some 100 mothers – married,
single, widowed by war, UK-born, immigrant, refugee, and more, who
received Family Allowance especially in the 1940s, 50s, 60s and 70s.
We aim to find out what this money meant to
mothers, and the impact it had on their lives and the lives of their children,
families and communities. Already we know that many women called it ‘the only
money I can call my own’.
The interviews will be made widely available for
schools, community and women’s organizations, research, TV and radio
programmes, publications and the internet through a digital oral dossier,
project website, exhibition and booklet.
The findings will launched at a public meeting
in the House of Commons in Spring 2017 followed by events at Parliament Hill
School, Crossroads Women’s Centre, libraries, other community and public
spaces. All those interviewed and their
families will be welcome.
What Eleanor Rathbone said:
“Bearing and rearing children is the most essential
of all the nation's businesses. If it were not done at all, the world would
become a desert in less than a century.”
“Nothing can justify the subordination of one group of producers
– the mothers – to the rest, and their deprivation of all share of their own in
the wealth of a community which depends on them for its very existence.”
The Disinherited Family (1924)
more information or if you want to share your memories or know someone who
might, please contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org 0207 482 2496
Remembering Eleanor Rathbone,