Eliza Orme’s Ambitions: Politics and the Law in Victorian London

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Eliza Orme, History of British women in higher education, Women's suffrage, Victorian and Edwardian ages, Legal community, Women's professional lives


Why are some figures hidden from history? Eliza Orme, despite becoming the first woman in Britain to earn a university degree in Law in 1888, leading both a political organization and a labour investigation in 1892, and participating actively in the women’s suffrage movement into the early twentieth century, is one such figure.

Framed as a ‘research memoir’, Eliza Orme’s Ambitions fills out earlier scant accounts of this intriguing life, while speculating about why it has been overlooked. Established historian Leslie Howsam shapes the story around her own persistent curiosity in the context of a transformed research landscape, where important letters and explosive newspaper accounts have only recently come to light. These materials show how Orme’s career ambitions brought her into conflict with the male-dominated legal community of her time, while her political ambitions were cut short by disputes with other women activists whose notions of political strategy she repudiated. In public, Orme was a formidable debater for the causes she supported and against opponents whose strategies—even for women’s suffrage—she repudiated. In private, she was generous, warm, and witty, close to friends, family, and her female partner. Howsam’s account of uncovering Orme’s professional and personal trajectory will appeal to academic and non-academic readers interested in the progress and setbacks women experienced in the late-Victorian and Edwardian decades.



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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.