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Elizabeth Heyrick: The Making of an Anti-Slavery Campaigner (Hardback)

P&S History > Social History Women of History World History

By Jocelyn Robson
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 256
Illustrations: 32 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399068383
Published: 7th June 2024

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Elizabeth Heyrick fought fiercely for the rights of oppressed people. After a disastrous marriage, she became a prolific pamphleteer, a Quaker and one of the most outspoken anti-slavery campaigners of her time. Despite renewed contemporary interest in slavery, and in the stories of those who opposed it, female abolitionists are still much less well known than their male counterparts. Yet they were often more radical and more daring. Heyrick defied male authority and she led others in challenging William Wilberforce and his colleagues to fight for the immediate rather than the gradual abolition of slavery.

Published on the 200th anniversary of her most powerful and influential anti-slavery pamphlet, this book is the first full length biography of Elizabeth Heyrick and it sets her life in the context of the British anti-slavery movement of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. She was a woman who dared to put her head above the parapet and to call out those responsible for one of the worst abuses of human rights in history. She was courageous, loyal and uncompromising, and did not suffer fools gladly. It was not until long after her death in 1831 that her contribution to the anti-slavery cause started to be recognised and even today, she remains hidden in the shadows of the movement. Using archival records and recently unearthed family materials, as well as contemporary fiction and memoirs, the author creates a compelling account of an unsettled life set in turbulent times.

Someone who fought against slavery, challenged the leaders of the abolitionist movement for not demanding its immediate end, demanded better conditions for workers and did all this as a woman in 19th century Britain deserves to be celebrated and remembered. Especially as what she fought against -- slavery and exploitation of workers -- remain problems even in our time. Jocelyn Robson has performed a valuable service in writing this biography of Elizabeth Heyrick and it deserves a wide readership.

Eric Lee

Dr Robson’s is the first biography of Elizabeth Heyrick, one of the group of women – many like her based in provincial cities - who made an impact on the campaign for the abolition of slavery during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Making use of some hitherto unavailable family sources, it tells how Heyrick, a Quaker based in Leicester, worked determinedly to shift the movement from the Wilberforce belief in ‘gradual’ to a demand for the ‘immediate’ abolition of the inhumane institution. Her particular contribution to the success of the campaign was as a writer; in the composition of pamphlets written with an uncompromising moral force and clarity the outstanding one of which, ‘Immediate not Gradual’, is reproduced in the book. This is a substantial and valuable addition to our knowledge of the movement – and of the life and times of one of its most important activists in her provincial setting; a moving and informative read enhanced by a number of particularly interesting illustrations.

Bill Bailey, Freelance Historian

About Jocelyn Robson

Jocelyn Robson is a full-time writer who has worked in further and higher education. She has published widely in the academic press. Now she writes for general readers and focuses on true stories of women from the past, especially those who have not tried to fit the conventional mould.

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