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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Beatrice Webb

That Beatrice Webb was completely self-taught is only of passing interest. Many women born and raised in Great Britain in the 1800's missed the benefits of a formal education. But when you consider that she went on to be one of the founders of the Fabian Society, a group of socialist intellectuals that strongly influenced the Labor Party in their country, as well as one of the founders of the London School of Economics and Political Science, it becomes somewhat more apparent the degree to which Webb was an in-your-face woman. And a smart one at that.

Espousing the idea of cooperatives as a way for workers to maintain control over their own labor and the profits thereof, Webb wrote The Cooperative Movement in Great Britain in 1891 after doing extensive research on the topic. And a few years after that, she co-wrote a history of trade unionism with her husband as the first in a whole series of books they wrote together. Lest we imagine that her husband carried the weight, however, we need to note that it was Webb herself who coined the term "collective bargaining," a practice by which workers unite to more effectively negotiate with their bosses.

By 1919, she was publishing on other topics, such as Men and Women's Wages: Should They Be Equal? And as she aged, having not borne biological offspring, Webb was quoted as saying that she considered the London School of Economics and a highly successful periodical entitled The New Statesman as her symbolic children. Sometimes, an in-your-face woman socially reproduces herself as a way of leaving her mark on the future. Beatrice Webb was satisfied with that.

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