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A tale of two Eleanors and a Kidd

6 December 2012 by Richard

Eleanor Roosevelt holds up a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

With International Human Rights Day approaching on 10 December I wanted to highlight often forgotten human rights activists, in this case Eleanor Roosevelt, Eleanor Rathbone and Ronald Kidd.

Roosevelt, a former U.S. First Lady, chaired the committee that drafted and approved the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, one of the most important and significant documents of modern times.   Some of the articles are more known than others, for instance, Article 1 declares “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights whereas Article 4 states No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.”  However, of equal importance are such articles as Nos. 16 which states that “Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses”.  Human rights abuses which the Declaration has striven to fight are still taking place today, not just in other countries, but the UK, your own town, your own street.  Young women in some communities can’t marry who they want and can suffer domestic violence as a result.  People of all ages and nationalities are held in domestic servitude, often mistreated by professionals and not everyone is born free with their rights in place. I could go on.

Furthermore, Article 24 might surprise people; “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits”.  At every opportunity I emphatically declare that museums are important conduits for various rights – human, civil and indeed cultural.  The Museums Association declares “Museums belong to everybody. They exist to serve the public. They should enhance the quality of life of everyone, both today and in the future”  Let’s hope that the current and future British government agree.

Eleanor Rathbone, of the Liverpool Rathbone family, which included William Rathbone III, a founding member, along with William Roscoe, of the Liverpool Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade was a campaigner for women’s rights and supporter of the Suffrage movement. Sherlock Holmes buffs note that Eleanor is an ancestor of, in my view the best Holmes, Basil Rathbone.  She was the first woman elected to Liverpool City Council and in the early 1930s realized the potential danger from the Nazi Party in Germany. She joined the British Non-Sectarian Anti-Nazi Council which held demonstrations and promoted an economic boycott.

In the 1930s Ronald Kidd had been appalled at the treatment of hunger marchers and Ant-Nazi campaigners by the police and so in 1934 formed Liberty (then the National Council of Civil Liberties). It attracted academics, authors, journalists, lawyers and politicians. Such was Kidd’s commitment to campaigning for human and civil rights that his epitaph read: “Passionate in his hatred of injustice, wise in judgment, fearless in action, he championed the liberties of the people in the fight that is never done”.

Three champions of human rights whose legacies live on in Human Rights Day on the 10th.

Bye for now,
Richard

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