The first in-depth study of the lives and politics of two of the most interesting social radicals of their time. Quakers, Anna and Thomas Haslam campaigned for social reform in the late nineteenth century, and played a central role in the formation of an early Irish feminist agenda in the early twentieth century.
Anna and Thomas Haslam were born in the decade before Victoria ascended to the throne, both into Quaker families. The ethos of Quakerism was evident in all aspects of their lives. The couple married in 1854 and lived well into the twentieth century. This book is both an exploration of their lives and a history of the first forty years of feminist activism in Ireland. Thomas, an example of a Victorian polymath, wrote on birth control as early as 1868 and, in the 1870s, on prostitution and on sexual morality. He published a journal on female suffrage in 1874 and continued to write on the subject until his death in 1917 at the age of 92. Genteel Revolutionaries traces the Haslams' work for women's suffrage from their founding of the Dublin Women's Suffrage Association in 1876 to the granting of the franchise in 1918. It looks at the campaign for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts in the 1870s, a campaign regarded at the time as disgraceful because 'ladies' discussed prostitution and venereal disease, subjects they should have known nothing about. Anna was active in the movement for the education of women and was also instrumental in winning for women the right to stand as candidates in local elections. She was a member of the International Council of Women from the 1880s. The Haslams corresponded with leading English intellectuals, including John Stuart Mill, and with activists such as Marie Stopes.
Genteel Revolutionaries explores a world in which a coterie of like-minded people strove for reform in a law-abiding manner. It reveals an Ireland where people with religious and political differences worked together for a common cause and whose conservative demeanor belied their radical ideals.