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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Frances Power Cobbe

b. 1822, Dublin; d. 1904, Hengwrt, Wales

Frances Power Cobbe, feminist journalist and pioneer of animal rights activism, founded two major groups: first, in 1875, the Society for the Protection of Animals Liable to Vivisection (SPALV), the first organization to campaign against animal experiments; and second, in 1898, the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV). Both groups remain active today. She published on animal rights issues in London newspapers along with editorial columns and books on domestic violence, women’s suffrage, and property rights—including An Essay on Intuitive Morals (1855), Darwinism in Morals (1872), and The Duties of Women (1881)—establishing herself as one of the foremost protagonists for the emancipation of women. Cobbe’s article “Wife Torture in England” (1878) ensured passage of a parliamentary bill that allowed for women’s legal separation from abusive husbands. “The part of my work for women … to which I look back with most satisfaction,” she stated in her autobiography, “was that in which I laboured to obtain protection for unhappy wives, beaten, mangled, mutilated or trampled on by brutal husbands” (Cobbe, Life, p. 592).

Cobbe, Frances Power. Life of Frances Power Cobbe as Told by Herself. London: S. Sonnenschein, 1904.