‘The perfect equality of all persons before the law’: the Personal Rights Association and the discourse of civil rights in Britain, 1871–1885'

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Wright, Maureen (2014)

The Personal Rights Association was established in 1871 to watch, restrain and influence legislation ‘in matters affecting the personal rights and liberties of the people’. Though initially its remit was to scrutinise legislation for terms that would be prejudicial to women, this soon extended to criticism of increasing incursions into male freedom. The PRA's membership, which comprised both sexes, included a cohort of male parliamentarians and intellectuals who took their commitment to civil liberties into the heart of government. Classified by one critic as ‘fussy busy-bodies [and] fourth-rate politicians’, this article reveals a ‘feminisation’ of these elite men hardly considered in the rhetoric of the middle-class radical.
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