Saturday, April 28, 2012

Dr Ethel Bentham MP - Lessons From the Titanic - Labour 1912


On Sunday evening (6th May 1912), at the weekly meeting of the Uxbridge Independent Labour Party (ILP), held at the Rockingham Hall, Uxbridge. Dr Ethel Bentham was the speaker, and took as her subject “The Titanic and its lessons.” Mr (Robert) Hudson presided over a fair attendance.

The Chairman, in his opening remarks explained that the White Star Line was owned by the Oceanic Steam Navigation Co. – an organisation which is rather more American than British and was typical of the international character of modern capitalism. He pointed out that that when Mr Pierpont Morgan took over the old company, together with several other British Lines each shareholder of £1,000 was given practically £10,000, receiving £4,000 in cash and £6,000 in stock, and the workers had to make up the additional interest on the bloated capital.

The capital of the Oceanic Company was £750,000 and the dividends last year amounted to over 30 per cent. They could imagine only too well how that money had been earned, with the wretched pay of the stokers, the under-equipment of ships, and the like. (Hear, hear.)

Dr Bentham said that the loss of the Titanic seemed to have taken hold of the public imagination and the Press had exploited the incident with extraordinarily zeal. Some of them might wonder if there would have been so much fuss made if the passenger list had comprised merely so many emigrants, instead of having such a proportion of millionaires.

She had been over these big liners, and always wondered what would happen to the steerage passengers who were placed right down in the bowels or the ship, so that their chance of escape was not one-tenth

Of that of the people who were favoured with quarters on the upper decks. These ships had also reached a pitch of abominable luxury for the well to do, which could only be compared with the worst days of decadent Rome. Was it not extraordinary that one man should be able to pay £900 for a five days’ trip, simply in order to keep himself aloof from his fellow human beings!

But the whole cause of the event was deep-rooted in our social system and presented lessons far-reaching, wherever they like to turn in studying the present state of things. Take, for instance, the fact that more money was paid in royalties upon the coal used in one ship for a single voyage that was received by the whole of the stokers for their wages in using up that coal during the voyage.

Such things would continue to happen so long as these companies remained in private hands, to be used without reference to public needs and regardless of the welfare of the people employed. The speaker felt she could not blame the officials who had to do the best for their shareholders; the blame was to be placed upon the industrial system of society, which allowed such work to be done merely for private profit, rather than in the interests of the community as a whole.

They would find similar results in every trade carried on in the same way; the miner had to risk his life with poor equipment, just as the painter might be injured for life by using a rotten ladder, or the dressmaker having her health undermined by working long hours with very insufficient food and amidst insanitary conditions. For similar reason the working classes suffered from consumption at six times the rate of other classes and died at far earlier ages and suffered more accidents. These things would continue until the people demanded the nationalisation of the railways, shipping, the mines and the land, and have these worked in the interest of the nation and not the profit alone.

Several questions were asked at the close, and the speaker thanked for her address.

Uxbridge Advertiser 11 May 1912

A Titanic Disaster benefit match was held at Harefield, Middlesex. Where the  village team met their deadly rivals in deadly conflict namely Harefield Asbestos f.c asbestos team 5th May in drizzling rain Walker, Gomm, Hatch, Phipps, Fensome, Gomm, Wiggins, Mason, Gregory (Man of the Match), Gurney and Taylor.

Dr Ethel Bentham MP (Labour - Islington East)

Dr Ethel Bentham was born at 82 King William Street, Central London on 5th January 1861 daughter manager at Standard Life Assurance.

She grew up in Dublin, Ireland and witnessed appalling poverty.

Dr Bentham attended the London School of Medicine and after qualifying retuned to Rotunda hospital in Dublin to qualify as a midwife

She entered into General Practice in London before moving to Newcastle where she entered into a GP practice with Dr Ethel Williams in a poor area of the City. living at 46 Walker Terrace, Gateshead.

In 1907 Dr Bentham fought as a Labour candidate for Westgate South ward.

Dr Bentham joined Independent Labour Party in 1902, Fabian society in 1907.

While in Newcastle Dr Bentham became active in the peaceful National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, campaigning for "Votes fo for women" .
Moving to London she was in 1909 elected a Labour Councillor in the Borough of Kensigton.

On the death of Ramasey MacDonald's wife she established (His wife had died from blood poisoning in 1911)  The Margaret MacDonald and Baby Clinic in North Kensington at 12 Telford Road, 1924 the Clinic moved to 92 Tavistock Road.

Dr Bentham was active in the Women's Labour League from 1913. She helped and carried out medical examinations for Mrs Pember Reeves (Fabian Women's group) research report "Round about a pound a week" (1913) which concerned women in Lambeth.

In the report, Pember Reeves argued for a series of government reforms including child benefit, free health clinics and the provision of school meals.

Dr Ethel Bentham became a Quaker in 1920 .

Dr Ethel Bentham then fought Islington East as a Labour candidate in 1922, 1923 and 1924,  elected in 1929 as part of the second Labour Government. She became the first women doctor to be elected to parliament first  and the first female Quaker.

Friends with Marion Phillips and Mary Longman lived at there house at 74 Lansdowne Road.

While in London lived at 61 Lansdowne Road, Holland Park

Labour MP Dr Ethel Bentham never married and dedicated her life to the poor, she died 19 January 1931, just after her 70th birthday at 110 Beaufort Street, Chelsea cremated three days later, cremated at Golders Green and internment at Jordan's.