Animal welfare and ‘humane education’
New roles for women
in Women against cruelty (revised edition)
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At a time when women were beginning to find opportunities for voluntary public work under the aegis of philanthropic bodies, it became possible for them to take on leading roles in the new field of animal welfare. As well as being the foremost sponsors of charities like the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association, women themselves founded the majority of animal refuges. They included the Battersea Dogs’ Home initiated by Mary Tealby, which overcame misogynistic prejudice to become a prominent state-subsidised institution – arguably by compromising its original home-making ideals. Sir Arthur Helps in Some Talk about Animals (1873) discerned the differences between male and female attitudes to animal suffering – women being much more impulsively compassionate. The book’s dedicatee, Baroness Angela Burdett-Coutts, was the most influential of all female animal advocates in the Victorian era, as leader of the newly created RSPCA ladies’ committee, as a very generous donor to animal causes, and as a frequent letter-writer to the press. The statue of a dog, ‘Greyfriars Bobby’, which she commissioned, was a celebration of canine fidelity; it invested animals with the moral faculties that justified human solicitude for them.

Women against cruelty (revised edition)

Protection of animals in nineteenth-century Britain


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