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Emilia Frances Dilke (nee Strong)

Emilia Francis Dilke nee Strong (1840 - 1904) was a British art historian, feminist and involved in trade unionist activities. She attended the South Kensington Art School in London and afterwards returned to Oxford, where she had grown up, and married Mark Pattison, the Rector of Lincoln College, Oxford in 1861. In Oxford during the 1860s, Frances Pattison (she generally at that time preferred to be known by her middle name) began to develop a serious intellectual career and hosted salons. She became an expert in French cultural history and art and wrote and published many reviews and articles. She was a contributor to the Saturday Review in 1864 and subsequently fine-art critic for The Academy. In addition to many signed and unsigned essays, and her major works of art history, she published essays on French politics and on women’s trade unionism and women’s work. She was also involved with the Women’s Protective and Provident League, later the Women’s Trade Union League, from around its founding in 1874, and she served as President of the WTUL for many years until her death.

The Pattisons’ marriage was a notoriously unhappy one, and rumour had it that George Elliot modelled the characters of Mr Causubon and Dorothea in her novel Middlemarch on them. Following Mark Pattison’s death in 1884, Frances Pattison married the liberal politician Charles Dilke and was then known as Emilia Dilke. In 1886 Charles Dilke was named as co-respondent in a divorce case in which he was alleged to have seduced Virginia Crawford, wife of MP Donald Crawford. Although the suit against Dilke was dismissed with costs, nonetheless public doubts about his ‘respectability’ lingered and were exacerbated by a smear campaign against him by W.T. Stead (which Schreiner expressed her disapproval of to Stead). Schreiner’s only extant letter to Emilia Dilke dates from 1891. It takes the form of a formal letter acknowledging books sent to her by the Dilkes, but it also explicitly demonstrates her support for Dilke contra public opinion and expresses the hope that he may yet return to a prominent position in public life.

For further information see:
Betty Askwith (1969) Lady Dilke: A Biography London: Chatto & Windus
Hilary Fraser (2004) ‘Dilke , Emilia Francis, Lady Dilke (1840-1904)’ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Oxford University Press http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/32825
Kali Israel (1999) Names and Stories: Emilia Dilke and Victorian Culture Oxford: Oxford University Press
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