Beatrice Webb: A Life

Carole Seymour-Jones, Author Ivan R. Dee Publisher $30 (383p) ISBN 978-1-56663-001-6
In her evangelical crusade for a more just society, Beatrice Webb (1858-1943) suppressed the emotional and feminine elements in her personality, as this exemplary biography reveals. A railway magnate's daugther, she renounced her sexual passion for charismatic, male-chauvinist politician Joseph Chamberlain, the great love of her life. In an act of class rebellion, she married a Cockney hairdresser's son, Sidney Webb, whom she found physically repulsive. With deep remorse, she forsook motherhood for the sake of their literary and political partnership which, according to English writer Seymour-Jones, exacted a heavy price--mental breakdown, anorexia nervosa and a hardening of her personality into a didactic, puritanical mold. The woman who laid the groundwork for the modern welfare state emerges here as a deeply conflicted person who kept a tight rein on the mystical, artistic and sexual impulses that simmered beneath her brittle facade. This demythologizing life story rescues Beatrice Webb from her husband's shadows and reverberates with implications for contemporary women. Photos. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/24/1992
Release date: 08/01/1992
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