Monday, July 31, 2017

Octavia Hill, Victorian Social Reformer

Monday, July 31, 2017
Sargent, Octavia Hill 1898
Loretta reports:

In the course of our stay in London, we took a number of guided walks, during which I discovered dozens of interesting people, including several intrepid women.

Our Old Marylebone Walk (which propelled us to the Wallace Collection in very short order), introduced me to, among others, Octavia Hill. She was a social reformer whose work puts her in a class, I think, with Florence Nightingale. You can read a detailed biography of her here at Wikipedia, and some of her writing here.

Having written about the Ragged Schools in Dukes Prefer Blondes, I was, naturally, intrigued to learn she’d started her work by making toys for Ragged School children.  But I was more impressed by her ability to get things done. Like so many Victorian reformers, she had, apparently, a will of iron—a necessary character trait, although not necessarily one that endears a person to everybody. Still, she got things going, and by all accounts, her houses were successful.

But social housing wasn’t her only achievement. Believing that city workers should have access to green spaces, she campaigned to save several suburban woodlands from development. And while she may have been shortsighted about women’s suffrage and other social reforms, the heart of her work lives on, in the National Trust and various housing organizations, in the U.K. and the U.S.

You can read more about her here.

Image: John Singer Sargent, Octavia Hill, 1898 

Photos copyright © 2017 Walter M. Henritze III

Clicking on the image will enlarge it.  Clicking on the caption will take you to the source, where you can learn more and enlarge images as needed.


MaryJeanAdams said...

I'm no art historian, but her portrait seems unusually expressive. She's actually smiling - in a self-satisfied sort of way. Maybe artists started adding expressions by the late 1800s, but I have a few old photos from then and all my relatives look traditionally dour.

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