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An Unlikely Socialist
Henry Hyde Champion and the Women He Loved
by Sandra Burchill
Vilified as a ‘traitor’. Branded ‘a fanatical Feminist’. Praised as ‘a man of courage’.
This highly readable book examines an overlooked pioneer of British and Australian socialism and women’s suffrage, together with individual portraits of five significant women who help unravel the paradox of his life.
Born into Privilege
At first blush, Henry Hyde Champion was the very antithesis of a socialist. A descendent of Scottish nobility, his family traced their origins to Hereditary Sheriffs of the Norman Conquest. Schooled at Marlborough College, he entered the Royal Regiment of Artillery at Woolwich and, like his father before him, was commissioned into the British Army. He served in India and Afghanistan and a promising career beckoned.
On leave in England, a friend took him to see the overcrowded and squalid slums of London’s East End. He resigned his commission and became a founding member of the Social Democratic Federation. His radical activities led to the Trafalgar Square Riots and the Great London Dock Strike. Disillusioned after his wife’s death during his trial, he became a thorn in the side of radicals when he demanded the creation of a new, independent party that would work for the interests of labour.
Champion's major relationships include: marriage to a working-class woman, Juliet Bennett (Bernard Shaw’s inspirations for Eliza Doolittle); a close relationship with journalist, novelist and social reformer, Margaret Harkness; a secret affair with a married woman and children’s author, Adelaide Hogg (daughter of wealthy pioneer Alexander Lang Elder); marriage to Elsie Goldstein, sister of suffragette Vida Goldstein; and a clandestine affair with novelist, Katharine Susannah Prichard.