Many of us have heard of Save The Children, which works tirelessly to protect children from abuse, provide educational opportunities and stand up for children’s rights in times of socio-economic turmoil, but how many of us knew who the founder was? Eglantyne Louisa Jebb was a local lady – Ellesmere born and bred – born into the famous Jebb Family, who all had a conscience and only wanted to make a difference in the world in their own ways.

Please note: this article is not Oswestry-related, but is still of local significance to us at Hidden Oswestry.

Born at Spoonhill House, or ‘The Lyth’, south of Ellesmere, on the 25th of August, 1876, Jebb was raised in the family home and was educated as Lady Margaret Hall, which is a part of Oxford University. Dissatisfied with her chosen subject of history, Jebb decided to train to become a primary school, graduating and spending a year teaching at a school in Marlborough.

Jebb later found that this was not something she enjoyed either, but from teaching children and getting to know her students, she fast became aware of the poverty and living conditions that her children faced. Upon moving to Cambridge, Jebb began to get stuck into assessing and writing about the living conditions that many of the citizens had to endure each day. In 1906, Jebb wrote her own book and weekly columns in the Cambridge Independent Press, which grabbed the attention of the Cambridge Borough Council, who were keen to recruit her onto their Education Committee.

Her work made her hugely popular throughout the city. In 1913, Jebb took part in a journey throughout Macedonia to study and publish her findings into the living conditions of Cambridge’s equivalents in this small country, writing for several European papers until the Great War started, forcing her to return to the U.K. Her studies found that the living conditions of children in Germany were on a par with many British children in British cities, with the Allied blockade and the postwar economic pressure plied on Germany not helping matters.

It was her wish to help the children of Germany, the now-collapsed Austro-Hungarian Empire and other war-torn nations that prompted her to establish the Save The Children Fund, so money and supplies could be found to send to these countries. The organisation was established on the 15th of April, 1919, at the Royal Albert Hall; by May 1919, enough money was raised from the British public and aid workers were dispatched to deliver it to the children of these nations.

The next missions for Jebb and her sister, Dorothy, were to found the International Save The Children Union in 1920, establish branches in the U.K. and Sweden, collect to aid children in Greece and to feed the starving children of the Soviet Union, who were suffering from the famine imposed on them due to crop shortages and corruption by the Soviet Government. Dorothy Jebb was a Quaker who was also passionate about making a difference in the world; she fought hard for the rights of German nationals living in the U.K., who faced persecution by the British Government for being German.

Another of Jebb’s influences was in the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which was adopted in 1924 by the League of Nations and re-adopted by the United Nations in 1959. This key piece of international legislation provided for the following:-

1. The child must be given the means requisite for its normal development, both materially and spiritually.

2. The child that is hungry must be fed, the child that is sick must be nursed, the child that is backward must be helped, the delinquent child must be reclaimed, and the orphan and the waif must be sheltered and succoured.

3. The child must be the first to receive relief in times of distress.

4. The child must be put in a position to earn a livelihood, and must be protected against every form of exploitation.

5. The child must be brought up in the consciousness that its talents must be devoted to the service of its fellow men.

Although Jebb worked hard to push this legislation through, this may have been what killed her. Jebb developed a thyroid problem, requiring three operations for goitre. Jebb quickly retired from public life and spent the rest of her life in a nursing home in Geneva, the town where the International Save The Children Union was, and still is, headquartered. Jebb passed away on the 17th of December, 1928, leaving no biological children of her own, but thousands of children around the globe whose lives would have been wasted if it were not for her actions.



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