RATHBONE, ELEANOR ° (1872–1946), British philo-semite and champion of Jewish refugees. Born to a family of wealthy and influential Unitarian shipowners in Liverpool, Rathbone was educated at Somerville College, Oxford, and became a champion of feminism and other social causes. She was an early and important advocate of family allowances–benefits paid to the wife rather than the husband–and of state pensions for widows, and was very active in the anti-colonial movement. From 1929 until her death she was an Independent Member of Parliament. Beginning in 1934, when she visited Palestine, Rathbone became probably the foremost gentile champion of Jewish refugees from Nazism in Britain, constantly raising their plight in the House of Commons, and was a determined opponent of the appeasement of Hitler. In 1942, with Victor *Gollancz and others, she was the founder and head of the National Committee for Rescue from Nazi Terror, the main British body working on behalf of rescuing Jews from the Nazis. It constantly lobbied government ministers to do more to save the lives of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe and produced a number of widely distributed pamphlets advocating plans of action. The committee met with little success, in large part because of the near impossibility of rescue from the Nazi death machine, but was very influential in arousing British public opinion on behalf of Hitler's victims.
odnb online; S. Pedersen, Eleanor Rathbone and the Politics of Conscience (2004); J. Alberti, Eleanor Rathbone (1996); M.D. Stocks, Eleanor Rathbone: A Biography (1946); W.D. Rubinstein, Great Britain, index.
[William D. Rubinstein (2nd ed.)