Balfour, Frances (1858–1931)

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Balfour, Frances (1858–1931)

English writer and suffragist. Name variations: Lady Frances Balfour. Born in 1858; died in 1931; tenth of twelve children of the duchess of Argyll and the 8th duke of Argyll; sister of Blanche Balfour; sister-in-law ofConstance Lytton (1869–1923) and Betty Balfour; married E.J.A. Balfour (brother of philosopher and statesman Arthur J. Balfour), in 1879.

Frances Balfour was born in 1858, one of 12 children of the duke and duchess of Argyll. As a small child, Frances suffered from a hip-joint disease; throughout her life, she was in constant pain and walked with a limp. In 1879, to the displeasure of her Liberal family, she married Eustace Balfour who came from a well-known Tory family. His uncle was Lord Salisbury, a Conservative party leader and three-time prime minister; his brother was Arthur Balfour, another successful Tory politician who would be prime minister from 1902 to 1905. Though Eustace did not take an active role in politics, he and Frances constantly clashed ideologically. Frances, a devout Liberal, was a loyal supporter of William Gladstone. Their diverging views caused a rift in the marriage, and though they did not divorce, they spent less and less time together. An alcoholic, Eustace died in 1911.

In 1887, with Marie Corbett and Eva Maclaren , Frances Balfour had formed the Liberal Women's Suffrage Society; she became, notes Britain's Dictionary of National Biography, a "mistress of invective in the cause of women's suffrage." She and her sister-in-law Betty Balfour tried hard to persuade Arthur Balfour to support women's suffrage in the House of Commons. Though Arthur was supportive philosophically, he was unwilling to fight for the cause.

A fervent supporter of the Church of Scotland, Lady Frances Balfour organized the rebuilding of London's Crown Court Church; she penned several memoirs and reminiscences.

suggested reading:

Balfour, Blanche. Family Homespun. London: John Murray, 1940.

Balfour, Frances. Me Obliviscaris (autobiography). London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930.