Frances Power Cobbe

Rev Dr Ann Peart, Unitarian Scholar and Vice President of the Unitarian and Free Christian churches, gave the third and final talk in our series Prophetic Voices.

Ann chose as her subject Frances Power Cobbe (1822 – 1904) a fascinating figure of the nineteenth century. Cobbe was a child of the Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, and had a priviliged background. She was an independent minded woman who wrestled with issues of faith, leaving her Anglican background and moving to a more theist approach. She met with many significant figures of the Victorian world and corresponded with more.

Frances Power Cobbe in her 70s

A determined and strong minded woman Cobbe spoke up for women’s rights, especially for the right for women to be educated in universities and colleges. She was a prolific writer and was one of the first women to write leading articles for national newspapers. She also was noteable for her advocacy for the rights of animals, and founded the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection. In 1860 she met Mary Lloyd who was to become her partner in life, and the two retired in their latter years to Hengwrt, Wales. They are buried in neighbouring graves in the village churchyard at Llanelltyd.

The conversation after Ann’s talk was wide ranging – from theism to George Eliot, from lesbianism to loneliness. We ended by asking ourselves which causes should be taken up in today’s world.

Cobbe’s life is an encouragement to speak up for the truth as we find it as individuals, even if these causes are thought, at the time, to be unusual or strange. Like the other of our prophetic voices, Bernard Mizeki and Gresham Kirkby, Cobbe was a person commited to her beliefs, even when the majority around her thought differently, and a person who had the courage to live out and proclaim what she believed.

There is an article about Cobbe here, with suggestions for further reading.


About stchrysostoms

St Chrysostom’s is an Anglican (Church of England) parish church in Manchester. We’re an inclusive, diverse and welcoming faith community where people of differing backgrounds make friends. Find our Facebook group at
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