Emily Faithfull and The Victoria Press

A co-founder of the Society for Promoting the Employment of Women vicar's daughter Emily Faithfull was inspired when Bessie Rayner Parkes learned how to print. At a time whe male printers refused to take female apprentices, and apprenticeships took seven years, she (assisted by Maria Rye) trained as a typesetter, founded the Victoria Press (at 9 Great Coram Street) with £50 from the English Woman's Journal, and quickly trained 16 (one source says 19) teenager girls to be compositors. They began printing the Journal itself, The Law Magazine and the Transactions of the National Society for the Promotion of Social Science. as well as a volume of poems and prose edited by Adelaide Procter. In June 1862 Miss Faithfull was appointed Printer and Publisher in Ordinary to Queen Victoria. She moved to new premises with a steam press in Faringdon Street in 1862, and in 1863 founded the Victoria Magazine, which included writings by some of the Langham Place Group and folded in 1880.

The Press was quite revolutionary in the way it treated its staff. There was a degree of profit-sharing, lunch breaks and a staff kitchen, housing, good light and ventilation.

The Victoria Press ceased printing the Journal in 1864 after Miss Faithfull became caught up in the sexually scandalous and highly-publicised Codrington divorce case. She had been companion to Mrs Helen Codrington ten years previously, when the latter was having extramarital affairs. When Admiral Codrington returned from the Crimea he told Emily to leave his house, threatening to have the reasons for her dismissal made public. He wrote something, sealed it in a package and entrusted it to his brother. Nobody ever discovered what it said.

In 1867 she withdrew from the press but retained the imprint, set up offices in Princes Street, then 85 Praed Street.

In 1872 she went to the USA to research women's position in society, toured the continent giving lectures and even met President Grant. On her return she wrote a book about her experiences.

In 1874 she co-founded (with Emma Paterson) the Women's Printing Society and in 1881 began the International Musical, Dramatic and Literary Association, an organisation to protect the rights of artists and composers. She also founded, edited and printed the Women and Work, which ran from 1874 to 1876. In 1879 she co-founded the Church and Stage Guild.

In 1885 she received recognition from Queen Victoria for thirty years of dedicated service to her sex, in the form of an autographed photograph of Her Majesty. Unfortunately, at that time there was no damehood or award of any type that the monarch could award to women (the same problem arose with Marianne North). Miss Faithfull later received a gift of £100 from the Royal Bounty and a Civil List pension of &poun;50 a year from 1889.

Her nephew (son of her elder sister Maria) Ferdinand Faithfull Begg MP was a supporter of women's suffrage.

Emily Faithfull is often cited as being a lesbian, though there is not a whit of evidence to support this.

This website is 'work in progress' and therefore pages may not yet be started, let alone finished.

All pages © Helena Wojtczak 2009. Corrections and additions are warmly welcomed. Email me