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This article pieces together the activism of the British welfare worker and feminist-pacifist Emily Hobhouse (1860–1926) during two largely unrecorded episodes of transnational activism: firstly, her ministry of Cornish miners in Virginia, Minnesota, in the United States; and secondly, her interventions during the period of reconstruction following the South African War (1899–1902). The article endeavors to contextualize Hobhouse’s activism and offer a broader understanding of the limitations and restraints on her actions. Ultimately, her activism required a platform that was in the gift of political actors and establishment figures, and dependent on fluctuations within specific political and bureaucratic situations. Based on close inspection of undocumented material in both South African and British archives, the article investigates Hobhouse’s repertoire of missionary and philanthropic roles within a wider context of humanitarian politics. It demonstrates how women’s activism and their behind-the-scenes politicking informed political decision-making in modern imperial and international affairs.
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