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Fawcett portrait Fawcett, Henry (1833-1884)

Henry Fawcett was a political reformer who became Postmaster-General in 1880.

As a student at Cambridge university he developed radical political ideas. Despite being accidentally blinded by a shot from his father's hunting gun aged 25, he became Professor of Political Economy at Cambridge in 1863.

Two years later he was elected Liberal MP for Brighton and immediately started to campaign for women to be allowed to vote in elections. This led to his marriage to Millicent Garrett, the 'women's suffrage' campaigner.

Fawcett took his reforming spirit with him to the position of Postmaster-General. He introduced the parcel post, postal orders, relaxed licensing to allow for payphones and trunk lines and continued moves, started in 1883, to introduce the sixpenny telegram, which made an expensive service more accessible to the general public He also used his power to start employing women medical officers.

He continued to argue for equal political rights for women and often clashed with Prime Minister Gladstone over his refusal to give women the vote.

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Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...