Eglantyne Jebb

Founder of the
Save the Children organisation

1876-1928

Eglantyne Jebb was a British social reformer and the founder of the Save the Children organisation. In the aftermath of WWI, there was a punishing blockade against the losing side of the conflict, and it was the children who suffered the most. This is when Eglantyne began handing out leaflets in London’s bustling Trafalgar Square with a shocking photo of two emaciated children. Eglantyne was arrested and put on trial, but the judge was so impressed with her that he offered to pay her fine. It was the first donation to the charity she went on to found, Save the Children.

Brought up in the Church of England, Eglantyne wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, asking him to donate collections. Wishing to avoid involvement with such an apparently political organisation, the Archbishop declined. Eglantyne then wrote to the Pope, who invited her for an interview. The Pope kept her for two hours and then contributed £25,000 of his personal money before promising that Catholic Churches all round the world would contribute to the Fund. The Church of England and several other faith groups then came together for an unprecedented international inter-faith collection in support of the Fund on Holy Innocents Day. Save the Children was placed firmly on the international map with sister organisations quickly appearing all over the world.

The Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which Jebb wrote, was adopted by the League of Nations in 1924. Three decades later it inspired the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, now signed by almost every country in the world.