It was a period of both struggle and optimism. Emmeline Pankhurst had recently become leader of a new militant campaign for women's suffrage called the Women's Social and Political Union. In 1903, Charles Rolls, a pioneer of motoring set a new world land speed record of 93 mph, followed by a business partnership with Henry Royce, and in the same year the Wright Brothers made their first historic flight.
But perhaps most significantly for Esperantists, Ebenezer Howard, a follower of the international language, had recently announced his vision to turn the dream of 'garden cities' into reality, initially with his company's radical plans for Letchworth Garden City.
It was against this backdrop that Esperanto was gaining momentum in Britain following Dr Ludwig Zamenhof's publication of the language in 1887. In fact, it was in a Yorkshire town, Keighley, where Esperanto had its first great success. There Joseph Rhodes, a local journalist, established the first Esperanto Society in the UK, in November 1902, where he became the secretary and John Ellis the president.
In the same month, in the home of Dr J C O'Connor in London, several people met to study the new language. These included Miss E A Lawrence and a young man named Harold Bollingbroke Mudie who was later to become an enthusiastic and respected ambassador of Esperanto.
The group was the nucleus of the London Esperanto Club which was formed in January 1903 in the office of the internationally renowned journalist William Stead, chief editor of the 'Review of Reviews'. Stead not only gave financial support to the Esperanto movement but significantly raised its profile by using his professional network of contacts. Felix Moscheles, a famous artist, was made president of the club, Harold Mudie its secretary and William Stead its treasurer. It was Mudie who provided the inspiration for the club with his charisma and remarkable organisational skills. He quickly collected around him a group of talented enthusiasts who helped to promote the Esperanto language through publications and a series of talks throughout the country.
The first Esperanto/English dictionary was compiled by Mr A Motteau and Dr O'Connor produced a new language guide. In November 1903 the first British Esperanto magazine, whose editor was the active Mudie. On the cover of the first supplement there was information about groups in Bournemouth, Dublin, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Portsmouth and London. The movement rapidly expanded into every part of the country.
On 14 October 1904, to satisfy the sensed need for a strong centre for all British groups, the British Esperanto Association was formed by the invitation of the London Club. To BEA there were affiliated groups, which included some from distant parts of the British Empire and individual memberships were purchased for five shillings a year.
It employed officers, started a library and bookshop, organised examinations and distributed the monthly magazine The British Esperantist.
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