George William Foote
George William Foote was a British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 secularist and journal editor.

He was born in Plymouth
Plymouth is a city and unitary authority area on the coast of Devon, England, about south-west of London. It is built between the mouths of the rivers Plym to the east and Tamar to the west, where they join Plymouth Sound...

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 and brought up in the Anglican tradition. He moved to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in 1868, where he became involved with the secularism
Secularism is the principle of separation between government institutions and the persons mandated to represent the State from religious institutions and religious dignitaries...

, freethought
Freethought is a philosophical viewpoint that holds that opinions should be formed on the basis of science, logic, and reason, and should not be influenced by authority, tradition, or other dogmas...

 and republicanism, joining the Young Men's Secular Association, the National Secular Society
National Secular Society
The National Secular Society is a British campaigning organisation that promotes secularism and the separation of church and state. It holds that no-one should gain advantage or disadvantage because of their religion or lack of religion. It was founded by Charles Bradlaugh in 1866...

, and contributing to Charles Bradlaugh
Charles Bradlaugh
Charles Bradlaugh was a political activist and one of the most famous English atheists of the 19th century. He founded the National Secular Society in 1866.-Early life:...

's National Reformer.

In 1877 Foote joined the anti-Bradlaughites in the breakaway British Secular Union. The split was caused by several factors: Bradlaugh's alleged autocratic style; Bradlaugh's association with Annie Besant
Annie Besant
Annie Besant was a prominent British Theosophist, women's rights activist, writer and orator and supporter of Irish and Indian self rule.She was married at 19 to Frank Besant but separated from him over religious differences. She then became a prominent speaker for the National Secular Society ...

; and Bradlaugh and Besant's involvement in promoting birth control and Neo-Malthusianism. The BSU was relatively short-lived, and Foote himself was reconciled to Bradlaugh within a few years, becoming an NSS vice-president from 1882.

The Secularist, Foote's first (1876) attempt to launch his own publication, in collaboration with George Jacob Holyoake, did not last long. In May, 1881, Foote started a serial publication called The Freethinker
The Freethinker (journal)
The Freethinker is a British secular humanist magazine, founded by G.W. Foote in 1881. It is the world's oldest surviving freethought publication.It has always taken an unapologetically atheist, anti-religious stance...

 which is still published. As a result of contents of this journal, Foote was charged with blasphemy
Blasphemy is irreverence towards religious or holy persons or things. Some countries have laws to punish blasphemy, while others have laws to give recourse to those who are offended by blasphemy...

, and eventually imprisoned for one year. His description of this experience was published in 1886 as Prisoner for Blasphemy.

Once released, Foote continued to be very active promoting his ideals, writing books and pamphlets, lecturing, and debating. Foote was well-versed in literature, and had extensive knowledge of ancient and contemporary writers, and ecclesiastical history. In 1890 Foote succeeded Bradlaugh as President of the National Secular Society and remained in that role for twenty-five years.

His death was related by Chapman Cohen
Chapman Cohen
Chapman Cohen was a leading English atheist and secularist writer and lecturer.-Life:...

in The Freethinker (October 31, 1915):

When I saw him on the Friday (two days) before his death he said, "I have had another setback, but I am a curious fellow and may get all right again." But he looked the fact of death in the face with the same courage and determination that he faced Judge North many years ago. A few hours before he died he said calmly to those around him, "I am dying." And when the end came his head dropped back on the pillow, and with a quiet sigh, as of one falling to sleep, he passed away.

His works were edited by Mrs. A. D. Mclaren of the Leicester Secular Society.

External links

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