Celebrating Women's Suffrage

Rt. Hon Margaret Bondfield - a Labour politician, Trades Unionist

and women's rights activist.

She was the first female Cabinet Minister, first privy Councillor and first female Minister of Labour in the government of          1929 - 31. She campaigned tirelessly all her life to better the lives of working women and families.

She became an active member of the Shopworkers Union, campaigned for universal adult suffrage for both men and women and the right of women to become MPs

She worked for the Women's Co-operative Guild on maternity and child welfare and joined the 'War Against Poverty' campaign looking at women's working conditions, the minimum wage rates, infant mortality, child welfare . She assisted in education and training programmes. She fought for the unionisation of women and campaigned for equal pay with men for women for equal work.

After the second World War in 1918 women over 30 with property or educational qualifications, were given the vote.

In 1918 she was the first woman to be elected to the General Council of the TUC.

Between 1920 and 1922 she stood in a by election and general election in Northampton but lost, even with the help of George Bernard Shaw. She stood again in 1923 and, third time lucky, she  won and became the first Labour MP for Northampton and one of only three in the country.

In an outburst of local celebration her supporters, who she described as 'nearly crazy with joy' paraded her around the town in a charabanc.

She lost her seat in Northampton but remained a Labour MP until 1931.

During the Second World War she worked on solutions for inner-city poverty suggesting  nursery education, a minimum wage, child allowances and a national health service and launched a drive for more women police officers.

Rt. Hon Margaret Bondfield was truly  a remarkable woman.  It is unbelievable that 100 years later, we still campaign on many of the issues she fought for. She was to be followed by only two other women MPs in Northampton  - Maureen Colquhoun from 1974 -79 and Sally Keeble from 1997- 2010, both Labour MPs.

As the 1918 centenary  of the start of universal suffrage approaches we owe Margaret Bondfield recognition for all the groundbreaking work she did and it was the people of Northampton who set her on  course for her parliamentary career.

The University has Halls of Residence named after her and there is Bondfield Avenue in St David's. We need a new road sign there , by the way,  it is tilting dangerously to the left. Perhaps that, as well as a commemorative statue could be agreed for 2018.

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