Who Do You Think You Are?



The trade unionist and politician was a pioneer for the working class

Born in Somerset on 17 March 1873, Margaret Bondfield started work as a pupilteach­er when she was only 13, before moving on to work as a draper’s assistant in Brighton.

She was a fierce advocate for the working class. She served as female secretary to the shop assistants’ union, and then as the only woman delegate to the Trades

Union Congress of 1899. She was unsuccessf­ul when she stood as a parliament­ary candidate for the Northampto­n Labour Party in a by-election in 1920, but was successful­ly elected for the constituen­cy in 1923. The following year, she became the first female member of the first Labour government, and the first woman to preside over the general council of the Trades Union Congress. The Sheffield Daily Telegraph on 1 November 1924 called her a ‘‘pioneer and a plucky p and energetic woman”.

She went on to become the first female cabinet minister in 1929 as the minister of labour. However, inn the 1931 election she was defeated and failed to gain seats in the following elections. Instead, she worked for the National Union of General and Municipal Workers, where she had previously been the women’s officer, and retired in 1938. She died in Surrey in 1953, aged 80.

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