Margaret Bondfield

Margaret Bondfield
Rt. Hon. Margaret Bondfield
Margaret Bondfield in 1919
Minister of Labour
In office
8 June 1929 – 24 August 1931
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by Arthur Steel-Maitland
Succeeded by Henry Betterton
Member of the United Kingdom Parliament
for Northampton
In office
Member of Parliament
for Wallsend
In office
Personal details
Born 17 March 1873
Chard, Somerset, England
Died 16 June 1953
Sanderstead, Surrey
Nationality British
Political party Labour
Religion Congregationalist

Margaret Grace Bondfield (17 March 1873 – 16 June 1953)[1] was an English Labour politician and feminist, the first woman Cabinet minister in the United Kingdom and one of the first three female Labour MPs. Like many figures of the Labour movement, Bondfield was a non-conformist - particularly, a member of the Congregational church.

Bondfield was born in Chard, Somerset, the eleventh child of Anne (née Taylor) and William Bondfield, a textiles worker with left-wing views.[2] She began an apprenticeship at the age of 14 in a draper's shop in Brighton, where a customer, Louisa Martindale, befriended her; Martindale took her under her wing, helped educate her, and lent her books on left-wing politics. In 1894 she moved to London and was elected to the Shop Assistants' Union district council.[2][3]

In 1896 the Women's Industrial Council commissioned her to investigate the pay and conditions of shop workers, and she published a report on this in 1898. In 1898 she was elected assistant secretary of the Shop Assistants' Union and in 1908 became secretary of the Women's Labour League.[2] She was President of the Trades Union Congress General Council in 1923.[3][4]

In 1923 Bondfield was elected Labour Member of Parliament for Northampton at her third attempt but lost her seat in the general election a year later. She again stood for election in 1926, this time at a by-election in the Wallsend constituency.[4] She was appointed Minister of Labour by Ramsay MacDonald on 8 June 1929. This was the first time that a woman had been made a Cabinet Minister in Britain.[2][5] She was defeated in the 1931 general election and despite standing at Wallsend in 1935, she never returned to the House of Commons. In 1937 she was selected to be the Labour candidate at Reading, for an election expected in 1939 or 1940.

During World War II Bondfield was chair of the Women's Group on Public Welfare.[6]

Books by Margaret Bondfield

  • Socialism for Shop Assistants (1909)
  • The National Care of Maternity (1914)
  • The Meaning of Trade (1928)
  • Why Labour Fights (1941)
  • Our Towns: A Close-up (1943)
  • A Life's Work (1949)


External links

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Charles McCurdy
Member of Parliament for Northampton
Succeeded by
Arthur Holland
Preceded by
Sir Patrick Hastings
Member of Parliament for Wallsend
Succeeded by
Irene Ward
Political offices
Preceded by
Arthur Steel-Maitland
Minister of Labour
Succeeded by
Henry Betterton

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