Pictures from the Past

Margaret Grace Bondfield addressing an election meeting at West Moor.
Margaret Grace Bondfield addressing an election meeting at West Moor.

MARGARET Grace Bondfield was born on March 17, 1873, in Chard, Somerset, the 11th child of William and Anne Bondfield.

As a young woman, her political views were formed by a friendship with Louisa Martindale, who lent her books on socialism and feminism.

Her early career was spent working as an assistant in a draper’s shop in Brighton, but she later moved to London and began associating with various left-wing political and social organisations.

In 1896 Miss Bondfield was commissioned by the Women’s Industrial Council to investigate the pay and working conditions of female shop workers, and she later became secretary of the Women’s Labour League.

In 1923 she was elected as president of the Trades Union Congress General Council.

Entering politics the same year, she was elected as Labour MP for Northampton, only to lose the seat a year later.

In 1924 she stood as MP for Wallsend in a by-election following the resignation of Sir Patrick Hastings, who had been appointed as Attorney-General.

As one of the first female Members of Parliament, her efforts were further recognised by Ramsay McDonald when he appointed her Minister for Labour in 1929, the first ever woman cabinet minister.

In the 1931 General Election, Irene Ward captured the Wallsend seat, and although standing again in 1935, Margaret Bondfield never returned to Parliament.

In her later years, she became active with a number of women’s welfare issues until her death in 1953.

The picture shows Margaret addressing an election meeting at West Moor.

If anyone has any further information, contact Local Studies at North Shields Library on (0191) 643 5270 or e-mail