Margaret Bondfield was a trailblazer. A working class socialist and trade unionist who against the odds became the first woman to chair the TUC, the first woman Cabinet Minister and the first woman Privy Counsellor.
Despite her significant contribution, there is minimal public recognition of Bondfield's place in history, with a single statue in Northhampton, and no portrait of her in Westminster among the thousands of visual tributes to other notable parliamentarians.
Working with Alison McGovern MP, LWN is calling on the House of Commons Art Committee to put this right and commission a fitting work to ensure Margaret begins to receive the recognition she deserves in the parliament she helped to transform.
Margaret Bondfield was elected to Parliament for Northampton in the December 1923 General Election, one of the first three Labour women MPs ever, alongside Susan Lawrence (East Ham) and Dorothy Jewson (Norwich).
This year marks the 100th year anniversary of their election, and offers an opportunity to recognise Margaret Bondfield's life and legacy. This remarkable woman rose to the most senior levels of government, broke glass ceilings wherever she went, knew all the key political players of the age, and remained true both to her deep religious faith and her profound belief in her politics and in parliamentary democracy
You can find out more about Margaret's life and her considerable achievements here.
Margaret Bondfield’s legacy has been obscured by a number of factors. The history of trade unionism is seen and written as overwhelmingly male, as is the history of the Labour Party. Her absence from – indeed, hostility to – what she perceived as a middle-class female franchise movement meant that she is excluded from suffrage history and was often viewed by its memorialists with active dislike. Although she remained loyal to the Labour Party throughout the 1931 crisis, her subsequent absence from Parliament deprived her of a public platform. Had she been a man she might have ended her career in the House of Lords, but women were not able to sit as peers until 1958. Since women usually stood as candidates in the more marginal seats, her parliamentary career was much briefer than those of many male colleagues. Late in life she destroyed many of her papers so that there is no substantial archive in the UK.
Please support LWN's efforts to give Margaret Bondfield the recognition she is due, beginning with a portrait in the House.
Join our Calls for a portrait of Margaret Bondfield
Working with Alison McGovern MP, Shadow Minister for Employment, we would like to show The Speakers' (of the Houses of Parliament) Advisory Committee on Works of Art that there is a groundswell of support for a portrait of Margaret Bondfield.
Furthermore, we ask that if a portrait is commissioned, the committee actively appeal for a female artist, ideally with a working-class background.