Margaret Bondfield

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The Right Honourable
Margaret Bondfield
Margaret Bondfield 1919.jpg
Margaret Bondfield in 1919
Minister of Labour
In office
8 June 1929 – 24 August 1931
Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald
Preceded by Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland
Succeeded by Sir Henry Betterton
Member of Parliament
for Wallsend
In office
21 July 1926 – 27 October 1931
Preceded by Sir Patrick Hastings
Succeeded by Irene Ward
Member of Parliament
for Northampton
In office
6 December 1923 – 29 October 1924
Preceded by Charles McCurdy
Succeeded by Arthur Holland
Personal details
Born 17 March 1873
Chard, Somerset, England
Died 16 June 1953 (aged 80)
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 other figures of the Labour movement, Bondfield was a Non-Conformist, (in her case, a member of the Congregational church).

Early life and education[edit]

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.

Political career[edit]

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 Chair 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, the first time that a woman had been made a Cabinet Minister in Britain.[2][5]

She was defeated in the 1931 general election. 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, which occurred only in 1945 because of World War II.

Post parliament[edit]

Bondfield was the only woman present at the Accession Council which proclaimed King George VI's accession to the Throne upon the abdication of King Edward VIII.

During the war, Bondfield was chair of the Women's Group on Public Welfare.[6] She was appointed CH in 1948.

Books by Margaret Bondfield[edit]

  • 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)


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 16 June 2011
  2. ^ a b c d "Margaret Bondfield". Spartacus Educational. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  3. ^ a b Zagoreos, Anna (11 October 2003). "Margaret Bondfield and Mary Macarthur: their work to organize working women". University of Paris X Nanterre. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  4. ^ a b "Margaret Bondfield (1873–1953)". Timeline. TUC History. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  5. ^ "Margaret Bondfield". Women's history timeline. BBC Radio 4. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 
  6. ^ "Bondfield, Margaret Grace 1873 1953 Labour Politician". British Library of Political and Economic Science. Retrieved 29 March 2009. 

External links[edit]

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
Sir Arthur Steel-Maitland
Minister of Labour
Succeeded by
Sir Henry Betterton