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Together with her daughter, Helen Barbour, she established the Women's Fund in 1999 to encourage and support women within Tyne & Wear and Northumberland to develop their full potential. In 2000, in memory of her mother in law, Barbour set up The Nancy Barbour Award, an award within the Women's Fund that recognises organisations helping women to play a more active part in the community, particularly those who work with a disability.
Born Margaret Davies in 1940, she was married to the late John Malcolm Barbour (who died in 1968) whose ancestor, John Barbour, had founded the clothing firm J. Barbour & Sons in 1894. She has one daughter Helen Mary. She has held the office of Company Chairman of J. Barbour & Sons since 1972. She remarried in 1991.
A teacher originally, she is credited as "[having] reinvented the waterproof wax clothes firm, J. Barbour & Sons". She turned the company's rustic clothes - initially designed for seamen, river workers, motorcyclists and Royal Navy submariners - into "a fashion accessory for the 1980s urban Sloane Rangers and the British upper-class country set."
She then turned the rural brand into an international urban fashion icon in the 40 countries where it is represented through the company's local offices and network of retailers and distributors.
"This [honour] is not just for me, but for the company; everybody in my hardworking force in the North East of England." (Margaret Barbour on her Damehood) 
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In addition to the CBE and the DBE, Margaret Barbour was a Deputy Lieutenant of Tyne and Wear, an honorary doctor of business administration as awarded by the University of Sunderland, as well as an honorary doctor of civil law as awarded by the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.
She is also a past president of the Royal Warrant Holders Association and the first woman to hold this position, the chairman of J. Barbour & Sons and the chairman of the Barbour Charitable Trust, founded in 1988.
- "J.BARBOUR & SONS, LTD - Officers (free information from Companies House)". beta.companieshouse.gov.uk. Retrieved 2016-04-26.
- J.BARBOUR & SONS, LTD official website, barbour.com; accessed 16 June 2016.
- Armstrong, Simon (8 September 2014), Barbour: From farmers and fishermen to fashion royalty, BBC, retrieved 24 April 2016
- Dame Margaret Barbour is presented with special award for her services to British fashion by TV newsreader Susanna Reid, The Journal, 23 May 2014, retrieved 24 April 2016
- BBC report on Barbour's damehood, bbc.co.uk; accessed 24 April 2016.