Margaret Bondfield (1873-1953)

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Margaret Grace Bondfield (17 March 1873 – 16 June 1953) 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).Bondfield was born in Chard, Somerset, the eleventh child of Anne (née Taylor) and William Bondfield, a textiles worker with left-wing views. 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.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. She was Chair of the Trades Union Congress General Council in 1923.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. 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.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.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. She was appointed CH in 1948.

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