Margaret Wintringham

Margaret Wintringham was born in 1879 and served as Member of Parliament for Louth from 1921-24.

Margaret Wintringham was born in 1879 and served as Member of Parliament for Louth  from 1921-24. After her husband, Thomas died suddenly she stood in the by-election and won the seat. She was the first English born and first rural woman MP and only the second woman MP to take her seat.

Dubbed ‘Our Institute MP’, Margaret was supported by the National Federation of Women's Institutes (NFWI). Eight female MPs were elected in 1923 and Margaret became their unofficial coordinator, seeking to work across party lines where there were common interests to pursue. However, she lost her seat in 1924 and failed to return to Parliament despite standing in two further general elections. She also served on Lindsey County Council in the 1930s.

Margaret had a successful career as a school headmistress and magistrate and was politically active as the first Honorary Secretary of Lindsey (Lincolnshire) Federation. In 1922, she was elected to the NFWI executive committee when she would gather issues and take them to Parliament. For example, women had been recruited to the police force during the war, when there was a shortage of men, but in 1922, the government was trying to disband them. A resolution at the 1922 AGM called for women police to be retained, and Margaret pushed this through Parliament.

Margaret Winteringham MP and Lady Nancy Astor MP worked well together, working cross-party, despite their different party whips of Liberal and Conservative. Margaret described their parliamentary roles: ‘I felt she went about her task like a high stepping pony, while I stumbled along like a cart horse; but we both had our uses and worked in complete harmony together’.

Margaret was very active in Parliament, speaking or raising questions 157 times very often on social issues and usually from an independent perspective, reflecting her rural constituency and support from her own national grassroots network provided by the WI. Her first speech was about government debt and her last written question called for pensions for nursery school teachers.

Margaret campaigned for the voting age for women to be reduced from 30 to 21; for women to be allowed to sit in the House of Lords; for the state’s education scholarships to be available for girls rather than only for boys; to retain female police officers when there was a move to disband them in 1922, and for equal pay. She supported temperance and called for women’s-only carriages on trains. Her main legislative success was helping to ensure the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Bill, which improved legal protection for young girls. She also called for an end to war in a letter to the Guardian in 1922, signed jointly with others including Bernard Shaw. The financial benefits of agreeing arms reduction treaties had featured in her first speech in Parliament.

(The author of the photo of Margaret Wintringham used here is unknown)

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