Margaret Bondfield

Margaret Bondfield was an active member of the NUSAWC, a member of the Ideal Club, the Fabian Society and the Independent Labour Party.

Margaret Bondfield was an active member of the NUSAWC, a member of the Ideal Club, the Fabian Society and the Independent Labour Party. She wrote undercover using the pseudonym ‘Grace Dare’ to recount the atrocious working conditions of shopworkers. 

Margaret was one of 11 children and the family suffered hardship when her father lost his job as a lacemaker with the workhouse a constant threat. Margaret attended school in Chard, before moving to Brighton and London in search of work. She joined the National Union of Shopworkers to defend workers rights, later worked for the union and became an advocate for women’s political involvement. She chaired the Adult Suffrage Society. 

Margaret travelled the country distributing leaflets and speaking about the Shopworkers Union. In 1899, she became the first female delegate to the Trades Union Congress and with the introduction of the Shop Hours Act 1904, began campaigning for equivalent rights for women shop workers. This activity led her into the WSPU and then the Adult Suffrage Society followed by the Women’s Labour league and the NFWW in 1906 where she campaigned for equal pay. She was MP for Northampton and in 1929 became the first female cabinet minister.

Margaret was a powerful speaker and writer and modest about her achievements. She was the leading authority on shop workers; worked towards equality for women; fought for better health care, improved child welfare and to reduce mortality rates; fought for minimum wage laws and won the vote for poorer working-class women.

Chard is incredibly proud of Margaret Bondfield. The recognition of her successful work is taught at local schools, published in local books and is integral to the community. A street in Chard is called ‘Bondfield Way’ after her and there is a blue plaque at the Guildhall with the inscription: ‘Shop worker, Christian, Socialist, Trades Unionist, she devoted her life to improving the lot of the downtrodden’. She received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws at Bristol University from Winston Churchill, Chancellor of the university at the time. 

Margaret Bondfield achieved so much in the fight for justice for women and for all those who were downtrodden and their rights ignored. Margaret devoted her life to standing up and fighting for those in society that most needed her support.

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