1873 Margaret Bonfield
The Right Hon. Margaret Bonfield CH., LLD., JP., 1873 – 1953. The first woman Cabinet Minister 1929 – 1931 was born in this Town. Shop Worker, Christian, Socialist, Trades Unionist, she devoted her life to improving the lot of the downtrodden.
Margaret Bondfield known in private life as "Maggie", was born on 17 March 1873 in Chard. She was the tenth of eleven children, and third of four daughters born to William and Ann Bondfield, the daughter of a Congregational minister who worked at the lace mills.
She was educated at Chard High Street School and at thirteen became a pupil teacher there for a year. There were few job opportunities for educated girls in Chard so, a year later at the age of 14, she moved from Chard and became apprenticed to a draper in Brighton.
Her personal experiences of shop work in Brighton had roused her spirit and she joined the newly formed Shop Assistants, Warehouse Men and Clerks' Union and was its full time assistant. She was soon elected to the Union District Council. When Margaret was 25 she was appointed secretary of the Shop Assistants Union. Margaret now dedicated herself full time to doing union work.
In 1910 the Liberal Government asked her to serve as a member of its Advisory Committee on the health Insurance Bill. Her efforts were rewarded when she persuaded the Government to include maternity benefits.
Margaret was also Chairperson of the Adult Suffrage Society but wasn't a Suffragette. She felt, they were just fighting for women's rights, whereas Margaret wanted equal rights for all people whatever class they came from. At that time there were many men who didn't have a vote because they didn't own their own property.
In 1923, the same year as she was chairman of the Trade Union Congress, she became one of the first women to be elected to the House of Commons. She was elected Labour MP for Northampton. When Ramsey McDonald became Prime Minister in 1924 he appointed her as parliamentary secretary to the Ministry of Labour, but she lost her seat at the next election.
She was returned to Parliament as MP for Wallsend in 1926. When Ramsey McDonald became Prime Minister for the second time in 1929, she was appointed as his Minister of Labour. Margaret Bondfield became the first women to gain a place in a British Cabinet.
More information can be found at Chard Museum or on the Museum website.