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BONDFIELD, Rt Hon Margaret Grace (1873-1953)

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1924 Bondfield
Held at: Trades Union Congress (TUC) Library Collections at London Metropolitan University
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Full title: BONDFIELD, Rt Hon Margaret Grace (1873-1953)
Date(s): 1920
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 box
Name of creator(s): Bondfield | Margaret Grace | 1873-1953 | Trade Unionist, Suffragist and Cabinet Minister


Administrative/Biographical history:

Margaret Bondfield was born in Chard, Somerset, the 14th child of William and Anne Bondfield. Her father worked in the textile industry and was known for his radical political views. She was educated at the local school but by 1887 she was working as an apprentice in a draper's shop in Brighton where she met Louisa Martindale, a champion of women's rights. In 1894 Bondfield moved to London, there she again worked in a shop, joined the National Union of Shop Assistants, Warehousemen and Clerks, of which she was Assistant Secretary for ten years from 1898, and began contributing articles to The Shop Assistant. In 1898 she published a report, commissioned by the Women's Industrial Council, on the pay and conditions of shop workers. This established her as an authority and she gave evidence to Select Committees in 1902 and 1907. In 1908 Bondfield became Secretary of the Women's Labour League and was also active in the Women's Co-operative Guild. In 1910 she served on the Advisory Committee on Health Insurance and was instrumental in getting maternity benefits included. In 1910 and in 1913 she stood as an Independent Labour Party candidate for the London County Council in Woolwich. As Chairperson of the Adult Suffrage Society she supported universal suffrage for women.

Bondfield was opposed to the 1914-1918 war and supported a negotiated peace. Her first post-war assignment was as a member of the joint delegation of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Labour Party to the Soviet Union in 1920 with which she travelled widely in Russia. The delegation's report covered all aspects of social and political life and, whilst critical of the system, remained opposed to Western intervention there and had an important impact on shaping attitudes to Russia.

In 1923 she was elected Member of Parliament for Northampton and became Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour, in the following year she lost her seat in the general election, but was again elected in 1926 for Wallsend. In 1929 she was appointed Minister of Labour becoming the first woman Cabinet Minister but in the 1931 crisis she supported Ramsey MacDonald's National Government and lost her seat in the general election. Bondfield retired from full-time trades union work in 1938 but chaired the Women's Group on Public Welfare between 1939 and 1945. Margaret Bondfield died in London in 1953.


Scope and content/abstract:

Diary of Margaret Bondfield, with papers, cuttings and posters, relating to the joint delegation of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Labour Party to the Soviet Union in 1920 and the "Hands Off Russia" movement against Allied military intervention. Also papers relating to the International Trades Union Congress, 22-27 Nov 1920.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Single item

Conditions governing access:

Open to bona fide researchers at the discretion of the TUC Librarian.

Conditions governing reproduction:

At the discretion of the TUC Librarian and subject to copyright conditions.

Finding aids:


Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Deposited with the TUC at an unknown date.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Manchester University: Labour History Archives and Study Centre holds correspondence of Bondfield, 1909-1931 (Ref: MP) (list deposited in National Register of Archives as NRA 14863 Labour Party); London University: British Library of Political and Economic Science, London School of Economics holds correspondence with the Independent Labour Party, 1915-1947 (Ref: BLPES/ILP/Section 4 passim, see also NRA 42988 Independent); Vassar College Library, Poughkeepsie, New York, USA, holds Correspondence, diaries and papers (Ref: Bondfield MSS).

National Register of Archives: Click here to view NRA record

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Janet Foster as part of the RSLP AIM25 Project. Sources: Bellamy & Saville (eds): Dictionary of Labour Biography Vol II (1974) pp39-45; also

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
March 2001

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