Hove blue plaque for country’s first female cabinet minister

A blue plaque for Margaret Bondfield, the country's first female cabinet minister. Unveiled by Peter Kyle, Hove MP and Rachel Reeves, fellow Labour MP
A blue plaque for Margaret Bondfield, the country's first female cabinet minister. Unveiled by Peter Kyle, Hove MP and Rachel Reeves, fellow Labour MP

A blue plaque has been unveiled in Hove for the country’s first female cabinet minister.

Margaret Bondfield served as minister of labour in the Labour government of 1929–31.

She worked as a child at a drapery and embroidery business in Church Road, Hove, where the blue plaque was unveiled by MP Peter Kyle and fellow Labour MP Rachel Reeves earlier this week.

Ever since Mr Kyle discovered Margaret’s link to the area he has been campaigning for her to be recognised in Hove and has worked with the council and history groups.

The drapers, which is now a Nisa convenience store, gave Margaret an apprenticeship and also a taste for politics when she stood up against the conditions for girls working for unsympathetic employers, doing very long hours and having appalling living conditions with no privacy.

During this phase Margaret met other advocates for women’s rights in Brighton and Hove and the city proved a springboard for her future career as an MP.

She was elected to the TUC Council in 1918, and became its chairman in 1923, the year she was first elected to parliament. In the Labour government of 1924 she served as parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Labour.

Her term of cabinet office was 1929–31 under Ramsay MacDonald.

Mr Kyle said: “After researching Margaret’s life and we found the spot where she was an apprentice was a Nisa store it was really quite wonderful, because we associate grand achievements with grand buildings and grand people.

“But if you are a young woman today and you learn about Margaret’s achievements, to know that she worked in somewhere everyone experiences everyday, in somewhere so familiar as a local convenience store - it’s so much more inspiring.

“So I’m delighted that this plaque is now in place to remind everyone what you can achieve, even from the humblest of beginnings.”