“Mrs Keynes Elected Mayor of Cambridge”


On Wed 09 Nov 1932 Alderman Florence Ada Keynes was elected Mayor of Cambridge – only the second woman ever to hold the post,  by a unanimous vote of councillors at The Guildhall in Cambridge. On Friday 11 November 1932, the Cambridge Independent published a full account of this historic event.

Mayor Florence Ada Keynes 11 Nov 1932

Cambridge Independent 11 Nov 1932, courtesy of the Cambridgeshire Collection. I have transcribed the above article in the text below:


“Half a century, as she confessed, of work in Cambridge was recognised by Cambridge Borough Council on Wednesday, when by a unanimous vote they elected Ald. Mrs Florence Ada Keynes as Mayor for the ensuing year.

Chamber and gallery were alike crowded at twelve o’clock, when Ald Raynes took the chair for the last time as Mayor. Dr. John Neville Keynes, the husband of the new Mayor sat on the floor of the chamber, as did several friends.


Councillor Mrs Alan Gray, in proposing the election of Mrs Keynes as Mayor said: “I do so in the belief that the motion will receive the unanimous support of the Council. Last year Mrs Keynes received the honour of being raised to the Aldermanic bench and now her great services both public and private will receive the full recognition they deserve.”

Mrs Keynes was, the speaker recalled, the first woman councillor in Cambridge and the members knew her so well that it was almost superfluous to record her qualities that fitted her for the office – her outstanding ability, sound judgement, tact and grasp of detail. Those who remembered her as chairman of the Board of Guardians and who served under her on the Board of Visitors of the Mental Hospital would know that she was a first rate chairman. She had shared in every activity of the Council and it would be shorter to name the committees she had not served than those o which she had. She know the work of the Council almost better than anybody.

Mrs Keynes would being to the office of chief magistrate the experience of over 12 years. She had a wide knowledge of the procedure of police [ie Magistrates’] courts, and she had made a special study of the Law relating to women & children. She was, moreover, chairman of a committee that brought together women magistrates from all over the kingdom for the discussion of their experience & problems.”

The election of Mrs Keynes would be greatly appreciated by all women’s organisations, for her reputation went far beyond Cambridge. As President of the National Council of Women she led the delegation from Great Britain to the International Council of Women at Vienna.


Councillor Mrs Wootten, seconding the proposal, said that she had little to add to what Mrs Gray had said, but she thought that we in Cambridge were most fortunate to have a lady of such marked ability to be our Mayor and Chief Magistrate. During the time Mrs Keynes was Chairman of the Board of Guardians, the business was transacted with great ability, and the speaker felt very strongly that the efficiency which was now at our infirmary was greatly due to Mrs Keynes’ Chairmanship.


Councillor E.S. Peck, supporting the resolution, declared that he did so with peculiar pleasure because having resided in Cambridge practically all his life, he had known Mrs Keynes for should he say, for several years. (Laughter). He had always looked up to her and admired her for her wholehearted devotion to the public weal.

“I have marvelled” he said,  “at the amount of time she has found to devote to this work, not withstanding the many home duties that must accrue to the wife and mother of such a distinguished family. Like another Florence in history, Mrs Keynes has been a pioneer, and she has, in a most marvellous way, helped to establish the high position which women now occupy in national and international affairs.

Ald. W.L.Briggs. assured the council that he and his colleagues would give Mrs Jeynes their unanimous support. All they could do during the coming year they would only too pleased to do to make her year of office a success.

Ald. C.A.E. Pollock, on behalf of the University also supported the resolution declaring that he felt it was a privilege to be able to do so. He would congratulate Mrs Gray on her very excellen speech. “But if we are doing an honour to Mrs Keynes,” he said “by asking her to become Mayor, I feel that she is doing a great honour to the town by accepting the office.” (Hear, hear.)

The resolution was formally put, and Ald. Mrs Keynes left the chamber with Ald Raynes to assume the robes of Mayor. On her return she was heartily applauded.


Unemployment and the economy

Mrs Keynes, after taking the customary oaths, returned thanks for her election, and remarked that she found it difficult to express her appreciation of the way they had received her nomination.


“The position of Mayor of this ancient Borough,” said Mrs Keynes, “is one which anyone might be proud, and standing, as I do in a long succession of chief officers who in their various ways have exercised their gifts and abilities in building up sound local government, I shall feel it my duty and my great pleasure to contribute anything in my power towards maintaining the high standard that has been attained – and attained in marked degree by my immediate predecessor

“In any efforts I may make I know I shall have the whole-hearted support of the Council and its officials, without which my efforts would indeed be of no avail.

“Our English system of local government throws great responsibilities on the community as a whole, and on those who are elected by the community to act as their representatives in the management of the town affairs.

“A few months ago, an international conference on Local Government was held in London. When opening the conference, H.R.H. the Duke of York [later to become King George VI, the present Queen’s father] said: ‘The French Prefect suits France, the German Burgomaster suits Germany, the English Mayor and Council suit England.” I should like to add that when we compare the English system with those on the Continent of Europe, the distinguishing feature is that whereas the Prefect and the Burgomaster represent the central government, the English Mayor represents the citizens. (Hear, hear). And only if the citizens take an active interest in the government of their town can our particular system function successfully.


“The basis of all social life is co-operation, and it is certainly the basis of our local government. In the council itself, it calls for co-operation between voluntary committees and expert officers. This is a matter of careful adjustment, possible only to a people with a real faculty for self-government. It calls also for co-operation between the electors and those whom they return to their local parliament. This can be best exercised by a vigilance that is not mere fault-finding but supplies constructive criticism and occasionally goes so far as to mark its appreciation of honest effort for the good of the community. We all know that to some extent a council is in leading strings – perhaps increasingly so. In may respects it has to act under technical rules which direct and limit local action, but there is still opportunity for initiative, and room for great differences in the efficiency which the affairs of a locality are administered within these rules.

“In the interests of efficient administration.” went on the Mayor, “the Special Committee for the Guildhall will have to claim your attention for their schemes. It has been decided that we remain where we are – a decision which I am in cordial agreement. (Hear, hear.) [*Historical note – at the time there were proposals to build a new guildhall next to Parker’s Piece on Parkside – where the current Cambridge Fire Station and Parkside Police Station currently reside]. Part of this central site belonging to the Corporation is said to have been presented to the town by Henry III. in 1224 not long after our First Charter from King John, and historic continuity is not to be lightly disregarded.


“I like the words that were inscribed on the foundation stone when the rebuilding of the Guildhall was begun just 150 years ago. The Latin of the inscription may be translated as follows: “May God grant that this new Guildhall of the citizens of the town of Cambridge, placed on the very site of the old one, may rise again to the honour of this venerable municipality and to the prosperity thereof.” But the decision to remain here is by no means the end of the matter. The problem of additional and more appropriate accommodation must still be solved, and the incorporation of the new with the old will tax the best brains.

“Underlying the many subjects to which the Council will have to give anxious attention during the year, is the expenditure of public money with that true economy which avoids waste and parsimony.

“We may be compelled by circumstances to make certain cuts, but I trust that we shall not make a cult of economy. We do not know where the axe will have to fall, but it will, I feel sure, be the desire of all to preserve our social services in a state of efficiency and to promote employment.

“At the same time we must remember that money left in rate-payers’ pockets need not be idle. It will not only earn gratitude, but may be used in giving employment and stimulating or developing trade. A strong case may, indeed be made out in these hard times for reducing or at least avoiding, increased burdens on the rates, but it may still b e argued that expenditure which can legitimately be financed by borrowing, stands in a different category. Here the immediate burden on the ratepayer is very small compared with the employment created, and the work is generally of a character which will not be undertaken at all unless the local authority undertakes it.


“We in Cambridge are fortunate in having a smaller proportion of unemployed than most other places. But something like 1,300 men and women standing idle in this town constitute a serious situation, bringing grievous loss to the workers and waste of the resources of the community. I hope and trust that during my year of office we shall adopt every sane and reasonable method we can devise to mitigate this situation.”


I accessed the original article via the Cambridgeshire Collection on the Third Floor of the Cambridge Central Library. Do go and visit.





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