“When I am MP” – July 1923 – also when Cambridge University’s MPs tried to change the University’s rules to enable women to graduate

From the British Newspaper Archive – The Vote Newspaper of 06 July 1923

The article on Cambridge Women Graduates is here.

…and the absence of Cambridge Borough’s MP, Sir Douglas Newton is hard to avoid given the presence of the MPs for Cambridge University – seats that were not abolished until after the Second World War. This was also the time the University finally removed their ban on women graduating.

Note Oxford, London, and the Scottish Universities also had parliamentary seats.

In the article that follows, we see a list of appointments to the civil service – mindful that Newnham College’s Amber Reeves/Blanco White was turfed out of the civil service after the First World War because of her gender. You can read the list below:

This is of interest to me both as a former civil servant, and a local historian (mindful also that some of these women are likely to have studied in (as opposed to ‘at’) Cambridge at either Girton or Newnham. By that time, both Homerton and Hughes Hall had opened as teacher training colleges for women.

“When I am an MP” the case of Minnie Pallister

We saw the phrase: “By studying the past, we learn how to improve” in my previous blogpost, looking at examples from the old and cheap historical documents (as well as the not-so-cheap ones!) I’ve acquired over the years and am now scanning and uploading to the internet archive – something that not only enables public access, but also keyword searching which saves a huge amount of time for researchers.

This is from Minnie Pallister, pacifist and Labour candidate for Parliament for the Bournmouth constituency in 1923 and 1924. What she wrote nearly a century ago still resonates today. For me at least.

She is introduced as below:

Above – from the British Newspaper Archive here.

“Miss Pallister, who is a prospective Labour candidate for Bournemouth, spent her early years in Social and Religious Work. She then taught in a mining village, and became deeply interested in industrial questions. She served on the Breconshire Education Committee, but finally gave up Educational work in favour of Politics. She was organiser for the Labour Party in Aberavon, when Mr. Ramsay Mac Donald accepted candidature. and worked in this capacity until the last General Election. She now acts as National Propagandist for the Independent Labour Party.

“If I am returned to Parliament, there are three things I should endeavour to concentrate upon.

  1. Security of life
  2. Housing
  3. Education

“The face that people are insecure means a vast amount of physical and mental strain. A large percentage of people spend their whole lives in fear – fear of sickness, fear of old age, fear of unemployment. These fears need not arise when the Government gives every man and woman the right to demand employment at some useful occupation, together with an adequate pension at a reasonable age.

“The result of such a plan would mean that the terrific loss to the community caused by periods of unemployment would cease, and the resultant gain would be more than meet the increased expenditure on sick allowances and pensions. The introduction of proper safety appliances into mines and works would also secure workmen from many avoidable accidents which now occur, and this would lessen the fearful anxiety among the wives of men employed in dangerous and unhealthy occupations.

“The housing of the people should be taken out of the hands of gamblers and profiteers and made a national concern. The small, badly equipped houses now being built are not only uncomfortable but unhealthy, both physically and morally. Nothing can take the place of a real home, where growing children can live in decency and comfort. Gardens and open spaces are a necessity, and to ensure them I should support every endeavour on the part of the Government to deal with the Land question. Land must be used for the good of the nation, if the nation is to rear a healthy race of children. Narrow streets, small gardenless homes, cost the nation millions each year in sanatoria, prisons, and hospitals, which would not be needed if it were not for consumption and disease and crime, engendered by faulty living conditions.

“The education of the child is second only in importance to its housing. I should support a generous scheme of free education with smaller classes and better-equipped schools. Every £1 paid for education is more than repaid by the increased efficiency, health, and happiness of the people of the country. I would support a scheme for the maintenance of school children, so that the child of a larger family need not be penalised.

“Larger sums which are now spent on constant quarrels abroad should be used for the improvement of public services, and I should do my utmost to support the attempts to create friendship and co-operation between the various peoples of the world. The acid test of a Government is not its power to make millionaires, but its power to create happy, healthy, useful citizens.”

Minnie Pallister.


Her party colleague Cllr Clara Rackham (Labour – Romsey) who also stood for Parliament for Labour, but in Saffron Walden in the 1930s, also campaigned on housing issues.

“What strikes one again looking back on this history is how the same questions which were brought forward from the very beginning are still just as much in evidence today.”

Clara Rackham – 09 July 1962, at the University Arms Hotel – transcribed from the Cambridgeshire Collection.

Sounds familiar?

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