21 November 2018 marked the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Parliament(Qualification of Women) Act, by which women were for the first time able to stand for election as members of Parliament.
It was only earlier in the year, on 6 February, that some women (over 30 and fulfilling a small property qualification) had at long last been granted the parliamentary vote and now, as the Great War had come to an end, women actually had the prospect of sitting in the House of Commons.
The short bill, passing rapidly through all stages of the parliamentary process with little opposition, granted the right to stand for election to all women over the age of 21, although any woman of that age would have been unable to vote. A curious situation.
With a general election called for 14 December, there was little time for women to organize election campaigns, but in the event 17 women took to the hustings. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll tell you something about each one of these pioneers, taking them alphabetically.
This is the tenth:
Mrs Millicent MacKenzie, who stood as a Labour candidate for the University of Wales seat.
Millicent MacKenzie (1863-1942) had been the first female professor in Wales, appointed as the professor of education (women) in 1910 having, most unusually, been allowed to keep her teaching position after her marriage in 1898. She had also been the co-founder of the Cardiff branch of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies.
Millicent MacKenzie had retired by 1918, when she was the only woman parliamentary candidate standing in Wales. In fact the existing male Labour candidate, Professor Joseph Jones, had given up his place to her.
Millicent MacKenzie’s election platform does not appear to have caught the attention of the press. Her only comment that I can find is a rather bland statement in Common Cause, to the effect that ‘Women have won the vote, let them see to it that it is used to forward the highest interests of humanity’.
At the election Millicent MacKenzie polled 176 votes, the winner, The Rt Hon Herbert Lewis, vice president of the Board of Education, a Coalition Liberal, won with 739 votes. She did not stand again for parliament, devoting her energies to promoting the educational theories of Rudolph Steiner.