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Margaret Ashton

John Simkin

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Margaret Ashton is someone who has been largely ignored by historians. As her biographer, Peter D. Mohr, points out: "From 1875 Margaret Ashton worked on a voluntary basis as the manager of the Flowery Fields School in Hyde, which had been founded by her grandfather, for the children of mill workers. Her first involvement in politics came in 1888, when she helped to found the Manchester Women's Guardian Association, an organization which encouraged women to become poor-law guardians and to take a more active role in local politics."

Elizabeth Crawford, the author of The Suffragette Movement (1999) claims that "her father refused her request to be taken into the family business, although she was able to concern herself with its welfare policy." In 1895 Margaret joined the Women's Liberal Federation, and the following year became a founder member of the Women's Trade Union League. She was also a member of the National Union of Women Suffrage Societies.

After the death of her father, Thomas Ashton, in 1898, Margaret became more active in politics and in 1900 she was elected to the Withington Urban District Council. Eight years later she became the first woman to the Manchester City Council. According to Peter D. Mohr: "As a councillor she devoted herself to the issues of women's health and education, and campaigned to improve the conditions of employment for women. She supported new legislation to improve the wages and conditions of factory girls, to raise the age of employment of children, and to abolish the sweated system."


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