Parliamentary Pioneers : Labour Women MPs 1918-1945 is a compelling account of the trailblazers who laid the foundations for women having an influential voice in the House of Commons. Written by MEP and authoritative spokesperson on women’s rights and gender equality Mary Honeyball, the book tells the story of the issues these first MPs championed, the challenges they faced and the lives they led.
This doughty group of women, tough and individualistic as they all were, maintained their independence both in their politics and in their personal lives. The election of Labour women to the House of Commons meant that females representing the working classes now joined their male counterparts in articulating Labour concerns in Parliament, still very much a bastion of Edwardian wealth and privilege. The hallowed Chamber regularly echoed with voices that cared passionately about social issues, issues guaranteed to upset the resident delicate gentlemen not used to such talk.
Told through the prism of key contemporary issues, such as working-class women’s fight for birth control in the 1920s and 30s, this book brings to life the little known history of these first Labour women to sit in the House of Commons. Fair representation for women at Westminster has proved to be a long haul. It was not until the Labour landslide of 1997 that over 100 Labour women were returned to the House of Commons – much is owed to the original Parliamentary Pioneers.
Labour Women MPs is published in hardback, priced at £16.99.
Dame Margaret Beckett, former Leader of the Labour Party and Foreign Secretary:
Parliamentary Pioneers tells the story of an intrinsic piece of Labour history. The modern trailblazers who Mary features show how life for Labour women has improved not least because there is mutual respect between Labour men and women but also, as Honeyball’s book suggests, this parity has only been achieved because Labour women fought hard to get it. It’s been a remarkable journey and I’m so pleased this account has been recorded so well.
Charles Clarke, former Home Secretary and author of The Too Difficult Box:
Parliamentary Pioneers eloquently draws our attention to the fight these doughty early pioneers fearlessly took on, and brings the discussion into the 21st century by asking two formidable current Labour women MPs to share their experiences.
Baroness Joyce Gould of Potternewton, former Labour Party Chief Woman Officer and National Agent:
At a period when women are still so underrepresented in British politics Mary couldn’t have chosen a more prescient time to publish Parliamentary Pioneers. This is an important reminder not only of the early struggle following the suffragette movement, but of how these tough women worked so hard to dismantle entrenched views on gender and risked being ridiculed in the process.
Glenis Willmott, Labour MEP for the East Midlands and leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party:
Parliamentary Pioneers superbly explores the humble beginnings of the Labour women’s movement and their rise to parliamentary politics. The journey for recognition and better representation has been tumultuous at times, as Mary’s book finely displays.
Rowena Mason, Political Correspondent for The Guardian:
Parliamentary Pioneers covers a fascinating period of political history and Honeyball fills a gap in the knowledge of many of us by exploring the careers of trailblazing female Labour MPs who were among the first to break into the male-dominated environment of Westminster.
Mary Honeyball has been a Member of the European Parliament since 2000. She is Labour spokesperson on the European Parliament Women’s Rights and Gender Equality Committee, a position she has held for over 10 years.
Mary has a long record of activity in the Labour Party women’s organisation, having been chair of the London Labour Party Women’s Committee and Treasurer of Emily’s List, which aims to get more Labour women into Parliament. She was a London Borough Councillor from 1978 to 1986.
Mary has been a prolific writer for political journals and newspapers, including Total Politics, Guardian Comment is Free, European Voice, European Reporter, New Statesman and Tribune. She frequently appears on radio and television including the Today Programme, Newsnight, Woman’s Hour, The Politics Show, BBC London, and both Iain Dale’s and Ken Livingstone’s LBC Shows.