Suffragette to get statue 100 years after she blew up post box
30th December 2020

Suffragette viscountess will get statue in her honour 100 years after she was jailed for blowing up post box in campaign for women’s vote

  • Margaret Mackworth, known as Lady Rhondda, campaigned for women’s rights
  • The suffragette, from Newport, once made a bomb and posted it in a letterbox
  • Campaigners have raised £34,000 to have a statue erected in her home town

A suffragette is set to get a statue in her honour – more than 100 years after she tried to blow up a post box.

Margaret Mackworth, known as Lady Rhondda, campaigned to give women the right to vote in the early 20th century.

She created a home-made bomb and posted it into a public letterbox and left mail damaged inside.

A fundraising campaign has been launched to create a statue of Margaret Mackworth, also known as Lady Rhondda, who campaigned for women’s rights in the early 20th century. Pictured: Viscountess Rhonda signing petition to let women sit in the House of Lords in 1947

Pictured: The post box in Risca Road, Newport, which Lady Rhondda attempted to blow up in 1913 has been marked with a crowd-funded blue plaque to commemorate its place in history

The leading feminist went to prison for five days when she refused to let her husband pay the £10 fine.

Campaigners in her home city of Newport, South Wales, have been raising funds for a statue in her honour.

The chairwoman of the Statue for Lady Rhondda campaign group has so far raised over £34,000 of the £100,000 target.

Julie Nicholas, chair of the campaign, said: ‘Lady Rhondda was one of the world’s most famous women in her heyday, and she was raised in Newport.

‘Newport has a proud history of rebellion thanks to the Chartist uprising in the nineteenth century, and Lady Rhondda was our twentieth century rebel.’

The group want the statue to be positioned on the east side of the Millennium Bridge where she would overlook both the city’s university and the Riverfront Arts centre in recognition of her involvement in arts and education. 

Feminist Lady Rhondda (pictured) used a home-made bomb to blow up a post box in Newport as part of the Suffragettes’ campaign for women’s right to vote in the early 20th century

Lady Rhondda inherited her title from her father but women were not allowed to sit in the House of Lords at the time.

She lived to see the passing of the Life Peerages Act in 1958, but died before the first women took their seats as life peers in October that year.

Jayne Bryant MS, a member of the project group, said: ‘Understanding the role people like Lady Rhondda played not just in Newport but further afield is important.

‘Her campaigning for equality throughout her life was almost lost to history.’

In 2015, a blue plaque was unveiled at the post box she attempted to incinerate in Risca Road in Newport back in 1913.

Earlier this year, Lady Rhondda was included on a shortlist of ‘Monumental Welsh Women’ – a campaign to decide who should be the subject of Wales’ first female statue. 

Wales’ first black headteacher Berry Campbell ultimately won the vote but the initiative inspired Lady Rhondda supporters who launched the campaign for her own statue. 

Margaret Mackworth: Champion of women’s rights and one of the leading figures in fight for equality

Lady Rhondda

Margaret Mackworth, Viscountess of Rhondda was a Suffragette and one of the most influential figures in the history of women’s rights in the United Kingdom.

Born in June 1883 the daughter of a liberal politician, Lady Rhondda was at the forefront of the suffrage movement and dedicated her life to campaigning for gender equality.

She inherited her title from her father David Thomas, first Viscount of Rhondda when he died but women were not permitted to sit in the House of Lords at the time.

In 1908, she set up the Newport branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union (the Suffragettes) and became the group’s secretary.

She led the campaign for women’s suffrage across the country, marching with Emmeline Pankhurst and joining key protests across south Wales.

In 1913, she attempted to destroy a Royal Mail post box in Newport using a home-made bomb.

Her activities resulted in her being arrested and the leading feminist went to prison for five days when she refused to let her husband pay the £10 fine.

Lady Rhondda also set up the feminist magazine Time and Tide and became the first female president of the Institute of Directors, at one point sitting on the boards of 33 companies.

During the First World War, Lady Rhondda was named chief controller of women’s recruitment in the Ministry of National Service.

She also survived the sinking of RMS Lusitania in 1915. The ship, which was taking her and her father back to the UK from the United States, was torpedoed and Lady Rhondda was blown overboard.

The RMS Lusitania which was torpedoed during the First World War in 1915 while Margaret Mackworth and her father were onboard heading back to the United Kingdom

She was eventually rescued by Irish trawler Bluebell and spent months recuperating from hypothermia. 

After her father’s death in 1918, Lady Rhondda attempted to take her father’s seat in the House of Lords.

After basing a claim on the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919, the Lords found in her favour but the decision was later overturned.

She lived to see the passing of the Life Peerages Act in 1958, but died before the first women took their seats as life peers in October that year.

In 2011 a portrait of the viscountess finally went on display in the House of Lords. 

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