In July 1929 Edith Picton-Turbervill, a newly elected MP went to take her seat in the house of Commons for the first time, but blasted the “extraordinary lack of dignity” of one of its oldest ceremonies.
Her were observations were published in the Derby Daily Telegraph soon after – and she already had ideas on how to change it!
Edith was elected in the May General Elections and was Shrophire’s first MP, representing the Wrekin.
Within her first few steps of entering the Commons the thing that struck her the most was how polite the policemen where.
The thing that struck me most when I entered the Commons—apart from the matters of more important procedure—was the wonderful courtesy of the policemen on duty. It was really perfectly delightful. Not only are they never tired of answering questions which they must have answered many, many times before, but they do it with a smile. If they are sent to look for you, they search until they find you, wherever you may be. They are always anxious to help in every possible way the somewhat bewildered new legislator who has found his or her way into the House.
In contrast, the second thing that struck her was the “extraordinary lack of dignity with which the swearing in is conducted” – something she was keen to see reformed.
She then went on to list the other women MPs, praising their various skills and experiences, and saying they’re a band of women “who should contribute much towards the welfare of the nation”
She then went on to say that they set an example that the men of the Commons should follow.
An Example For Men
I cannot help smiling when think of the old objections to women taking part in public life. It used to be said a woman’s voice is not suitable tor the platform or Parliamentary life. Miss Bondfield was replying to a question in the House the other afternoon. What clear voice! What clear enunciation. What a blessing if every man in the House spoke with the same clearness as she does!
One woman who particularly struck her was Megan Loyd Jones daughter of former Prime minister Lloyd George.
There is another striking thing also connected with a woman member in the House.
It is the amazingly youthful look of Miss Megan Lloyd-George.
I think I may say that she is the youngest-looking woman in the Commons, although believe that in age she is not.
Her charming face, almost as a child’s, and yet I know that very soon she will be not only qualified but well qualified to make her contribution to the improvement of the national life of the people.
So what did she think of the facilities for women there?
Well she seemed pleasantly surprised …
The election was fought against a background of rising unemployment, with the memory of the 1926 general strike still fresh in voters’ minds.
It was also a hung parliament with a Labour Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, in charge.
Edith signed off by saying she hoped the country would soon realise that this government would work for the people.
These are merely impressions by one who has sat in the House Commons for a few days only, since the King’s Speech, but as I look at the front Bench of the Government, I am persuaded that before long the nation will realise more fully than perhaps it does at present that the Government is one of strong personalities and much power, power which will be used to work for the welfare of the people.
MISS PICTON TURBERVILL.
Votes for Women
The 1929 election was often referred to as the “Flapper Election”, because it was the first election in which women aged 21–29 were allowed to vote, under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act 1928. (Women over 30 had been able to vote since the 1918 election.)
So how does the UK compare against other countries when it comes to giving women the vote? Well it certainly wasn’t the first, as made clear in this graph. Click here for full interactive version of the timeline.
It shows which countries granted women full voting rights and when.
That honour belongs to New Zealand who did so in 1893.
Russia granted the vote to all women a full 11 years before the U.K. Australia took 68 years to award all women the vote, after only offering limited enfranchisement to colonial women.
A short career.
Edith Picton Turbervill didn’t hold her seat for very long, losing it in the 1931 General Election; a result she was expecting in the backdrop of the The Great Depression .
Saying later “The panic, however, that had been created with regard to money was so great that I verily believe if a chimpanzee had stood in that election for the National Government he would in some circumstances have been returned to Parliament.’