politics social reform womens rights workers rights

Susan Lawrence

Susan Lawrence was one of the first three Labour women MPs, and the first woman to represent a London constituency.

 

Lawrence began her political life as a Conservative member of London County Council. In 1912, she met trade unionist Mary Macarthur in 1912 and was converted to socialism. She rejoined the council as a member of the Labour party from 1913–1927. Lawrence also became a member of the Fabian Society and the Women’s Trade Union League and spent the a decade working for the cause.

 

During WWI she devoted herself to improving the conditions of women factory workers and was passionate about fighting for those who were disadvantaged. As a Labour councillor for the London Borough of Poplar Council (1919 – 1924) she was part of the Labour group who were imprisoned for withholding payments to London County Council. Poplar had high poverty rates and yet was supposed to contribute to services in London at the same rate as those who lived in wealthy boroughs. The group argued that the poor were being asked to pay for the poor and Lawrence was imprisoned for five weeks in Holloway Prison for her part in the protest. The public support for the councillors was strong, and on their release the government passed a law to equalise Poor Law rates.

 

In the 1924 election, Lawrence won in the constituency of East Ham North, and became the first woman elected to represent a London constituency and one of the first three female Labour MPs, alongside Dorothy Jewson and Margaret Bondfield.She objected to being referred to as a “woman MP”, and said “Why don’t you call Churchill a man MP?”. While serving as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Health she protested against the proposed £13 million cut in unemployment benefit put forward by the MacDonald Committee.

 

In 1931, Lawrence lost her seat in parliament and devoted herself to working with the blind by transcribing books into Braille.