More on Conservative women politicians

Posted by Helen Friday, June 02, 2006

John Barnes, who is a notable historian of the Conservative Party (and knows every detail of it, so far as I can make out) has sent this piece about Sally Ward, an undeservedly little known Conservative woman politician in the hopes that it will stimulate discussion on the subject, which will, in due course, influence the autumn edition of the Journal:

Alderman Mrs Sally Ward was for one term Member of Parliament for Cannock. As a farmer’s wife, she spoke regularly in debated on agriculture and became known as “The Farmer’s Wife MP”. She attempted to return to the House after the Second World War, but was unsuccessful in both the 1950 and 1951 General Elections. Thereafter she contented herself with service on the Staffordshire County Council and was elected to an Aldermanic seat. Small in stature she was a lively personality and a forceful platform speaker. She played an active part in the politics of the Walsall north Conservative Association, serving as its President.

Sarah Adelaide Ainsworth was born on Christmas Day in 1895. She was educated at the Orme Girls' School in Newcastle and during the First World War served as a VAD nurse. She married a farmer, William Ward, in 1921 and they had one child. They farmed at Walsall Wood.

She was elected for Cannock in the 1931 General Election and was defeated in 1935. During the Second World War she served from 1940 to 1943 as a Commander in the ATS serving with the Royal Artillery. After the war she was appointed to the staff of the Ministry of Labour where she dealt with welfare in industry. Her attempts to return to national politics were unsuccessful.

Adopted for Lichfield and Tamworth, she was defeated in February 1950, polling 24,681 votes but losing by 4,518. Sensing that she was unlikely to take the seat even though she was the local candidate, she turned her attention to Birmingham Perry Bar. In October 1951 she again went down to defeat in a straight fight and thereafter she concentrated on local politics. She had been elected to the Staffordshire County Council in 1950 and from 1956 until 1964 she chaired the Welfare Services Committee.

She was awarded an OBE in 1952 and made a CBE in 1961. She remained on the County Council until her death on 9 April 1969.


  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. How seriously was she taken when in parliament? Did she see "The Farmer's Wife MP" as a compliment?

  3. Anonymous Says:
  4. Another unknown figure - short lived as an MP but clearly an interesting character. Can anyone add more colour?

    Apsley, Lady (1895-1966)

    When Lord Apsley was killed in an aircraft accident in the Middle East, his widow won the subsequent by-election in 1943, but failed to hold the seat in the 1945 General Election. Lady Apsley was a notable huntswoman, Master of the VWH (Earl Bathurst's) Hunt from 1946 to 1956, when a serious accident confined her to a wheelchair. She had earlier chaired the Women's section of the British Legion. Amongst her publications was an account, jointly written with her husband, entitled The Amateur Settlers (1925). Because of complaints about the treatment of "assisted" emigrants to Australia, he was despatched there under an assumed name and later joined by his wife. The book is an account of their experiences.

    Viola Emily Mildred Meeking was born in 1895, the daughter of Captain Bertram Meeking and Viola Fletcher. She served with the Voluntary Aid Detachment at the Marsh Court Military Hospital from 1914 to 1918. Her early interest in politics was fulfilled after her marriage to Lord Apsley in 1923. He was the MP for Southampton from 1922 until 1929 and in 1924 she became President of the Southampton Women's Conservative Association. Two years later she became President of the Links of Empire organisation.

    Her husband's defeat in 1929 broke the link with Southampton and when he was elected for Bristol Central in 1931, she became the Chairman of the Bristol Women's Conservative Association 1932-52. She also served on the Sodbury Rural District Council 1941-3. In the early years of the war she served as Chief Commander of the Air Training Service. Like her husband, a keen pilot, she had obtained her pilot's licence in 1930.

    She won Bristol Central in a four cornered fight by a larger majority (1,559) than that obtained by her husband in 1935, defeating the General Secretary of the ILP and Jennie Lee, who stood as an Independent/ The official Labour party observed the electoral truce, but in 1945 her Labour opponent ousted her in a straight fight by a majority of 5,676. She subsequently contested Bristol North East as a Conservative and National Liberal in February 1950. In 1952 she was awarded the CBE. From 1952-4 she served on the Central Council of the Victoria League.

    Apart from hunting and flying, Lady Apsley was also a keen participant in Motor Trials and she contributed to the Light Car as well as to Country Life and The Field. In 1932 she co-authored a study of hunting and riding for women entitled To Whom the Goddess and four years later published a fascinating if rather disjointed account of hunting through the years, Bridleways through History. Her last book, The Fox Hunter's Bedside Book was published in 1950. She died on 20 January 1966.

    The Apsleys had two sons, the eldest of whom inherited the Earldom.

  5. Anonymous Says:
  6. Possibly the most rearkable thing about Lady Aspley was that as she broke her back in a hunting accident in 1931 (not in 1956), many of the achievements that John Barnes mentions were done from a wheelchair. Perhaps her greatest legacy is that of Cirencester Park. Her eldest son inherited when still a minor and the estate was faced with crippling death duties. It was Lady Apsley who not only kept the Bathurst hounds, but the estate intact for her son to inherit on his majority. No mean feat.

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