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Margaret Ashton (19 January 1856 – 15 October 1937) was an English suffragist, local politician, pacifist and philanthropist, and the first woman City Councillor for Manchester.

Margaret Ashton
Margaret Ashton Free Trade Hall, Manchester (cropped).jpg
at the Free Trade Hall in 1909
Born(1856-01-19)19 January 1856
Died15 October 1937(1937-10-15) (aged 81)
Known forFirst woman City Councillor for Manchester



Margaret Ashton was the first woman to run for election to Manchester City Council, and in 1908 became the first woman City Councillor when she was elected Councillor for Manchester Withington.[1]

A debate at the Free Trade Hall with suffragists v. anti-suffragists. Ashton is third from left on the front row.

As a member of Manchester's public health committee and chair of the maternity and child welfare subcommittee, Ashton endorsed municipal mother and baby clinics and promoted free milk for babies and new mothers. In 1914 she founded the Manchester Babies Hospital with Dr Catherine Chisholm (1878–1952).[2]

With the outbreak of the first world war in 1914, Ashton was amongst the internationalist minority who split from the NUWSS and the suffragette movement. She was a signatory of the 'Open Christmas Letter', a call for peace addressed in sisterhood "To the Women of Germany and Austria", which was published in Jus Suffragii in January 1915.[3] She started a Manchester branch of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom.[1]


In 1938, some friends and admirers of Ashton formed a memorial committee which funded two activities:

In 1982, the Harpurhey High School for Girls was re-opened as Margaret Ashton Sixth Form College.

Her name and picture (and those of 58 other women's suffrage supporters) are on the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London; it was unveiled in 2018.[5][6][7]

Margaret Ashton is one of six women on a nomination list for a new public statue in Manchester. The winner, chosen by public vote, will be announced in 2019.[8]


  1. ^ a b "Where I live: Manchester: Who was Margaret Ashton?". BBC Manchester. BBC. 4 July 2006.
  2. ^ Mohr, Peter (2004). "Ashton, Margaret (1856–1937), local politician and philanthropist". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press 2004–15. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/38511. Retrieved 21 November 2015.
  3. ^ Liddington, Jill (1989). The long road to Greenham: feminism and anti-militarism in Britain since 1820. London: Virago. ISBN 9780860686880.
  4. ^ Stocks, Mary D., "Margaret Ashton Memorial Lecture 20th March, 1941", in Stocks, Mary D. (ed.), The Victorians, Manchester University Lectures Series, no. 36., Manchester University Press, OCLC 6923286 Preview.
  5. ^ "Historic statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett unveiled in Parliament Square". 24 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  6. ^ Topping, Alexandra (24 April 2018). "First statue of a woman in Parliament Square unveiled". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  7. ^ "Millicent Fawcett statue unveiling: the women and men whose names will be on the plinth". iNews. 24 April 2018. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  8. ^ Williams, Jennifer (20 October 2015). "Shortlist of six iconic women revealed for Manchester's first female statue for 100 Years". Manchester Evening News. Archived from the original on 22 November 2015. Retrieved 21 November 2015.

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