Margaret Cole

Dame Margaret Isabel Cole DBE (née Postgate; 6 May 1893 – 7 May 1980) was an English socialist politician, writer and poet. She wrote several detective stories jointly with her husband, G. D. H. Cole. She went on to hold important posts in London government after the Second World War.

Margaret Cole

Margaret Cole in 1944-45 by Stella Bowen
Margaret Cole in 1944-45 by Stella Bowen
BornMargaret Isabel Postgate
6 May 1893
United Kingdom
Died7 May 1980(1980-05-07) (aged 87)
United Kingdom
OccupationWriter, politician
Alma materRoedean School
Girton College, Cambridge
GenreMystery, biography
(m. 1918; died 1959)
RelativesJohn Percival Postgate (father)
Edith Allen (mother)
Raymond Postgate (brother)
Oliver Postgate (nephew)
John Postgate (nephew)
Richard J. Cole (grandson)


A daughter of John Percival Postgate and Edith (née Allen) Postgate, Margaret was educated at Roedean School and Girton College, Cambridge. While reading of H. G. Wells, George Bernard Shaw and others at Girton, she came to question the Anglicanism of her upbringing and to embrace socialism after reading notable books on the subject.[1]

Having completed her course (Cambridge did not allow women to graduate formally until 1947), Margaret became a classics teacher at St Paul's Girls' School. Her poem The Falling Leaves, a response to the First World War, and currently on the OCR English Literature syllabus at GCSE, shows the influence of Latin poetry in its use of long and short syllables to create mimetic effects.

Pacifist periodEdit

During World War I, her brother Raymond Postgate sought exemption from military service as a socialist conscientious objector, but was denied recognition and jailed for refusing military orders. Her support for her brother led her to a belief in pacifism. During her subsequent campaign against conscription, she met G. D. H. Cole, whom she married in a registry office in August 1918.[1] The couple worked together for the Fabian Society before moving to Oxford in 1924, where they both taught and wrote.

In the early 1930s, Margaret abandoned her pacifism in reaction to the suppression of socialist movements by governments in Germany and Austria and to events in the Spanish Civil War.

Education workEdit

In 1941, Margaret Cole was co-opted onto the Education Committee of the London County Council, nominated by Herbert Morrison, and became a champion of comprehensive education. She was an alderman on London County Council from 1952 until the council's abolition in 1965.[2] She was a member of the Inner London Education Authority from its creation in 1965 until her retirement from public life in 1967.

Harold Wilson had given her an OBE in 1965 and she became a Dame when she was awarded a DBE in 1970 for services to Local Government and Education.[1] Dame Margaret Cole died on 7 May 1980, the day after her 87th birthday. Her estate was valued at £137,957.[3]


Cole wrote several books, including a biography of her husband.[4] Her brother Raymond was a labour historian, journalist and novelist.[5] She and her husband jointly authored many mystery novels.[6]

Margaret and her husband created a partnership, but not a full marriage: her husband took little interest in sex and regarded women as a distraction from men. Nevertheless, they had a son and two daughters. Margaret Cole comprehensively documented their life together in a biography she wrote of her husband after his death.[7]

Detective fictionEdit

Novels and Short Story CollectionsEdit

G. D. H. Cole The Brooklyn Murders (1923). Margaret Cole did not contribute to this novel, which is noted here solely to pre-empt confusion.

G. D. H. and M. Cole

  • The Death of a Millionaire (1925)
  • The Blatchington Tangle (1926). Serialised, The Daily Herald (1926)
  • The Murder at Crome House (1927)
  • The Man from the River (1928)
  • Superintendent Wilson's Holiday (1928)
  • Poison in the Garden Suburb (1929); serialised, The Daily Herald (1929). Also known as Poison in a Garden Suburb
  • Burglars in Bucks (1930) aka The Berkshire Mystery
  • Corpse in Canonicals (1930) aka The Corpse in the Constable's Garden
  • The Great Southern Mystery (1931) aka The Walking Corpse
  • Dead Man's Watch (1931)
  • Death of a Star (1932)
  • A Lesson in Crime (1933)
    • A Lesson in Crime; A Question of Coincidence; Mr. Steven's Insurance Policy; Blackmail in the Village; The Cliff Path Ghost; Sixteen Years Run; Wilson Calling (Wilson); The Brentwardine Mystery; The Mother of the Detective; A Dose of Cyanide; Superintendent Wakley's Mistake.
  • The Affair at Aliquid (1933)
  • End of an Ancient Mariner (1933)
  • Death in the Quarry (1934)
  • Big Business Murder (1935)
  • Dr Tancred Begins (1935)
  • Scandal at School (1935) aka The Sleeping Death
  • Last Will and Testament (1936)
  • The Brothers Sackville (1936)
  • Disgrace to the College (1937)
  • The Missing Aunt (1937)
  • Mrs Warrender's Profession (1938)
  • Off with her Head! (1938)
  • Double Blackmail (1939)
  • Greek Tragedy (1939)
  • Wilson and Some Others (1940)
    • Death in a Tankard (Wilson); Murder in Church (Wilson); The Bone of the Dinosaur (Wilson); A Tale of Two Suitcases (Wilson); The Motive (Wilson); Glass (Wilson); Murder in Broad Daylight (Wilson); Ye Olde Englysshe Christmasse or Detection in the Eighteenth Century; The Letters; The Partner; A Present from the Empire; The Strange Adventures of a Chocolate Box; Strychnine Tonic.
  • Murder at the Munition Works (1940)
  • Counterpoint Murder (1940)
  • Knife in the Dark (1941)
  • Toper's End (1942)
  • Death of a Bride (1945)
  • Birthday Gifts (1946)
  • The Toys of Death (1948)

Radio playsEdit

G. D. H. and M. Cole

  • Murder in Broad Daylight. BBC Home Service, 1 June 1934
  • The Bone of the Dinosaur. (Detection Club: Series 1, Episode 6). BBC Home Service, 23 and 27 November 1940


  • Margaret Cole (1949): Growing up into Revolution
  • M. I. Cole (1971): The Life of G. D. H. Cole, ISBN 0333002164
  • Naomi Mitchison (1982): Margaret Cole, 1893–1980, ISBN 0-7163-0482-1
  • B. D. Vernon (1986): Margaret Cole, 1893–1980: A Political Biography, ISBN 0-7099-2611-1
  • See under G. D. H. Cole for joint works


  1. ^ a b c Marc Stears, "Cole , Dame Margaret Isabel (1893–1980)", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 accessed 6 May 2017.
  2. ^ Jackson, W. Eric (1965). Achievement. A Short History of the London County Council. Longmans. p. 258.
  3. ^ [1] Probate site. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  4. ^ Husband's biography.
  5. ^ Mulholland, Marc (2016). "How to Make a Revolution: The Historical and Political Writings of Raymond Postgate Postgate". Socialist History. 49: 107.
  6. ^ Evans, Curtis (2012). Masters of the "humdrum" Mystery: Cecil John Charles Street, Freeman Wills Crofts, Alfred Walter Stewart and the British Detective Novel, 1920–1961. McFarland & Company. ISBN 9780786490899.
  7. ^ Curtis Evans (28 November 2016). Murder in the Closet: Essays on Queer Clues in Crime Fiction Before Stonewall. McFarland. pp. 121, 131 ff. ISBN 978-0-7864-9992-2.

External linksEdit

Party political offices
Preceded by Chairman of the Fabian Society
Succeeded by
Preceded by President of the Fabian Society
Succeeded by