Women's Liberal Federation

Catherine & William Gladstone

The Women's Liberal Federation was an organisation that was part of the Liberal Party in the United Kingdom.


The Women's Liberal Federation (WLF) was formed on the initiative of Sophia Fry, who in 1886 called a meeting at her house of fifteen local Women's Liberal Associations.[1] The establishment of a national organisation was agreed, and this occurred in 1887, when members of forty associations met in London.[2] It was reported that the federation membership was about 6,000,[3] but this grew rapidly, reaching 75,000 in 1892.[4] By 1904 there were 494 affiliated associations and a membership of approximately 67,600.[3]

Until 1892, the group was divided between supporters of women's suffrage and those who stated that they were neutral on the matter. That year, William Gladstone wrote a letter opposing votes for women, and the group held a three day debate to establish a firm position. At the close of the debate, delegates votes to support suffrage; this led between 50 and 60 branches which did not support the policy to leave, consisting of 7,000 to 10,000 members. They formed the rival Women's National Liberal Association.[5]

As of 1905, the WLF's objectives included promoting just legislation for women, through the introduction of votes for women at local and parliamentary elections, on the same basis as men.[3]

In 1908 the Women's Liberal Federation invited David Lloyd George to speak at the Royal Albert Hall. The Women's Social and Political Union suspected that Lloyd George was going to make no promises and threatened to disrupt the meeting if he made no substantive commitment to giving votes to women. He didn't and they did. Helen Ogston was notably assaulted as she was evicted. She tried to defend herself with a dog whip and caused a storm in the newspapers. Lloyd George refused to allow women in to his future public events.[6]

In 1988, when the Liberal Party merged with the SDP to form the Liberal Democrats, the WLF was wound up.

President of the Women's Liberal FederationEdit

The WLF President was elected annually, and served for a one-year term.[7]

Corbett Ashby
Alison Garland
From To Name
1887 1893 Catherine Gladstone
1893 1894 Ishbel Hamilton-Gordon
1894 1902 Rosalind Howard
1902 1906 Ishbel Hamilton-Gordon
1906 1915 Rosalind Howard
1915 1919 Laura McLaren
1919 1921 Hilda Runciman
1921 1923 The Viscountess Cowdray
1923 1925 Violet Bonham Carter
1925 1927 Margaret Wintringham
1927 1929 Margery Corbett Ashby
1929 1931 Lady Acland
1931 1932 Catherine Alderton
1932 1934 Margaret Wintringham
1934 1936 Alison Garland
1936 1938 Megan Lloyd George
1938 1939 Viscountess Dorothy Gladstone
1939 1945 Violet Bonham Carter
1945 1947 Megan Lloyd George
1947 1949 Eleanor Layton, Lady Layton
1949 1950 Ethel Strudwick
1950 1952 Doreen Gorsky
1952 1955 Malys Thompson
1955 19?? Sybil Mary Whitamore
by 1961 1962 Heather Harvey
1962 1964 or later Winifred Grubb
as of 1965 ? Audrey Malindine
by 1966 1968 Gaenor Heathcoat Amory
1968 1970 Stina Robson
1970 1972 Penelope Jessel
1972 1974 Joyce Rose
1974 1977 Baroness Seear
1977 1978 Nelia Penman
1978 19?? Meg Budd
197? 198? Barbara Banks
198? 1983 Elizabeth Sidney
1983 1985 Laura Grimond
1986 1988 Christina Baron


  1. ^ Patricia Hollis, Ladies Elect: Women in English Local Government 1865-1914, p.57
  2. ^ Cowman, Krista (2010). Women in British Politics, c.1689-1979. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0230545571.
  3. ^ a b c The Liberal Year Book, 1905
  4. ^ "Fry, Sophia". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/56104. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  5. ^ Patricia Hollis, Ladies Elect: Women in English Local Government 1865-1914, p.65
  6. ^ ""The woman with the whip" - Suffragette Helen Ogston causes an international stir | Royal Albert Hall". Royal Albert Hall. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  7. ^ The Liberal Year Book, 1905-1939

External linksEdit