MACDONALD, Margaret Ethel, 1870-1911, socialist, feminist and social reformer, and MACDONALD, James Ramsay, 1866-1937, statesman

Scope and Content

Margaret MacDonald's correspondence, papers and lectures, on subjects including factory and shop legislation, the employment of women, housing, the Licensing Bills of 1901-1902, Sunday School teaching, vagrant children, women's organizations and women's suffrage, and the Franco-British Exhibition at Hammersmith in 1908. James Ramsay MacDonald's papers, correspondence and press cuttings on subjects including the financing and aftermath of World War I, Labour Party policy and his leadership of the party, working conditions, and women's education.

Administrative / Biographical History

Margaret Macdonald (nee Gladstone), 1870-1911, was educated largely at home. As a young woman, she was involved in various branches of voluntary social work, including working as a visitor of the Charity Organisation Society in Hoxton. By 1890, she had developed a keen interest in socialism, influenced by the Christian Socialists and the Fabian Society. She joined the Women's Industrial Council (WIC) in 1894, serving on several committees and organising an enquiry into home work in London, which was published in 1897. She met Ramsay Macdonald through this work in 1895 and they married in 1896. Margaret Macdonald's political work continued after her marriage. She was particularly concerned about the need for skilled work and training for women and the first trade schools for girls were established in 1904. She continued to work for the WIC until 1910 and was also an active member of the National Union of Women Workers. A supporter of women's suffrage, Macdonald served on the executive of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies, although she was opposed to militant action. In 1906, she was involved in the formation of the Women's Labour League, retaining an interest in its work until her death.

James Ramsay MacDonald, 1866-1937, was born at Lossiemouth, Morayshire, and educated at a Board school, becoming a pupil teacher. He moved to London in 1886, working as a clerk, first for the Cyclists' Touring Club and then for Thomas Lough MP. MacDonald had a growing interest in politics and socialism. He joined the Social Democratic Federation in 1885, and the Fabian Society in 1886. He also went on to edit 'Socialist Library' and 'Socialist Review'. In 1895, he stood, unsuccessfully, as the Labour candidate for Southampton, but he went on to contest Leicester in 1900, the West Division of Leicester in 1918, and the East Division of Woolwich in 1921. He served as the MP for Leicester from 1906 to 1918. MacDonald held many posts within the Labour movement. He was Secretary of the Labour Representation Committee, 1900-1912, Chairman of the Independent Labour Party, 1906-1909, Treasurer of the Labour Party, 1912-1924, Leader of the Labour Party 1911-1914, Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party and Leader of HM Opposition, 1922, Prime Minister, First Lord of the Treasury, and Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, 1924, and Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury, 1929-1935. He also served on the Royal Commission on Indian Public Services, 1912-1914, as a member of the London County Council, 1901-1904, and as Lord President of the Council, 1935-1937. His particular area of interest was foreign affairs.


This collection is arranged in 7 volumes:
Letters and papers of Margaret MacDonald, 1893-1911.
1. Factory and shop legislation, 1893-1909.
2. Employment of women, 1895-1904.
3. The Licensing Bills of 1901-1902 and the employment of barmaids, 1901-1911.
4. Housing, c1901.
5. Miscellaneous letters and papers, 1895-1912.

Letters and papers of James Ramsay MacDonald, 1896-1923.
6. Letters, papers and press cuttings, 1896-1923.
7. Address book, nd.

Access Information


Other Finding Aids

Printed handlist and online catalogue available.

Archivist's Note

Output from CAIRS using template 14 and checked by hand on March 27, 2002

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