South East Wales

Suffragette Margaret Haig Thomas portrait to go on show

A portrait of a leading Welsh suffragette and women's rights activist has gone on display to the public.

Margaret Haig Thomas, Viscountess Rhondda, petitioned with brief success for the right for women to sit and vote in the House of Lords in 1920.

Her portrait, painted by Alice Mary Burton in 1932, will hang in the House of Lords Royal Gallery until Christmas.

Baroness Gale of Blaenrhonnda described Viscountess Rhondda as a "remarkable woman".

Margaret Haig Thomas was born in 1883, the daughter of a Liberal politician with coal, shipping and publishing business interests.

When she inherited her title from her father, women were not allowed to sit and vote in the House of Lords.

But after basing a claim on the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act of 1919, the Lords found in her favour.

Business empire

However Lord Birkenhead, Lord Chancellor at the time, opposed the idea and succeeded in getting the decision reversed.

Lady Rhondda is described as an active suffragette and a leading feminist in the inter-war years.

She founded the feminist weekly magazine, Time and Tide, and helped to set up the Six Point Group, one of the first to campaign on women's issues, including equal pay and equal opportunities.

She lived to see the passing of the Life Peerages Act in 1958, but died before the first women took their seats as life peers in the Lords in October the same year.

Baroness Gale, a member of the Lords Works of Art Committee and a former general secretary of the Wales Labour Party: "From taking over the reins of her father's business empire to petitioning the House for membership in her own right, Viscountess Rhondda was at the forefront of the women's rights movement all her life."

Baroness Gale said she and others on committee were delighted the public would "finally have a chance to see a portrait of this remarkable woman and learn more about her extraordinary life".

The painting is part of the permanent works of art collection which documents the history and activities of Parliament.

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