Margaret, Margaret, everywhere

You may have noticed that today marks the anniversary of the start of the First World War. It’s been mentioned in passing occasionally in the media. It also marks the anniversary of the birth of the first woman to become a Liberal MP, Margaret Wintringham (b. 4 August, 1879).

There have been 12 British women MPs called Margaret, but they seem to have done everything. Everyone knows that the first (and thus far only) woman Prime Minister – and first (and only) woman leader of the Conservative Party – was called Margaret. But so was the first woman Leader of the Labour Party, Margaret Beckett, during the interregnum between Smith and Blair. The same Margaret went on to be the first (and thus far only) female Foreign Secretary. A different Margaret, Bondfield, was also first female Cabinet Minister.

When I pointed this out on Twitter, others came in thick and fast. The first woman General Secretary of the Labour Party was Margaret (now Baroness) McDonagh (although Sara Barker held the post on an acting basis in 1968). The first woman Treasurer of the Labour Party was Margaret (now Baroness) Prosser. The first female Leader of the Labour Peers was Margaret (now Baroness) Jay. The first woman Chair of the Local Government Association was Margaret (now Baroness) Eaton.  The first (and thus far only) woman chair of the Public Accounts Committee is Margaret Hodge.

You can add to that list the first (and thus far only) female Leaders of Sinn Fein (Margaret Buckley) and the SDLP (Margaret Ritchie).

Margaret was (apparently) the most popular girls name from the 1920s until the 1950s (and the second most popular from 1914), which explains some (most?) of the success, although I have my own reasons for being particularly interested in the name…