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Discrete CollectionsThe Women's Library
TitleWard, Baroness Irene
Ref No8SUF/B/159
Box Fetch NoBox 1: Disc 33
Date6 Jul 1977
Extent70:58 mins
Admin Biographical HistorySee biography for Irene Ward
DescriptionInterview took place at the House of Lords.

Interview summary:
0:00 mins:
Joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) while at school. Worked with the Red Cross in the First World War training medical orderlies. Became acting aide de camp to Colonel Palmer. Gave first speech at a departure party for the men.. Became secretary to Sir Cecil Cochrane, coal owner and Liberal, when he was elected to parliament. He resigned his seat and became a Conservative. When the Conservatives were looking for women candidates, Ward active. Chosen to fight Morpeth, a hopeless constituency. She then took on Margaret Bondfield, first Labour cabinet minister, in Wallsend.

15:00 mins:
Won Wallsend constituency in 1931 general election. Expected to lose in 1935, but won again. Heckled by miners. No help from women's organisations. Father, an architect, died young. Mother interested in suffragism. Ward one of three women standing for election in that part of the north in 1924. Heckled because she was a Tory not because she was a woman. The miners both heckled her and rescued her. Margaret Bondfield very patronising.

30:00 mins:
In Wallsend in 1931, 84 per cent unemployed. Joined progressive group of Conservatives in House of Commons with Harold Macmillan. Until elected, she lived at home. She was a ballroom dancer and danced with the miners. Lady Astor very kind. Stayed with her at Cliveden. Became interested in the Fawcett Society.

45:00 mins:
In 1940 supporting women's movements, and professional qualifications. Worked with Nora Balls of Bamburgh. Women's Power Committee. Brilliant speech by Mavis Tate. Won equal pay for women wartime drivers. Ward chairwoman of the committee; Quentin Hailsham's aunt the secretary. Churchill defeated over equal pay. Baldwin her favourite prime minister. Didn't get on with Neville Chamberlain. Admired but had no use for the Fawcett Library. Devoted to Margaret Thatcher and Ted Heath. Knew Ray and Pippa Strachey through Lady Astor.

60:00 mins:
Women's Power Committee met once a month. Ward would have opposed Churchill on equal pay but her mother was killed the day of the vote. Took great interest in the Special Operations Executive (SOE). Churchill didn't like women MPs. Delighted that he wanted women in the SOE.
Access StatusOpen
Access ConditionsInterview recordings are available online and can be accessed at the link provided in this record.
Former Reference NumberTape 59
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