Hello, my name is Julie and I am a woman of Newport. I am so Newport that all four of my grandparents were born a few streets away from each other in Pill, my great grandfather died working on the Transporter Bridge and I own a Woman of Newport t-shirt. I am proud of Newport’s history; I learned at school that the last armed uprising on British soil took place in front of the Westgate building and that John Frost Square was named after the Chartist leader of the rebellion. I also knew as a child that Newport raised such diverse and talented people as children’s entertainer Johnny Morris, Q from James Bond and the Supertramp poet WH Davies, but until fairly recently I had never heard of Newport’s most famous daughter; Margaret Haig Mackworth, Lady Rhondda.
I am part of a band of women determined to plug the gap in our social history and honour Lady Rhondda in her hometown by fundraising for the first statue of a named woman in the City.
During her lifetime Lady Rhondda was a leading feminist and stateswoman; she set up the local Suffragette branch in Newport and brought Emmeline Pankhurst to speak in Llanarth Street. As a young married woman, she famously set fire to a post-box on Risca Road as part of the national campaign for Votes for Women and went to prison for it. She inherited and ran her father’s Cardiff-based multi-national company, held key Government positions during the First World War, and is the only woman ever to be President of the Institute of Directors. Most importantly Lady Rhondda founded the most influential inter-war publication ‘Time & Tide’, and campaigned to be the first woman to take a seat in the House of Lords. She died in 1958; weeks later the first women were finally accepted into the Lords. So influential was Margaret Haig Mackworth of Llanwern House, Newport that her portrait is engraved on the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, and her portrait hangs in the house of Lords Dining Room. Yet I had never heard of her until a chance reference by a speaker at Hay Festival in 2013. I quickly did some research and thanks to the late, great local MP Paul Flynn, found a whole gang of Lady Rhondda fans, from different walks of life; politics, education, the arts and community activists.
This gang successfully crowdfunded for a Blue Plaque to be put up next to the post-box in 2015. Now we are the ‘Statue for Lady Rhondda’ group, part of the Monumental Welsh Women campaign to bring 5 statues of famous Welsh Women across the country. We have almost reached 50% of our £75k Newport target, and have recently launched our new logo, designed by talented local artist Miss Rie.
To celebrate the new logo we have a range of t-shirts for sale and I have been making and hiding pebble-art, featuring the new logo, around Newport- let me know if you find the ‘rebel on the pebble’ by posting to our ‘Statue for Lady Rhondda’ Facebook, Twitter or Instagram accounts.
I love the fact that Newport is a rebel city thanks to an incredible series of men and women, like John Frost & Lady Rhondda, who fought for our democratic and citizenship rights and never gave up. I hope that our campaign helps to honour the legacy of this missing woman from our cultural landscape, through a new piece of public art, so that Lady Rhondda can inspire the next generation of Newportonians to be rebels and leaders.
Lady Rhondda was a Woman of Newport – let’s put her on the pedestal she deserves – join in we can do it!
Statue for Lady Rhonda Tshirst available now: