Bedford Women’s Suffrage Society founder remembered at centenary of women’s right to vote

Margaret Stansfeld
Margaret Stansfeld

It is 100 years since the first women were able to cast a vote and one Bedford woman helped towards that historic day.

Friday, December 14 marks the centenary and Margaret Stansfeld (1860-1951) was one of the founders of Bedford Women’s Suffrage Society, formed in 1910.

She is also well known for founding Bedford Physical Training College with her own money in 1903, in Lansdowne Road.

Her achievements internationally as well as locally are renowned and are becoming increasingly acknowledged in the town, with a commemorative stone recently unveiled in Dynevor Road, a building being named after her at Bedford College and a new apartment block in Warwick Avenue, Stansfeld Court, being unveiled in the spring.

The town was not always so obliging to Miss Stansfeld, however. A recently discovered entry in the minutes of Bedford’s Soroptomists reveal that Miss Stansfeld was nominated in 1948 to become the first female Freeman in Bedford. Despite her pioneering and notable achievements spanning almost 50 years in Bedford, the council turned her down. Honorary Freemen of the borough are “persons of distinction and persons who have, in the opinion of the council, rendered eminent services” to the borough.

Honorary Freemen of Bedford include two women, Paula Radcliffe MBE and Dr Stephanie Cook, who were granted the freedom of the town in 2001.