Hilda Runciman, St Ives M.P. in 1928-some Background

Quoting directly from Wikipedia-

“A daughter of James Cochran Stevenson, a Liberal Member of Parliament for South Shields, Hilda Stevenson was educated at Notting Hill High School and Girton College, Cambridge where she took first class honours in the History Tripos. In 1898 she married Walter Runciman, a rising politician. They had two sons and three daughters, including Leslie Runciman, 2nd Viscount Runciman of DoxfordMargaret Fairweather, one of the first eight women pilots in the Air Transport Auxiliary,[1] and historian Steven Runciman.”

Vicountess Runciman of Doxford  (28 September 1869 – 28 October 1956) was a British Liberal Party politician and is of interest here in West Penwith because she became M.P. for St Ives, the first and so far only woman M.P. in 1928 elected at a by-election and joined her husband Walter Runciman as the first married couple in the House. She was simply keeping the seat warm for him so to speak for just a year. Such arrangements became common for a time before the Second World War. Upon entering the House, however she spoke not at all.

Hilda Runciman was however, an ardent closet feminist. She did not want to put off male voters. She had been president of the Women’s National Liberal Federation, 1919–21, continuing to sit on its executive committee for many years. In 1929 it is worthy of note that Mrs Runciman fought the Tavistock seat which she lost by just 156 votes. It must be remembered that there was at this period a lethal split in the Liberal Party. Hilda and Walter, if one might be so familiar, were both committed to Asquith and not at ease with the leadership of Llyod George. Her portraits are in the National Portrait Gallery, two of which may be seen at

Mrs Walter Runciman Hilda Runciman Viscountess Runciman Editorial Stock  Photo - Stock Image | Shutterstock

Her immediate family

Her father was a prominent Liberal M.P. -he had just been elected as Member for South Shields and was a Tyneside Industrialist and significantly harsh on his employees.

Her Stevenson aunts were particularly interesting in the promotion of Education in Scotland.

Flora Clift Stevenson LLD (30 October 1839 – 28 September 1905) was a British social reformer with a special interest in education for poor or neglected children, and in education for girls. She was one of the first women in the United Kingdom to be elected to a school board.[1] (See She appears to have worked closely with her sister, she too was was a Scottish campaigner for women’s university education, women’s suffrage and effective, well-organised nursing. Louisa She and Flora paid for their niece Alice Stewart Ker (Hilda Runciman’s Cousin) to study medicine in Bern for a year. Alice was to become the 13th female British doctor. So it clearly appears that these socially committed Liberal and educated families developed a thoroughly magnificent endowment particularly for women’s emancipation and in which Hilda Runciman played her part.

Other Events in 1869

Six days before Hilda’s Birth Richard Wagner’s opera Das Rheingeld premiered in Munich

3 Weeks before the first westbound train arrived in San Francisco

October1869 – the ‘Edinburgh Seven‘, led by Sophia Jex-Blake, start to attend lectures at the University of Edinburgh Medical School, the first women in the UK to do so (although they will not be allowed to take degrees)

22 November – clipper ship Cutty Sark is launched in DumbartonScotland; she is one of the last clippers built, and the only one to survive in the UK.

Finally two books of some importance were published in

By penwithlit

Freelance writer and radio presenter

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