Memorial to Margaret MacDonald

Memorial to Margaret MacDonald (1870-1911). A Grade II listed monument designed (according to June Hannan) by her husband Ramsay MacDonald, and sculpted by Richard Reginald Goulden (1876-1932). Unveiled in 1914, it consists of a bronze group depicting MacDonald herself in kneeling posture, extending her arms lovingly around a row of playful little children — always Goulden's forte — over a granite alcove seat. The words inscribed just below the bronze group are as follows: "THIS SEAT IS IN MEMORY OF MARGARET MACDONALD WHO SPENT HER LIFE IN HELPING OTHERS." The memorial is on the north side of Lincoln's Inn Fields, London WC2.

Memorial to Margaret MacDonald, right side

At the end of his biography of his wife, Ramsay MacDonald does paint a scene like the one shown in the bronze group:

We have seen children playing gleefully in the summertime, and in the midst of their play the good mother comes and gathers them up in her arms. They ask that they may finish their laughter and end their games, but their hour has come. It is time for them to rest. [264]

But whatever part he might have played in designing the monument, its realisation must be due to Goulden. Indeed, it is named first among Goulden's "most outstanding" works in the sculptor's own Times obituary.

Memorial to Margaret MacDonald, right side

This is a warm-hearted tribute to "the woman who toiled through the early years with Mr Ramsay MacDonald, but did not live to see him come to his reward [as the first Labour Prime Minister]" as one admirer out it (Mee 442). Margaret MacDonald was born in London as the only daughter of a Professor of Chemistry, and a minister's daughter. She was educated at the Doreck College for Girls in Bayswater, and the women's department of King's College London. The plaque on the rear of the seat explains that she married Ramsay MacDonald in 1896, and that the couple lived at 3 Lincoln's Inn Fields from then until her death. They had six children, one of whom predeceased her at the age of five in 1910. "It is not true that other children can make it up to you, that time heals the pain. It doesn't; it grows worse and worse," she told a friend (qtd. in Ramsay MacDonald 183).

Memorial to Margaret MacDonald, right side

Inscription to rear of seat.

As the plaque also says, Margaret MacDonald's "heart went out in fellowship to her fellow-women & in love to the children of the people whom she served as a citizen and helped as a sister." Despite her own busy home life, indeed in the midst of it, she was very active in trying to improve the lives of female industrial workers. She joined the Women's Industrial Council in 1894, publishing her investigations into home working in London in 1897, and helping to produce a series of studies on women workers. She was also heavily involved in the National Union of Women Workers. The house in Lincoln's Inn Fields thus became "a workshop of social plan and effort" (MacDonald 185). Little wonder that hard work and stress were thought to have contributed to her unexpected death at the age of 41 (see Hannam).

Margaret MacDonald's other memorials were a North Kensington baby clinic set up in 1919 memory of both MacDonald and Mary Middleton, wife of Ramsay MacDonald's Assistant Secretary, who died not long before her in the same year. The clinic was later subsumed into the NHS, and closed in about 1948 (see "Lost Hospitals of London"). A new ward was also named after her at Leicester Children's Hospital, now part of Leicester Royal Infirmary.

Photographs, text and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the Victorian Web and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite it in a print one. Click on the images to enlarge them.]

Sources

Hannam, June. "MacDonald, Margaret Ethel Gladstone (1870-1911)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online ed. Web. 6 June 2014.

"Baby Clinic Hospital" Lost Hospitals of London. Web. 6 June 2014.

MacDonald, J. Ramsay. Margaret Ethel MacDonald. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1912. Internet Archive. Stamped Stanford University Libraries. Web. 6 June 2014.

Mee, Arthur. London: Heart of the Empire and Wonder of the World (The King's England series). London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1937.

"Mr. R. R. Goulden" (obituary). The Times. 8 August 1932: 12. Times Digital Archive. Web. 6 June 2014.

"Mrs Ramsay MacDonald Memorial Seat on North Side of Gardens, Camden." British Listed Buildings. Web. 6 June 2014.


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7 June 2014