Margaret Haig Thomas Mamwlad


Margaret Haig Thomas

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-Like many Welsh people

-over the years...

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-..I've mapped out

-a career in London.

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-A century ago...

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-..a woman in the world of business,

-arts or politics was a rare sight.

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-Women didn't even have

-the right to vote.

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-One Welsh lady

-wanted to change this.

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-A prominent figure in the struggle

-for equality for women...

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-..was Margaret Haig Thomas.

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-She inherited the title

-of Viscountess Rhondda...

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-..and fought to follow her father

-into the House of Lords.

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-This remarkable woman

-made a massive impact...

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-..to ensure women

-had the right to do everything...

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-..that we take for granted.

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-She paid a high price for it.

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-She was the only woman

-who went to prison in Wales...

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-..for her rebellious acts in Wales.

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-She should be a familiar figure...

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-..but she isn't,

-not even for historians.

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-She had a prolific career

-as a pioneering journalist...

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-..a powerful businesswoman

-and the Mrs Pankhurst of Wales.

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-She survived the worst

-maritime disaster of the Great War.

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-Her life was fascinating,

-fruitful and colourful.

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-MOTHERLAND

-WITH FFION HAGUE

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-I'm amazed by the lack of attention

-Margaret Haig Thomas has received.

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-She fought relentlessly for equality

-for women, benefits for families...

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-..and for women

-to sit the House of Lords.

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-In 2012,

-this portrait of her was unveiled.

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-Finally, Margaret had made

-her mark at Westminster...

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-..more than 50 years

-following her death.

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-Margaret was raised in Llanwern

-on the edge of Newport.

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-She was the only child

-of the industrialist, D A Thomas.

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-Her father was the protege

-of Lloyd George.

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-He owned coalmines in the Rhondda

-and was a Liberal MP in Merthyr.

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-Her mother, Sybil, was a descendent

-of General Douglas Haig.

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-Their home was nestled

-on this hillside.

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-The building no longer exists, but

-this is where she spent her youth.

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-She learnt noble customs

-from her mother...

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-..and business skills

-from her father.

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-Margaret was an only child.

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-She kept herself amused

-by reading and writing.

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-She enjoyed climbing trees

-and behaved like a tomboy.

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-Margaret was also shy and insecure.

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-As the result of being mentored

-by her father...

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-..she gained confidence

-and was introduced to public life.

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-At election time,

-she would be involved.

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-She was taken along to encourage

-people to vote for her father.

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-Her mother

-was also active in politics.

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-She was president of the Aberdare

-Women's Liberal Association...

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-..and played

-quite an important role.

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-Aged 15, Margaret was sent

-to St Leonard's School in Scotland.

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-It was a key period in her life.

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-It was an innovative school.

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-There was an emphasis

-on how to shape an individual.

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-They read extensively and covered

-a wide spectrum of subjects.

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-More importantly for Margaret,

-she felt liberated.

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-Margaret refers to it

-as the happiest time of her life.

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-She learnt that being a girl

-wasn't an excuse to fail...

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-..but there were expectations

-for a girl of Margaret's calibre.

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-She would soon face the social whirl

-that was the London Season.

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-It was three months

-of debutant balls and parties.

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-Why was it important for Margaret

-to follow the Season?

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-She was born into

-an upper middle class family...

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-..and was expected to marry.

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-He had to be a member of the

-aristocracy and be very wealthy.

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-The best place to find him

-was at the Season.

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-How did Margaret embrace

-the London Season?

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-Initially,

-she showed great enthusiasm.

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-She was excited about the attire,

-meeting a husband and new friends.

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-However, she became disheartened

-because she was very shy...

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-..and struggled

-with the opposite sex.

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-Margaret faced another problem.

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-Fashion was changing.

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-The portrayal of the perfect woman

-in the magazines was very specific.

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-Women had to have a small silhouette

-and a tiny waist.

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-Margaret didn't fit

-this image of an ideal body.

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-She was a tall girl...

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-..and the stays she wore

-were very uncomfortable.

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-Did she find a husband?

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-Margaret attended

-the Season three times.

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-She was too embarrassed to go again

-as she failed in finding a husband.

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-She was under pressure to marry,

-yet Margaret had her own ideas.

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-Studying at Somerville College in

-Oxford left her feeling uninspired.

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-I get the impression

-that Margaret was a little lost.

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-She lacked any direction

-in her life.

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-Several months later in 1901,

-everything changed for Margaret.

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-On 10 July, the flags were flying...

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-..there was a red carpet and ribbons

-leading to the church.

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-Margaret had found a husband.

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-She came to Christchurch to marry

-her neighbour, Humphrey Mackworth.

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-They moved to a new home

-near Llanwern.

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-It was a wedding gift

-from her parents.

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-She said,

-"we were an oddly assorted couple."

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-He was 20 years her senior and

-was leader of the hunt at Llangybi.

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-She preferred to read and be quiet.

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-He thought it was very rude to read

-whilst others were in the room.

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-Despite their differences,

-marriage gave her some independence.

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-Margaret was happy.

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-This was primarily due to

-a new course in life...

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-..that would give her a purpose.

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-She campaigned for women's rights.

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-Life was changing for women in terms

-of education and marital rights.

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-However, women were still

-denied the right to vote.

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-It sparked a national campaign.

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-Margaret led a restrictive,

-middle class lifestyle...

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-..which lacked any direction.

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-She claimed that this campaign

-gave her life a direction.

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-It inspired her

-and gave her life some purpose.

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-The Pankhursts and the Women's

-Social and Political Union...

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-..were gaining momentum.

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-Margaret was instantly drawn

-to their message.

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-Their slogan was Deeds Not Words.

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-They had grown tired

-of all the discussions.

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-It was time for them

-to take direct action.

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-They interrupted public meetings,

-heckled at speakers...

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-..intruded hustings at elections and

-the National Eisteddfod of Wales.

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-These protests occurred in London,

-Wrexham and Abergavenny.

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-It was publicity for their cause.

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-Margaret protested around Britain

-from Scotland to Hyde Park.

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-With Mrs Pankhurst at her side,

-she became a prominent campaigner.

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-Margaret took it a step further and

-wanted to do something more extreme.

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-She decided the best action

-to take was to make a bomb.

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-She visited the WSPU headquarters

-in London.

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-She mixed chemicals in small vials

-in order to produce a bomb.

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-She hid the bomb in the bushes

-for a week before the fateful day.

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-She paced nervously

-up and down the street...

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-..prior to planting the bomb

-inside a letterbox.

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-Margaret was arrested

-and summoned to court at Usk...

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-..where she was found guilty.

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-She refused to pay bail

-but chose to make her stand.

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-Margaret's husband pleaded with her

-to avoid prison...

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-..but she refused and

-was thrown into this prison in Usk.

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-Being sent to jail

-was a traumatic experience.

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-They endured abhorrent conditions

-in dark, filthy cells.

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-Many inmates took drastic action

-and went on a hunger strike.

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-However, the prison officials

-force-fed them...

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-..by inserting a thick rubber tube

-into their mouths or nostrils.

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-Consequently,

-these women fell seriously ill.

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-The government promptly took action

-by passing the Cat and Mouse Act.

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-Having almost starved to death, the

-women were released to recover...

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-..and re-arrested

-to complete the sentence.

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-Margaret immediately

-went on a hunger strike.

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-She didn't eat or drink

-for three days.

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-When her health started to fail,

-she was released.

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-She was under the impression

-that she would return to jail.

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-Before making a full recovery,

-her fine was paid anonymously.

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-We believe her husband

-paid the fine.

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-Margaret's prison sentence

-had angered her in-laws...

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-..and Humphrey was incensed when

-she decided to work for her father.

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-It was completely inappropriate

-for his wife to work.

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-She learnt about business

-from her father.

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-She had

-an unofficial apprenticeship.

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-Before that,

-he'd talk to her about business.

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-For somebody

-in the late 19th century...

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-..to take their daughter

-as a confidante...

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-..and discussing ideas

-about business is rather unusual.

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-Margaret learnt

-about her father's empire...

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-..that extended to Mississippi,

-Pennsylvania and Canada.

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-He showed his confidence

-in Margaret...

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-..by taking her

-on a business trip in 1915.

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-After the trip to New York, Margaret

-and her father returned to Wales...

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-..on board the famous liner,

-the Lusitania.

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-They set sail for the most

-traumatic experience of their lives.

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-"My father and I came from luncheon

-and strolled to the lift on D-deck.

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-"He said we should stay up on deck

-to see if we get our thrill.

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-"I had no time to answer."

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-.

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-Subtitles

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-In May 1915, Margaret Haig Thomas

-and her father...

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-..were travelling from America

-on the Lusitania.

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-As the Irish coastline

-came into sight...

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-..the cruise liner

-was torpedoed by a German submarine.

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-"There was a dull thud.

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-"Not very loud

-but unmistakeably an explosion.

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-"My father walked over to look out

-of a porthole. I didn't wait."

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-The liner was sinking fast.

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-She removed her underskirts

-to jump overboard...

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-..but the level of the water

-had reached her deck.

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-Margaret jumped

-and plunged into the sea.

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-She rose to the surface

-and was surrounded by debris.

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-"Something was in my right hand

-and prevented me striking out.

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-"It was a lifebelt

-I had been holding for my father.

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-"I let it go."

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-Margaret slipped

-into unconsciousness.

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-At this point, the lifeboat

-was searching for passengers.

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-She later said that she was

-very fortunate to be saved.

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-"I was on a patrol steamer

-named the Bluebell...

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-"..when a sailor asked

-if we lost anyone.

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-"I remember the sudden sobering

-on answering.

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-"I didn't know

-what had happened to my father.

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-"We got into Queenstown Harbour

-about eleven.

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-"A man told me that my father

-had been rescued...

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-"..and was waiting

-at the other end of the gangway."

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-The business trip

-and trauma on board the Lusitania...

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-..strengthened her character.

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-Margaret didn't want to stay

-in an unhappy marriage.

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-In 1922,

-she divorced Humphrey Mackworth.

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-Divorce was still very expensive,

-very unusual and quite shaming.

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-She and Humphrey

-didn't have much in common.

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-She told her friend and actress,

-Elizabeth Robins...

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-.."He's a nice man

-but does nothing."

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-It wasn't as shaming for Margaret

-as it might have been for others.

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-She was in a position

-where she got on with her life.

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-They went their separate ways.

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-She didn't have another man

-in her life following her divorce...

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-..but had close relationships

-with several women...

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-..such as Helen Archdale

-from Time and Tide...

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-..Winifred Holtby, the novelist,

-and Theodora Bosenkay.

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-There wasn't another man.

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-By 1923, Margaret felt

-even more liberated than ever.

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-She was a divorcee with money

-and a profession...

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-..but she was faced

-with a challenge...

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-..as women only answered the phone

-at the company's Cardiff Bay office.

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-Women were unofficially

-involved in business.

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-Wives would be behind the scenes.

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-On the whole...

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-..it was unusual for women

-to have such a prominent role.

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-By 1919,

-she was chairing seven boards...

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-..and sat on about

-33 different boards.

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-She had more directorships than any

-other woman in the UK in the 1920s.

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-Margaret was elected president of

-the Institute of Directors or IOD.

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-This influential body...

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-..continues to represent

-business directors today.

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-Margaret was the first

-woman president and the only one.

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-It's possible

-she was the only woman member.

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-It's interesting

-that by the time she died in 1958...

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-..there were 600 women members

-in the Institute.

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-Things really changed

-during her lifetime.

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-If women were good enough

-to work during the war...

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-..they could work

-after the war too.

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-However, the press thought a woman

-should be in the home.

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-Her plan was to run a newspaper

-that treated women equally.

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-Therefore,

-she launched Time and Tide.

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-Time and Tide

-is one of her greatest achievements.

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-What she wanted to do...

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-..was give an opportunity

-for people to see...

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-..what women had achieved

-and might achieve...

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-..and to discuss

-the affairs of the day.

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-When women won the right to vote

-in 1928...

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-..the newspaper changed tact and

-became a leading literary journal.

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-By the 1940s,

-it sold 40,000 copies a week.

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-D J Morgan was chess editor

-of Time and Tide in the 1950s.

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-He visited the magazine

-with his son, Lord K O Morgan.

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-I met Margaret once in the 1950s.

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-I recall my father

-speaking with Lady Rhondda.

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-She was a lovely, dignified lady.

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-The French would refer to her

-as a "grande dame".

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-She was an important lady.

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-David received a phone call

-from Margaret.

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-There was a problem

-with one of his articles.

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-Time and Tide

-had become a right-winged paper.

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-Some readers had complained

-during the Cold War...

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-..that there were too many sportsmen

-and games from Russia...

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-..in my father's articles.

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-It was quite humorous.

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-Lady Rhondda had a lovely chat

-with my father.

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-He didn't have a problem

-with the Russians.

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-I asked my father

-if he changed his articles...

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-..but he wouldn't do that.

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-Margaret was a sincere employer.

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-She wanted her staff to work hard

-but was also happy to reward them.

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-If Margaret liked

-reading your article...

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-..she'd reward you with

-half a dozen eggs from Llanwern.

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-If your article was fantastic,

-she'd give you a dozen eggs.

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-This is how

-she showed her appreciation.

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-During this period, with the help

-of other influential women...

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-..Margaret formed

-the Six Point Group.

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-The Six Point Group

-was a pressure group...

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-..that advocated social,

-economic, legal and equal rights...

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-..whether it be

-legislating against child assault...

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-..or advocating

-equal pay for teachers.

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-It was to make sure that

-now some women had the vote...

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-..there would also be an opportunity

-to have social and economic rights.

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-Another campaign was the right for

-women to sit in the House of Lords.

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-Her inherited title

-of Viscountess Rhondda...

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-..didn't give her the right

-to a seat because she was a woman.

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-It was incredibly strange because

-Margaret fought for women's rights.

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-It was a bizarre situation.

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-She wouldn't have

-the right to vote...

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-..because she was meant to be

-a member of the House of Lords.

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-She wouldn't benefit from it

-so it was a problem for her.

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-Therefore,

-she campaigned for many years.

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-Months before her death in 1958,

-the Life Peerages Act was passed.

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-It permitted women

-to sit in the House of Lords.

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-Women with inherited titles had

-to wait five years to follow suit.

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-I, Baroness Morgan of Ely...

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-It would have been interesting

-to be there 20 years ago.

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-The House would have looked

-very different...

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-..full of old men

-and only a handful of women.

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-It's gradually changing...

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-..and this is partly due

-to Margaret's campaign.

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-People are showing more interest...

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-..in the woman

-who transformed the House of Lords.

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-She never had the chance

-to take her seat.

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-She died a few months earlier.

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-Margaret died at the age of 75

-in 1958.

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-Tributes refer to her as one of

-Britain's most prominent women.

0:21:550:22:00

-She introduced women's rights

-to Wales...

0:22:000:22:05

-..and ensured that Welsh women

-took an active role in the campaign.

0:22:050:22:11

-She was a symbol of someone

-who offered support...

0:22:110:22:15

-..and would make a sacrifice

-on behalf of the campaign.

0:22:150:22:20

-Many of the rights

-that we take for granted today...

0:22:210:22:25

-..she helped to make possible.

0:22:260:22:28

-Through her work in Time and Tide...

0:22:280:22:31

-..she publicized and advertised

-what women could achieve...

0:22:310:22:36

-..and deserves

-to be better remembered.

0:22:370:22:40

-Her portrait now hangs

-in the House of Lords.

0:22:420:22:46

-Therefore, Margaret has got

-the recognition she deserves.

0:22:460:22:51

-She understood that women

-have just as much right...

0:22:510:22:56

-..as much experience

-and have as much to say as any man.

0:22:570:23:02

-Margaret was a unique person.

0:23:060:23:08

-She thrived in the business world,

-challenged social order...

0:23:080:23:13

-..and transformed

-the House of Lords.

0:23:130:23:16

-It takes a special character

-to fight against the system.

0:23:160:23:21

-Margaret's story is incredibly

-inspiring and I admire her greatly.

0:23:210:23:27

-The inscription on her grave

-is wearing away...

0:23:270:23:31

-..but we cannot let her story

-wither and die.

0:23:310:23:34

-S4C Subtitles by Tinopolis

0:23:560:23:58

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0:23:580:23:58

Y tro hwn, cawn hanes un o syffrajets pennaf Cymru, Margaret Haig Thomas - Iarlles Rhondda. The story of one of Wales' most prominent suffragettes, Margaret Haig Thomas, Lady Rhondda.


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