Purple plaque to honour one of the first female MPs for Wales to unveiled in Flint today
Wales’ 10th Purple Plaque is due to be unveiled in Flint today (June 10th) to mark the life of a campaigning MP and journalist, Eirene White.
It is the first under the Purple Plaques scheme to be unveiled in north east Wales, as we reported last month.
Eirene White, born Eirene Jones, became one of the first three women ever to represent Wales in Parliament.
Earlier in her career she was the first woman journalist to be accredited as a political correspondent at the Manchester Guardian (in 1945).
For 10 years – from 1951 to 1957 and from 1966 to 1970 – she was Wales’ only female MP, holding the marginal East Flintshire constituency for 20 years until she became Baroness White of Rhymney in the House of Lords in 1970.
Eriene White’s niece, Mala Murton, said: “As a family we are proud of all Eirene did for both women and Wales in so many different ways. She always treated women the same as men: I don’t think she treated me any differently from my male siblings.”
“A Purple Plaque seems an appropriate way of commemorating her achievements and her place in Welsh history. She was a truly pioneering and inspiring woman.”
Hannah Blythyn, Member of the Senedd for Flintshire since 2015, says her forerunner was, “a pioneering politician of her age”.
She said, “It’s a real privilege to be part of the event to unveil a Purple Plaque in honour of Eirene White at Flint Town Hall.”
“It is only right that she is recognised in this way, in the community she served for 20 years.”
“One of the first women MPs in Wales, she helped blaze the trail for others and I hope that the plaque will provide a platform for people to learn about and build on Eirene’s legacy.”
Jane Hutt, the Welsh Government’s Minister for Social Justice, said: “I’m delighted to be unveiling the 10th Purple Plaque in Wales together with Eirene White’s nephew, Ben Jones.
“Eirene dedicated her life to public service – she had a long and distinguished career, including serving as the MP for East Flintshire for 20 years, as a Minister at the Foreign Office and the Welsh Office and a life peer.”
“She is featured in a Women’s Archive of Wales/Archif Menywod Cymru Women’s Heritage Walk in Barry, where she spent her childhood, so it’s fantastic that she now she will be remembered in Flintshire, where she spent so many years representing her constituents”
Born in Belfast to a Welsh family, Eirene attended Oxford University and afterwards travelled to the United States where she learned about racial discrimination (through her friend the singer Paul Robeson) and the value of public libraries while working in the New York library on 42nd Street.
She became the MP for East Flintshire in 1950 and was active in promoting equal pay, nursery provision and further education.
In her political career she put forward a Private Members’ Bill to reform divorce law and was active in promoting equal pay, nursery provision and further education.
According to a fellow MP Lena Jeger she was a, “Formidable ‘committee woman’, passionate about Labour, libraries and Wales.”
Prime Minister Harold Wilson brought her into his government in the Foreign Office in 1964 and then in the Welsh Office from 1967-1970. She was also chairman of the Labour party at that time (1968-69).
In the House of Lords Eirene was deputy speaker from 1979-89 as well as being president of the prestigious adult education centre, Coleg Harlech. In her time she was also a Governor of the National Library of Wales and chair of the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology.
Sue Essex, chair of the Purple Plaques Wales Committee, said, “It is exciting to unveil our 10th Purple Plaque and our first in the north east corner of Wales.”
“Eirene White was a formidable force for good for her constituents and for the wider public with her work in politics and as President of Coleg Harlech, which helped give so many mature students a ‘second chance’ for an education they had previously missed out on.”
Eirene White also wrote two books – one on the founder of Coleg Harlech and one called ‘The Ladies Of Gregynog’ about the philanthropic sisters Gwendoline and Margaret Davies who set up the Gregynog Press.
[Images copyright Ben Jones]
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