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© Jessica Taylor / UK Parliament

Necessary Women: The Untold Story of Parliament’s Working Women
Women have always worked in Parliament; cleaning the corridors of power, providing meals, and supporting office work. Many also lived onsite, their personal lives played out and amplified amongst the Victorian gothic grandeur of the Palace of Westminster. This talk will explore some of their stories and their contribution to Parliamentary culture, including Jane, goddess of Bellamy’s, purveyors of tea, chops, steaks, pies and wine to MPs in the 1840s; Eliza Arscot, Principal Housemaid at the House of Lords who was consigned to an asylum for thirty years; the ever-youthful May Ashworth, Official Typist to Parliament for decades through marriage, war and divorce; and Jean Winder, first female Hansard reporter, who fought for years for equal pay.

Dr Mari Takayanagi is a historian of women and Parliament, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and an Honorary Fellow of the Historical Association. Her first book, ‘Necessary Women: the Untold Story of Parliament’s Working Women’, co-authored with Elizabeth Hallam Smith, was published in June 2023 by The History Press.

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