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23 November 2016updated 07 Sep 2021 11:45am

The Returning Officer: Beatrice Wright

The only woman to win a by-election in the Second World War.

By Stephen Brasher

Beatrice Wright was the only woman to win a by-election in the Second World War, when she was elected unopposed in Bodmin after the death of her husband, John Rathbone, in the RAF. She took her seat in “deep mourning”. The Yorkshire Evening Post noted: “Her only ornament was a silver badge of the Royal Air Force.” Like Nancy Astor, the first woman MP, she was born in the US. In 1942, she was the first woman MP to register for national service.

Her first husband’s aunt was Eleanor Rathbone, independent MP for the Combined English Universities (1929-46). Her son, Tim Rathbone, was Tory MP for Lewes (1974-97). Her great-niece is Jenny Rathbone, the Labour assembly member for Cardiff Central.

Stephen Brasher

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