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21 November 2016updated 07 Sep 2021 12:10pm

The Returning Officer: Florence White

"Spinsters are still beyond the pale."

By Stephen Brasher

In 1936, William Kirkpatrick, the Tory MP for Preston, resigned to take a diplomatic role in China. The founder of the National Spinsters’ Pensions Association, Florence White, stood in the by-election that followed. Although listed as an independent, she had long been a Liberal and said that she would accept the national government whip.

In 1937, having met with the health minister Kingsley Wood, she said: “Spinsters are still beyond the pale. Many . . . are in middle life, struggling to cope with the speeding up of machinery.” Two years later, she sent Neville Chamberlain an umbrella for his birthday, asking him to protect middle-aged spinsters under it.

Stephen Brasher

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