Margery Corbett Ashby


Dame Margery Irene Corbett Ashby, DBE (19 April 1882 – 15 May 1981) was a British suffragist, Liberal politician, feminist and internationalist.

Dame Margery Corbett Ashby
Margery Corbett Ashby (1923).jpg
Ashby in 1923
President of the Women's Liberal Federation
In office
Preceded byMargaret Wintringham
Succeeded byEleanor Acland
Personal details
Margery Irene Corbett

19 April 1882
Died15 May 1981 (aged 99)
Brian Ashby
(m. 1910)
ChildrenMichael Ashby


She was born at Danehill, East Sussex, the daughter of Charles Corbett, a barrister who was briefly Liberal MP for East Grinstead and Marie (Gray) Corbett, herself a Liberal feminist and local councillor in Uckfield. Margery was educated at home. Her governess was the feminist polymath Lina Eckenstein. Eckenstein was to become her friend and assisted with her work.[1]

She passed the Classical tripos as a student at Newnham College, Cambridge; but the university did not at that time give degrees to female students. She married lawyer Brian Ashby in 1910. Their only child, a son, Michael Ashby (1914-2004), was a neurologist who gave evidence as an expert witness at the 1957 trial of suspected serial killer John Bodkin Adams.[2]

Political careerEdit

With her sister Cicely and friends, she founded the Younger Suffragists in 1901. After deciding against teaching, she was appointed Secretary of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in 1907. She served as President of the International Woman Suffrage Alliance from 1923 to 1946.[3]

She received an honorary LLD from Mount Holyoke College (USA) in 1937 in recognition of her international work. In 1942, she went on a government propaganda mission to Sweden.[4]

Ashby was one of the seventeen women candidates to contest a parliamentary election at the first opportunity in the General Election of 1918. She stood for Birmingham Ladywood against Neville Chamberlain the Unionist Coalition candidate. Her slogan was A soldier's wife for Ladywood. Although she came third behind Chamberlain and the Labour candidate J.W.Kneeshaw, she forced Chamberlain to address women's issues during his campaign, one of the few candidates who tried.[citation needed]

Her papers at the Women's Library at the LSE in London contain a selection of her affectionate letters to her husband who was still in France for the early stages of the campaign. Chamberlain kept his sisters up to date with the campaign and his letters are preserved in the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham. Together they provide a unique record of the candidates' contrasting view of the election campaign.[5]

In 1922 and 1923 she contested Richmond, Surrey, 1924 Watford, 1929 Hendon, and 1935 and 1937 Hemel Hempstead.[6] Finally, she stood as an independent liberal with the backing of Radical Action at the 1944 Bury St Edmunds by-election.[7][8]


The archives of Margery Corbett Ashby are held at The Women's Library at the London School of Economics.[9]

Posthumous recognitionEdit

Her name and picture (and those of 58 other women's suffrage supporters) are on the plinth of the statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, London, unveiled in 2018.[10][11][12]

Electoral recordEdit

General Election 1918: Birmingham Ladywood[13]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Neville Chamberlain 9,405 69.5
Labour John W Kneeshaw 2,572 19.0
Liberal Margery Corbett Ashby 1,552 11.5
Majority 6,833 50.5
Turnout 40.6
Unionist hold Swing
General Election 1922: Richmond (Surrey)[14]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Ind U Harry Becker 12,075 50.6
Unionist Clifford Blackburn Edgar 6,032 25.3
Liberal Margery Corbett Ashby 5,765 24.1
Majority 6,043 25.3
Turnout 68.8
Unionist hold Swing
General Election 1923: Richmond (Surrey)[14]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Harry Becker 13,112 63.0 +12.4
Liberal Margery Corbett Ashby 7,702 37.0 +12.9
Majority 26.0 +.07
Turnout 59.4 -9.4
Unionist hold Swing
General Election 1924: Watford[14]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Dennis Herbert 15,271 54.7
Labour Herbert Henry Elvin 7,417 26.6
Liberal Margery Corbett Ashby 5,205 18.7
Majority 7,854 28.1
Turnout 73.1
Unionist hold Swing
General Election 1929: Hendon[14]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Unionist Philip Cunliffe-Lister 31,758 52.3
Labour Robert Lyons 15,434 25.5
Liberal Margery Corbett Ashby 13,449 22.2
Majority 16,324 26.8
Turnout 72.0
Unionist hold Swing
General Election 1935: Hemel Hempstead[15]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative John Davidson 20,074 62.5 -4.7
Liberal Margery Corbett Ashby 7,078 22.0 -2.6
Labour Charles William James 4,951 15.4 +7.2
Majority 12,996 40.6 -2.0
Turnout 69.3 -7.9
Conservative hold Swing -1.1
1937 Hemel Hempstead by-election[15]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Frances Davidson 14,992 57.7 -4.8
Liberal Margery Corbett Ashby 7,347 28.3 +6.3
Labour Charles William James 3,651 14.0 -1.4
Majority 7,645 29.4 -11.2
Turnout 55.0 -14.3
Conservative hold Swing -5.6
1944 Bury St Edmunds by-election[13]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Conservative Edgar Keatinge 11,705 56.2 n/a
Independent Liberal Margery Corbett Ashby 9,121 43.8 n/a
Majority 2,584 12.4 n/a
Turnout 20,828 50.8 n/a
Conservative hold Swing n/a


  1. ^ Sybil Oldfield, 'Eckenstein, Lina Dorina Johanna (1857–1931)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, September 2014 Profile,; retrieved 1 October 2015.
  2. ^ Cullen, Pamela V., A Stranger in Blood: The Case Files on Dr John Bodkin Adams, London, Elliott & Thompson, 2006; ISBN 1-904027-19-9
  3. ^ Law, Cheryl. Women, A Modern Political Dictionary. I.B. Tauris, 200. ISBN 1-86064-502-X
  4. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  5. ^ Hallam, David J.A., Taking on the Men: the first women parliamentary candidates 1918, Studley, 2018, Chapter 4 "Corbett Ashby in Ladywood.
  6. ^ F W S Craig, British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949; Political Reference Publications, Glasgow 1949
  7. ^ Chris Cook, A Short History of the Liberal Party: 1900 - 2001, pp.268-269
  8. ^ Peter Barberis, Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations, p.316
  9. ^ Margaret Corbett Ashby's records ref=7MCA, London School of Economics
  10. ^ "Historic statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett unveiled in Parliament Square". 24 April 2018. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  11. ^ Topping, Alexandra (24 April 2018). "First statue of a woman in Parliament Square unveiled". The Guardian. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  12. ^ "Millicent Fawcett statue unveiling: the women and men whose names will be on the plinth". iNews. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  13. ^ a b British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, FWS Craig
  14. ^ a b c d British Parliamentary Election Results 1918-1949, F W S Craig
  15. ^ a b British parliamentary election results 1918-1949, Craig, F. W. S.

External linksEdit

  • Biodata
  • Oxford DNB
  • Biodata
Party political offices
Preceded by President of the Women's Liberal Federation
Succeeded by