Purple plaque commemorates one of Wales’ first female MPs
Wales’ 10th Purple Plaque has been unveiled in Flint to mark the life of campaigning MP and journalist, Eirene White.
Eirene White, born Eirene Jones, became one of the first three women ever to represent Wales in Parliament, elected as the Labour MP for East Flintshire between 1950-1970.
White was a political correspondent for both the Manchester Evening News and the BBC following WWII before entering politics herself.
She became parliamentary under-secretary at the Colonial Office in Harold Wilson’s government in 1964, then Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in 1966 and Minister of State at the Welsh Office for three years from 1967.
Eirene White remained MP for the Flintshire constituency for 20 years, holding on at one election by just 72 votes, before she was succeeded by Barry Jones, now Lord Barry Jones.
For 10 of those years – from 1951 to 1957 and from 1966 to 1970 – she was Wales’ only female MP, before she became Baroness White of Rhymney in the House of Lords in 1970.
Additionally, she served as chairman of the Fabian Society and of the Labour Party NEC from 1968–9 and also served as a governor of the British Film Institute and a member of the board of Trade Films Council.
Pioneering and inspiring
She was recognised by the Women’s Equality Network Wales 100 Welsh Women list, created to mark the contributions to Welsh national life of women, past and present.
In response to the Purple Plaques campaign, which aims award remarkable women in Wales with a plaque to commemorate their achievements and place in Welsh history, Flint Town Council chose to place a Purple Plaque on the town hall to commemorate the former MP, who died in 1999, aged 90.
Eirene 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.”
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.”
The Purple plaque campaign was launched on International Women’s Day 2017, by a group of volunteers who felt the need for more recognition for the contribution women make to Welsh life.
Across Wales, there are 250 mainly blue plaques commemorating notable figures but the overwhelming majority highlight men’s achievements.
The first purple plaque celebrating assembly Member, equality and social justice campaigner Val Feld was unveiled at the Senedd in 2018.
In 2019 plaques celebrating journalist, librarian and feminist historian Ursula Masson appeared in Merthyr Tydfil and Megan Lloyd George the first female MP for a Welsh constituency was unveiled Criccieth.
In 2020 the plaques celebrated Chinese community champion Angela Kwok in Pontcanna and anti-nuclear campaigner and a founder of Greenham Common peace camp Eunice Stallard in Ystradgynlais.
Last year three women were celebrated, war reporter Martha Gellhorn in Monmouthshire, Women’s suffrage and peace campaigner Charlotte Price White in Bangor and organic farming pioneer Dinah Williams in Borth.
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An establishment figure of the first water,well second to her father,perhaps.