A Yank In Bradford – Margaret McMillan

Margaret McMillan born New York USA 1860 died London 1931.

Born in USA of Scottish ancestry, in October 1889, Rachel and Margaret McMillan were helping the workers during the London Dock Strike as part of their work  spreading the word of Christian Socialism. In 1892 it was suggested that their efforts would be appreciated in Bradford.
Possibly Margaret was inspired by Richard Oastler’s work for the poor and William Edward Forster another Bradford figure who was committed to change and was largely responsible for the 1870 Elementary Education Act which was the first National Education Act.

Margaret McMillan and her sister Rachel worked in deprived 19th century Bradford and this convinced them they should concentrate on trying to improve the physical and intellectual welfare of the slum child. ‘In 1892 Margaret joined Dr. James Kerr, Bradford’s school medical officer, to carry out the first medical inspection of elementary school children in Britain. Kerr and McMillan published a report on the medical problems that they found and began a campaign to improve the health of children by arguing that local authorities should install bathrooms, improve ventilation and supply free school meals.

Margaret toured the industrial regions speaking at meetings and visiting the homes of the poor. With her sisters joined the Fabian Society, the Labour Church, the Social Democratic Federation and the newly formed Independent Labour Party (ILP).The sisters remained active in politics and Margaret McMillan became the Independent Labour Party candidate for the Bradford School Board. Elected in 1894 and working closely with Fred Jowett, leader of the ILP on the local council, Margaret now began to influence what went on in Bradford schools. Fred Jowett is credited with starting the first free school meals in the UK. Margaret McMillan wrote several books and pamphlets on the subject including Child Labour and the Half Time System (1896) and Early Childhood (1900). ‘ (1)

‘In her later years Margaret McMillan became interested in the subject of nursing. With the financial help of Lloyds of London, she established a new college to train nurses and teachers.’ (2)
She is still remembered by virtue of the McMillan School of Teaching, Health and Care at Bradford University, Primary schools, Childrens day care centres and a Street named in her honour.


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