The Power of Being the Change

Wigan Suffragist: Martha Hogg 1855 – 1934

Martha Hogg was born into a family who worked in the cotton factories. Like most factory workers her family were poor and she left school at 13 to also work in a cotton factory. In 1891 she married William Hogg and as a result was ousted from her job. This was a source of frustration for Martha Hogg but it drove her to train to be a midwife, qualifying in 1912. This was a remarkable achievement considering she left school with no qualifications. Midwifery had only been an official registered practice after the first Midwives Act in 1902 and the formation of the Royal College of Midwives. For years, the concept of a Midwife had been met with opposition and derision. Jennifer Worth in ‘Call the Midwife’ recalls:

"They were called “an absurdity”, “time wasters”, “a curiosity”, and “an objectionable body of busy-bodies”. They were accused of everything from perversion to greed for unlimited financial gain" Jennifer Worth, Call The Midwife, Phoenix: London 2002 p.7

Working as a midwife in Wigan, Hogg was exposed the horrendous living conditions the working classes had to endure. She sought change and joined the Labour Party. During the First World War she represented the Guild of Midwives on several committees focusing on health issues. Hogg stood for election in 1919 but lost to 92 seats. She stood again in 1920 and this time won becoming the first woman councillor in Wigan.

She fought passionately for issues such as pensions for the blind and ex-servicemen and for mothers. She served on the board for many committees and was held in such high esteem she was appointed the first female member of the Watch Committee (local police authority). In 1931 she was appointed as a magistrate, one of the few female magistrates in the country.

She died in 1934 and as she was so respected by the community, her funeral brought Wigan to a standstill. Her coffin was carried into church by police constables and there were hundreds of floral tributes.

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