There are wonderful works of Art in the House of Lords collection but the one that means most to me is the portrait of Viscountess Rhondda.
There are few portraits of women in Parliament, but the one of Lady Rhondda is very special.
Hers is a great story of a woman who had a very privileged upbringing, who became a business woman at a time when it was unusual for women to do so. She believed in a woman’s right to vote and became a suffragette, as well as a campaigner for women’s rights. She founded the magazine Time and Tide. She was the only child, and unusually inherited her title from her father the Viscount Rhondda of Llanwern.
He was the Member of Parliament for Merthyr Tydfil, and later for Cardiff before becoming a member of the Lords.
He was also a business man, and a coal owner in the Rhondda.
When she inherited the title she began a campaign to take her seat in the Lords. Unfortunately the Committee of Privileges who originally seemed to have accepted her case later rejected her request. I often imagine if she had been able to take her seat what a difference it would have made and would have opened the doors for other women.
Although women were allowed to sit in the House of Commons from 1918 it wasn’t until 1958 that women were allowed to sit in the Lords and it took until 1963 before women who inherited a title were allowed. All too late for Lady Rhondda who died in 1958.
To get back to the portrait. Some time ago Jessica Morden MP Newport East contacted me as she knew someone who wanted to sell his portrait of Lady Rhondda. As I was a member of the Work of Arts Committee I suggested this might be a portrait worth having with its connections to the House of Lords. I learned that there had been a search for a portrait of Lady Rhondda for some time so agreement was reached to purchase the portrait.
The portrait now hangs in the Peers and guests Dining Room where it is on view for all to see.
I am proud to have played a small part in seeing Lady Rhondda, who could not sit in the House of Lords during her lifetime is now there for all to admire.
Her father was a Rhondda coal owner; my father was a Rhondda coal miner, and worked in a colliery her father owned.
Viscountess Rhondda daughter of a Rhondda coal owner wanted to contribute to public life by taking her seat in the Lords but was not allowed to do so. In 1999 as Baroness Gale of Blaenrhondda, and daughter of a Rhondda coal miner I was allowed to sit in the Lords.
I believe that Lady Rhondda, because of her campaigning for women and especially her battle to sit in the Lords allowed women like me to take my seat in the Lords. She certainly broke down barriers for women.
That is why Viscountess Rhondda’s portrait, now hanging in its rightful place in the House of Lords means so much to me.
Take a look at the full portrait of Viscountess Rhondda and other portraits of women Parliamentarians
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