In 1919, 23-year-old Margaret Stevenson Miller walked through our doors for a lecture in Accounting. She would become both a distinguished academic and an influential campaigner for gender equality in the workplace.

Margaret Stevenson Miller
Margaret Stevenson Miller, BCom 1920.

Born in Glasgow in 1896, Margaret Stevenson Miller commenced her MA at the University of Edinburgh in 1919 along with 75 others. After this general degree, she then began studying on the first-ever business degree course offered by the University.

A year later, on 8 July 1920, Margaret graduated with her Bachelor of Commerce. The degree was envisaged as taking three years to complete. She received first-class certificates in four of her six classes.

Following graduation, she moved south and in 1925 was awarded her doctorate at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at University College London. She was the first person to be awarded her PhD from the school.

She then began work as a lecturer at the University of Liverpool in the Department of Commerce. Her area of interest was the economy of the Soviet Union and she went on to write several books on the topic.

However, in 1932, personal matters were to impinge on professional ones. She married C. Douglas Campbell, a colleague at the University, but this ran counter to the views of the Vice-chancellor, Dr Hector Hetherington, who felt married women should not be employed by the University. His position was enacted by the University Court: married women would have their contracts terminated and they would have to re-apply.

Liverpool were not alone. At this time, the BBC, which had previously been progressive, also had a policy of barring married women from employment unless they were "exceptional" in being able to work full-time while having a family. Other companies and organisations such as the Civil Service also had marriage bans while other such as John Lewis did not. Thousands of women had 'secret marriages', keeping their weddings private, and not wearing wedding rings to work.

Margaret was given a one-year contract as a lecturer in a lesser position than she had held previously. She did not meekly accept this, and soon the Campaign for the Right of the Married Woman to Earn was formed. It attracted the support of many women's rights organisations such as the Six Point Group, the Open Door Council, and the Women's Freedom League. Notable women of the time such as Beatrice Webb and Eleanor Rathbone also supported the campaign.

In November 1933, a public meeting in the Central Hall Westminster was attended by 3,000 people from 29 women's organisations. With speeches by the first woman to take her seat in the House of Commons, Nancy Astor, and the writer Rebecca West, it received widespread press attention. At the meeting Astor decried the government, calling its attitude towards married women workers "deplorable". A resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority protesting against the policy of employers—both private and public—dismissing women on the grounds of marriage and demanding women have the same rights as men.

This continued the pressure on Liverpool University and in 1934 the Court's decision was reversed. Margaret's job was advertised but Hetherington expressed his opinion to Margaret in a letter that "another candidate will be preferred". Her time at Liverpool was over.

During the Second World War, her expertise in the Soviet economy proved useful, and she worked for both the Foreign Office in London and the American Office of Strategic Studies in Washington. While in America she gave lectures at George Washington University.

She later worked for the Central Electricity Authority as an administrative officer, but continued to write and lecture on the economy of the Soviet Union.

Margaret died in 1979. It was only in that decade that marriage bars finally came to an end.

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