Dorothy Jewson


Born on 17 August 1884 at Thorpe Hamlet, Norwich, Dorothy, feminist and politician, was one of two children of Alderman George Jewson JP, a coal and timber merchant, and his wife, Mary Jane Jarrold.

Dorothy attended Norwich High School, Cheltenham Ladies’ College and then Girton College, Cambridge in 1907, where she joined the university Fabian Society and the Independent Labour Party (ILP). In 1908 she gained a teacher’s certificate and then worked as an assistant mistress in Surrey, between 1908 and 1911.

Upon returning to Norwich to teach, Dorothy became more actively involved in politics. She joined the suffrage movement and the Women’s Social and Political Union, and in 1912 she stood unsuccessfully as a Labour candidate for the board of guardians. She then carried out an enquiry along with her brother, into poverty and poor relief in Norwich, this was published as The Destitute of Norwich and how they Live: a Report into the Administration of out Relief (1912).

During the First World War she helped to run a training centre for unemployed girls under the age of seventeen. Following the war she was invited by the trade union leader Mary Macarthur to become an organizer for the National Federation of Women Workers in London.  She left in 1922 and returned to Norwich.

Dorothy was elected as Labour MP for Norwich in 1923, becoming the city’s first female MP, but was defeated in 1924 and on two subsequent occasions in 1929 and 1931. She served on the Norwich City Council from 1929 to 1936. She also took a prominent role within the ILP and served on numerous internal committees.

Dorothy’s maiden speech as an MP was on the subject of extending voting rights to young women and she sought more influence for Labour women within their own party’s structure.  She used all her influence to try to gain support for controversial policies such as family allowances and easier access to birth control.

She was a pacifist in both world wars and in the 1920s was an active member of the No More War Committee. Her pacifism drew her to the Society of Friends during the Second World War and she was formally admitted as a member of Croydon and Southwark monthly meeting in 1958.

Following the death of her second husband (Socialist politician Rev. Campbell Stephen) in 1947, Dorothy moved to Orpington, but in 1963 returned to Norwich to live in a cottage in the grounds of her brother’s home at Hellesdon. She died there, on 29 February 1964. Her funeral service was held at the Friends’ Meeting House, Norwich, and she was cremated at nearby St Faith’s crematorium.

Find out more: You can see the election address of Dorothy Jewson and W.R. Smith (October 1924) at the Norfolk Record Office – HEN 43/104, 561X3.

Created in 2014 by UEA Film, Media and Television students Yasbelle Kerkow, Al Simmons and Grace Godfrey

An image of NRO, HEN 43/104, 561X3 Election address of Dorothy Jewson and W.R. Smith, October 1924
NRO, HEN 43/104, 561X3
Election address of Dorothy Jewson and W.R. Smith, October 1924
An image of NRO, HEN 43/104, 561X3 Election address of Dorothy Jewson and W.R. Smith, October 1924