Alice Cullen’s Election Victory of 1948

Alice Cullen MP was elected for the Glasgow Gorbals constituency on the 30 September 1948, she continued to represent it until her death in 1969.

Cullen joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1916 she was an active member becoming secretary of the local ward committee and a Glasgow town councillor in 1938. In 1948 George Buchanan MP for Gorbals resigned to become Chairman of the National Assistance Board. Cullen competed against three men to secure her nomination as the Labour candidate for the resulting by election.

The Times Wed 8 September 1948

Prime Minster Clement Attlee sent a message of good wishes to Cullen and advised the people of the Gorbals not be distracted by ‘red herrings’ issued by the other two candidates, Mr Kerrigan (Communist) and Mr Roxburgh (Conservative).

The Times Sat 25 September 1948 pt1

The Times Sat 25 September 1948 pt2

On winning the seat Alice Cullen becoming the first Catholic women to be elected to Parliament.

The Times Sat 2 October 1948

She took the oath on the day of the new session on the 26 October 1948.

The Times Wed 27 October 1948

Giving her maiden speech on 17 December she spoke about the ‘dilapidated, tumble-down, rat-infested’ state of housing in her constituency. Housing and the health and welfare of her constituents were to be her main concerns throughout her time in Parliament. Her campaigning on housing was rewarded with the Hutchesontown/Gorbals Comprehensive Development Area scheme which saw the demolition of the 62 acres of slums and their replacement with modern housing and flats in the early 1960s.

Cullen fought, and won, seven general elections and died a sitting MP in May 1969. Her successor Frank McElhone MP, speaking in the House of Commons said ‘[she was] a woman who was held in the highest respect in this House. In my constituency she became a legend in her lifetime. Two or three years ago the Sunday Express christened her the champion of the slum dweller, and she richly earned that title…

Alice Cullen (bottom right) is shown in this important group photograph by Lord Snowden.  The other women MPs include Margaret McKay, Alice Bacon, Eirene White, Anne Kerr, Bessie Braddock, Judith Hart, Margaret Herbison and Barbara Castle.

British Labour Women MPs by Lord Snowden, 1964 WOA 7469
British Labour Women MPs
by Lord Snowden, 1964
WOA 7469

For more information about women in Parliament

For more information on elections 1918-2012

Press cuttings:

‘Gorbals Labour Candidate’ The Times 8 September 1948

‘Mr Attlee’s message to Gorbals’ The Times 25 September 1948 (two images)

‘Gorbals Seat Held by Labour’ The Times 2 October 1948

‘House of Commons, Tuesday 26 Oct’ The Times 27 October 1948