CambridgePPF, who took on the Blue Plaque scheme earlier this year, were delighted to unveil a second Blue Plaque in November 2018, as part of the continuing programme of events which celebrate the centenary of votes for women. This plaque, honours Clara Dorothea Rackham (1875-1966) and was unveiled at a ceremony at Newnham College where Clara studied Classics from 1895-98 on 20 November, She lived in Cambridge, for many years, in a house overlooking Parker’s Piece.

The Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire Blue Plaque schemes commemorate people and events that have made a significant impact on the area, the UK or, indeed, the world. This scheme is run by local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future largely through the fantastic efforts of volunteers.

After her time at Newnham, Clara Rackham married the scholar Harris Rackham, brother of the illustrator Arthur Rackham, in 1901. Clara believed strongly in co-operative ideals and founded the Cambridge Co-operative Women’s Guild in 1902. She chaired the Eastern Federation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, led by Millicent Garrett Fawcett, and served on the national executive committee. One of a handful of women appointed as government factory inspectors during the First World War she became a nationally respected authority on factory legislation and an early advocate of the 40-hour working week.

After the war Clara was elected as a Labour councillor for Romsey, a ward containing many railway workers’ families. Her name became synonymous with enlightened local government and she served as a city councillor for 28 years, a county councillor for 38, and as vice-chairman of Cambridge County Council from 1956-58. There was hardly a progressive cause, organisation or initiative in the city to which she did not give her time and support including the establishment of the first family planning clinic, the Rock Road Library, and the heated swimming pool on Parker’s Piece.

Clara was among Cambridge’s first women magistrates and a lifelong supporter of the Howard League for Penal Reform. She was chairman of the County Council Education Committee (1945-57) and fought innumerable battles to expand educational opportunities for adults in her roles as a governor of the Cambridgeshire College or Arts, Crafts and Technology and as chairman of the Eastern District of the Workers’ Educational Association. Clara greatly valued her own education at Newnham College and served on the college council from 1924-31 and on the governing body from 1920-40.

Loss of hearing eventually forced her to relinquish committee work but she remained a much-loved and easily recognisable figure in her final years, still cycling around Cambridge, taking an interest in her many friends, charities and voluntary organisations, and conversing happily with young and old alike.

Clara Rackham died peacefully in Langdon House residential home at the age of 90.

This new plaque was unveiled by Dame Stella Manzie DBE, a graduate of Newnham College, Stella has held a number of senior positions in public service and she is currently doing a range of work including supporting elected women politicians overseas and spoke about her work and admiration for Clara. Cllr Anna Smith, The Labour Councillor for Romsey Ward where Clara served for 28 years started proceedings with Dr Gillian Sutherland, Emerita Fellow of Newnham College, giving a fascinating summary of Clara’s work and life.

James Littlewood, CambridgePPF’s CEO said: “We are incredibly grateful to the volunteer Blue Plaque Committee for their work on this plaque and their help organising this commemorative event for Clara. We are grateful to Professor Mary Joannou for nominating Clara Rackham for a blue plaque, for helping to bring this to fruition and for drafting her biography. We’d particularly like to thank members of the family, and others, including Greenwich Leisure, (Parker’s Piece Pool) for helping to fund the plaque and to Newnham College for hosting the unveiling event, as well as Emmanuel College for agreeing to the plaque being installed on one of their properties.”