One of Cambridge’s most remarkable women of the 20th century is being honoured with a blue plaque.

Born in 1886, Leah Manning trained as a teacher at Homerton in the 1900s, during which time she also became politically active, joining the Labour Party and the Fabian Society. From 1908 she focused on improving the education, health and welfare of children at the New Street Ragged School, where she taught for ten years. The site of the school, where the plaque will eventually be placed, now forms part of Anglia Ruskin University.

Manning was elected as MP for Epping in 1945, becoming heavily involved in policy-making for educational reform, social reconstruction and international peace. She was a lifelong champion of causes affecting women and children, advocating for women’s rights, birth control and equal pay.

Internationally, Manning’s most lasting legacy is her effort to secure the evacuation to Britain of 4,000 children from Bilbao to Britain during the Spanish Civil War in 1937, many of whom came to Cambridge.

The plaque was unveiled by Manning’s friend Stan Newens, who succeeded her as the Labour MP for Epping and Harlow. Stan charmed and amused the audience at the event with anecdotes from his encounters with her. He remembered her enormous energy and commitment to the people of Harlow, her interest in everyone she met, and her great sense of humour.

Also speaking at the unveiling, Dr Peter Cunningham from Homerton College, said that her career stood as a model for current students at Homerton “They are actively encouraged to see themselves as ‘Changemakers’, to apply their privileged learning, their knowledge and skills in many fields, to the betterment of humanity as Leah Manning did.”

The Cambridge Blue Plaque Scheme is run by local charity Cambridge Past, Present & Future. James Littlewood, Chief Executive of the charity spoke at the unveiling “the Blue Plaque scheme aims to commemorate people and events that have made a significant impact on Cambridge, the UK or, indeed, the world. In 2018 we were very pleased to receive a nomination from Homerton College proposing a plaque to commemorate Leah Manning, one of their alumni. Bringing these plaques to fruition takes a lot more work than you might imagine, we are very grateful to the volunteers on the blue plaque committee, Anglia Ruskin University and Homerton College. This will be the 35th blue plaque and is in the illustrious company of Oliver Cromwell, Sir Jack Hobbs, Millicent Fawcett, the discovery of DNA and Alan Turing.”

Cambridge and District Blue Plaque Scheme

The Cambridge City 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.

Nominations for blue plaques are made by members of the public, community groups or organisations. A blue plaque committee, made up of volunteers, decides whether a nomination should be taken forward. Funds then have to be raised to pay for the plaque and any commemorative event.

Details of how the scheme operates and information about the plaques put up so far can be found here

For donations please click here