Margaret Beavan was at a church conference when she heard the news that war had broken out. She immediately returned to Liverpool as she felt she would have work to do.
Leasowe Hospital launched before the war had brought Margaret recognition in Liverpool, which in turn attracted further support for the hospital, enabling it to continue to grow. In 1914 Margaret wrote a report ‘The war against social wrongs’, using the war as a metaphor for suffering and misery caused by preventable diseases.
Margaret looked at ways of providing convalescent treatment for city children. West Kirby Convalescent Home was working at full capacity but demand was high for cases which required long periods of treatment such as TB.
In 1915 a home for girls opened in Hoylake. Over 260 were treated at this home during the first 9 months. This house was only rented and it soon became clear that there was a need for a permanent premises. Margaret and her staff sent out thousands of handwritten letters asking for support. The result was that over £1600 was raised, enough to purchase a larger property on the same terrace. Opened in 1916 and named after Ellen Gonner who had devoted much of her life to the convalescent care of children. The home saw great success in curing ailments such as chest complaints.
In July 1918 Margaret received her first form of public recognition for her work with children. She was presented with a large sum of money by Lady Musprat and Mr Hayes Fisher, President of the Local Government Board. With the money Margaret chose not to spend this on herself but bought the house next door to Ellen Gonner House, expanding accommodation to 72 children.
The Invalid Children’s Association established weekly clinics for mothers and infants. Margaret later worked with the Medical Officer for Health to expand and develop these baby clinics across the city. She was also instrumental in establishing a Babies Hospital at Leasowe in 1916 with a number of Liverpool doctors including: Dr Macalister, Dr M Jones and Dr V Foley.
In 1918 Margaret launched a scheme where allowances were paid to 20 unmarried or widowed mothers to enable them to stay at home and nurse their children, the Medical Officer for Health contributed to this scheme, which required regular attendance at a clinic providing education for mothers about issues such as diet. The same year Margaret also started a scheme to provide milk for ‘delicate children’.
At this point the ICA had three branch offices; Birkenhead, Everton Road and Netherfield Road. The expansion into welfare led to a name change from Invalid Children’s association to the Liverpool Child Welfare Association. In her 1918 report Margaret highlights the: ‘…struggle for the betterment of social conditions at home is calling for the same determined and united effort, for the same disinterested sacrifice and service which the war evoked.”
A banquet was held in her honour at the Athenaeum Club. The success of this led to Sir Archibald Salvidge, leader of the Conservative party, to nominate Margaret for Lord Mayor for 1927-28. Margaret became the first female to hold this office in Liverpool, not in the country as had been reported at the time. Margaret had ideas about the functions of a Lord Mayor: ‘The job of the Lord Mayor, to my mind, is to make every section of the community feel they share in the communal life; … to make the Town Hall a real civic centre…’ Margaret paid attention to the different religious communities of Liverpool and visited many schools and prize giving events as well as inviting Scouts, Guides and other youth organisations to the Town Hall, including throwing Christmas parties for the children under the care of the Association.
In January 1928, Margaret held a function for other female mayors around the county at the Town Hall. Nine of the other twelve attended, with a large the crowd gathered to watch them arrive. Wearing her ceremonial robes, Margaret spoke of her wish that they could work together to encourage teamwork amongst both men and women.
The following month the holing through of the Liverpool to Birkenhead tunnel was completed. After Chairman of the Tunnel Committee Archibald Salvidge broke through the rock, Margaret shook hands with the Mayor of Birkenhead.
Margaret presided over many civic functions, including visits by heads of state. The visit by King Amanullah of Afghanistan was a huge success. A special ceremony of welcome was held at St George’s Hall with a banquet at the Town Hall, which Margaret herself was involved in the planning. As a result of such a warm welcome the King awarded Margaret the ‘Astau’ (star) in recognition of her hospitality.
Margaret remained a spinster, but speaking to a group of young women who were emigrating to Australia to work as domestic servants October, she told them being unmarried was okay at first by the time they got to her age (she would have been 50 at that time) a man became useful to have around. The response to this was a flood of marriage proposals, many of them including photographs, but Margaret declined them all.
After her Mayoral duties ended she was invited to sit on the Royal Commission on Police Powers and Procedure, looking at the powers of the police to investigate crimes and the role of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Margaret was then nominated as the Conservative candidate for Everton for the General Election of May 1929, she was expected to successfully defend the seat for her party and become Liverpool’s first female MP at Westminster. However she was beaten by Labour’s Derwent Hall Caine.
Her persistent requests for donations led to Margaret being known as the ‘little mother of Liverpool’. Nationally, she was Vice President of the National Association of Maternity and Child Welfare and a member of the National Council of Women of Great Britain.
In 1931 Margaret contracted pneumonia and went to the Leasowe Hospital, where she later died on 21st February.