Marjorie Rackstraw (1888-1981)

From Our History
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Marjorie Rackstraw (1881-1891) was Warden of Masson Hall, Edinburgh University, from 1924 to 1937.

Early Years

Marjorie Rackstraw was born in Highgate, Middlesex, the second daughter of Matthew and Fanny Rackstraw. Her father ran a successful department store, and used his money to ensure each of his daughters had independence as well as the educational opportunities their talents afforded. Rackstraw was educated at Grove School, Highgate, Middlesex. It was here that she developed spinal trouble, which would affect her mobility for the rest of her life. Rackstraw went on to study for an undifferentiated arts degree at the University of Birmingham, where she also met her lifelong friend, Margery Fry, who was a warden there. After graduating in 1912, Rackstraw spent a year at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania, before joining Fry in the Friends' War Victims Relief Committee working with refugees in the Marne. Rackstraw also volunteered as a relief worker in Russia throughout the famine.

Rackstraw at Edinburgh University

In 1924, Rackstraw accepted the post of Warden at Masson Hall of Residence, University of Edinburgh, where she was also an adviser to female students. She remained there until 1937, joining the Fabian Society while there. Many of the students kept in touch with Rackstraw after they graduated. Rackstraw contributed financially to a new hall which was built in 1965, almost 30 years after she had left, as well as leaving a bursary.

Post-Edinburgh Career

Following her resignation from the University in 1937, Rackstraw moved to Hampstead, London, where she undertook more voluntary work, often linked with her local Labour party. In 1944 she began working with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration in France and Germany. In 1945, she returned to Hampstead having been elected as a Labour Councillor, in which capacity she served until 1951. Rackstraw formed the Hampstead Old People's Housing Trust in 1947. The trust bought empty housing, and made it suitable for the accommodation of elderly people, many of whom had lost their homes through the Blitz. In 1968, the trust opened their first purpose built flats, named Rackstraw House. Rackstraw remained chairman of the trust until she was 79. She died at home on 28 April 1981.

Key Dates

  • 1888 - Birth, Highgate, Middlesex, 24 June
  • 1912 - Graduated from the University of Birmingham
  • 1912-1913 - Studied at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania
  • 1915 - Relief worker, Friends' War Victims Relief Committee, France
  • 1920-1922 - Relief worker, Russia
  • 1924-1937 - Warden, Masson Hall, University of Edinburgh
  • 1944-1945 - Worked with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration
  • 1945-1951 - Labour Councillor, London
  • 1947 - Founded the Hampstead Old People's Housing Trust, London
  • 1981 - Death, London, England, 28 April


  • Enid Huws Jones, 'Rackstraw, Marjorie (1888–1981)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) [[1], accessed 2 June 2014]