MARGARET BRIGHT LUCAS
Margaret Bright Lucas was elected as third president of the BWTA in 1878, following in the footsteps of Margaret Parker and Clara Balfour and held this position until 1890.
In 1839 she married fellow Quaker, Samuel Lucas who was a London corn exchange merchant and she became interested in politics during the anti–corn laws protests in 1845. It was following her husband’s death that Margaret travelled to America in 1870 where she met temperance reformers and suffragettes. In 1872 she joined the Independent Order of the Good Templars, rising by 1875 to the level of ‘Grand Worthy Vice Templar’, the highest position afforded to a British woman.
She was a friend of Margaret Parker (First BWTA President) who had travelled to America in 1875 and met many of the courageous women there who had started to meet to pray ‘that the evil of drink might be removed from the land’. They believed that God wanted them to take action against the liquor sellers. When Margaret Parker returned to Britain from America full of the news of this crusade, she sent out a call to arms encouraged by her friend Margaret Bright Lucas to the women of Great Britain and Ireland. They were invited to a meeting in Newcastle upon Tyne on 21st April 1876, following which the BWTA was formed with the main purpose to campaign against the manufacture and trade of liquor.
Bright Lucas was from a politically active and egalitarian Quaker family. Her siblings included John Bright the famous politician and social reformer, Jacob Bright and Priscilla Bright McLaren, also known for their work in politics and reform. She was strong-minded and well-liked; under her leadership the BWTA grew in membership and influence. Her influence outside of the temperance movement gave the organisation legitimacy and helped smooth the way for the BWTA’s success.
She was also a supporter of anti-prostitution work and served on the board of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage and the Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts. Another office in which she gave distinguished service was that of First President of the World Woman’s Christian Temperance Union founded in the state of Ohio, America. She held this position from 1884 to 1890 and was succeeded in this role by Frances Willard, American temperance reformer and women’s suffragist who had already been elected as National President for the WCTU in 1879, a position she held until her death in 1898.
After twelve years in office, Mrs Margaret Bright Lucas resigned from the BWTA Presidency in 1890. As one of the founders of the Association, fitting tributes were paid to her for her outstanding service. She died from tuberculosis in 1890 at her London home and is buried in Highgate cemetery with her husband, having been a pioneer in British women’s temperance.