Miriam Lord OBE

Founder of the Margaret McMillan Trust, Miriam Lord was awarded the OBE for her pioneering
service to nursery and community education.

Miriam Lord, daughter of Mirfield born Hird and Hannah Lord, was born in Bradford on 21st June 1885. A silk yarn wrapper then baker, Hird was a founder member of the Independent Labour Party and member of the Labour Church in Bradford. Her mother Hannah died in 1896.

She began her working life as an unqualified teacher at Belle Vue Girls’ Secondary School on Manningham Lane. After studying for her Teacher’s Certificate at the Saffron Waldron Teacher Training College, which she gained in 1908, Miriam returned to teach at Belle Vue Girls’ Secondary School and Whetley Lane Infants School before taking a Nursery School Course at Manchester University.

In 1920 she was appointed Headmistress of a Cambridge School. A staunch supporter of New York born Margaret McMillan, the Independent Labour Party candidate for the Bradford School Board and campaigner for better health and education for poor children, Miriam vowed to continue her work, to especially benefit the children of Bradford.

Appointed Superintendent of Lilycroft Open-air Nursery School on Lilycroft Road in 1921, Miriam returned to Bradford once more. The Nursery School Movement was in its infancy and Lilycroft, Bradford’s first Open-air Nursery was considered a showpiece of best practice around the world, attracting many visitors to view it and hear her talks. Built in a mill-working community, this single storey building with a full-length veranda that opened on to a well kept garden, was aimed to meet some of the social and medical needs of the families, as well as the educational needs.

Later, in 1956, Miriam wrote of a soldier visiting the school in 1941, “He felt he must see at once the place where he had spent ‘the happiest years’ of his life. Out there, ‘in the heat and filth and noise, among sand, flies, blood and death’, he told how his mind forever wandered back to the cool, green oasis of childhood’s memory’. He had described the Open Air Nursery to his fellow soldiers, as a children’s paradise, the rabbits, the sand, the dovecote. As he left he said, ‘If all children in every land could have such a start, the world would not be in the chaos it is today. Happy people don’t
make wars’.”

Miriam realised that to challenge child poverty, she also had to tackle adult poverty and became deeply concerned about unemployment. In 1933, she became the Secretary of the Bradford Unemployment Advisory Committee until 1934, and the first Secretary of the Foster Social Centre for Women until 1940. In 1936, she became the first Secretary of the newly formed Bradford Community Centre Committee.

In 1945, Miriam launched an appeal for funds to build a Community Centre and Memorial College to Margaret McMillan. She raised £20 000, and the Margaret McMillan College was opened in 1952. She also founded the Margaret McMillan Trust that funded the teacher training college, now part of Bradford College.

Miriam was awarded the OBE for her service to nursery and community education. She died in July 1968, aged 83.