Topics > People in History > Mabel Philipson (1887 - 1951)

Mabel Philipson (1887 - 1951)

Mabel Philipson (1887 - 1951). Under her maiden name, Mabel Russell was a well-known musical comedy actress. In 1923 she became the 4th female Member of Parliament to be elected in the UK and 3rd to enter Parliament - and the North East's first female MP.

Mabel Russell was born on the 1st of January 1887 in Peckham, Surrey. As an adult she perused a career on stage, making her stage debut in June 1907 as 'Fifi' in the first English version of The Merry Widow at Daly's Theatre in London. She then worked her way up from being a chorus girl at the Gaiety Theatre in London, to stardom as a musical comedy actress. In February 1911, Mabel married Stanley Rhodes, a cotton magnate and nephew of the late Cecil Rhodes. But after three months of marriage, the couple had an automobile crash at Brooklands motor racing circuit, killing Stanley and leaving Mabel badly injured. After recovering Mabel resumed her stage career. Then in June 1917 she married Hilton Philipson (1892 - 1941), a businessman and National Liberal politician.

Hilton was elected as MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed in November 1922. However, he was disqualified as MP in May 1923 following allegations of illegal acts on the part of his election agent. In the resulting by-election Mabel stood as Conservative candidate and was elected by a majority of 6,142. She was MP for Berwick-upon-Tweed from the 31st of May 1923 to the 30th of May 1929. When elected in 1923, Mabel was 36 and the mother of three children. She was the fourth female Member of Parliament in the UK, following the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act if 1918, which for the first time gave women over the age of 21 the right to stand for election to Parliament. Mabel was an active MP, HANSAD records 90 contributions in Parliament covering a broad range of issues, including housing, infant welfare, womens issues and agriculture. 

Mabel's last stage appearance was in 1933. She died in Brighton on the 8th of January 1951, aged 64.

Mabel Philipson (née Russell; 1 January 1887 – 8 January 1951) was a British actress and politician. She was the fourth female member to be elected to – and third to serve in – the House of Commons after this became legally possible in 1918, as Member of Parliament (MP) for Berwick-upon-Tweed.


Early life

She was born on 1 January 1887.


She became a successful music hall and comedy actress and a Gaiety Girl.

On 21 November 1918 the Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918, introduced a few weeks previously by Lord Robert Cecil was given Royal Assent, making women eligible as Members of Parliament. Hilton Philipson, her husband, was unseated on petition in 1923, due to a fraud involving his agent. Mabel Philipson won the by-election to follow him, while standing as a Conservative. It was said that she made no secret that she intended to hold the seat until her husband's return; however when her husband's business hit financial difficulties in 1928 she announced her retirement as "the reason why I have held the seat has ceased to exist".

She returned to the stage after leaving Parliament, appearing as Mrs Tilling in Other People's Lives at Wyndham's Theatre in 1929.

Personal life

In February 1911 she married Thomas Stanley Rhodes (1890–1911) the son of Henry Rhodes a cotton manufacturer. Later that year, on 16 August, she and her husband were in a car crash at Brooklands motor racing circuit. He died of his injuries, and Mabel was severely injured.

In 1917 she married Hilton Philipson, a business owner and National Liberal politician; they had three children. She died on 8 January 1951.

Selected filmography

  • Tilly of Bloomsbury (1931)
Text from Wikipedia, available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License (accessed: 25/11/2018).
Visit the page: Mabel Philipson for references and further details. You can contribute to this article on Wikipedia.
People in History Berwick upon Tweed
from https://commons.wikimedia.o...
Photographic portrait of Mabel Philipson (Russell) before 1918
- Public Domain image c/o Wikimedia Commons

Added by
Simon Cotterill
from Newcastle University (youtube)
Britain's First Actress MP M.P. (1923)

Pinned by Simon Cotterill
from Youtube (youtube)
Our 8 Lady M.P.S (1924)

Pinned by Simon Cotterill
Women in the House of Commons
- Briefing paper #06651, 21 August 2018, by Richard Kelly "....At the General Election of June 2017, 208 women were elected as Members of Parliament, the highest number ever. Over three ...

Added by
Simon Cotterill
Elyria Chronicle Telegram Saturday, June 9, 1923
- Elyria Chronicle Telegram Saturday, June 9, 1923, Elyria, Ohio, United States Of America "'Who’s Who in the Day’s News. 'Mrs. Hilton Philipson 'The membership of the England’s ...

Added by
Simon Cotterill
Mrs Mabel Philipson
- "...Contributions First recorded, on March 6, 1924 SUPPLY. Commons By year, 90 in total: 1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 Last recorded, on February 11, 1929 MINISTRY OF LABOUR. Commons...."

Added by
Simon Cotterill
Mabel (Russell) Philipson (1886 - 1951)
- Biography "...Mabel Russell was the daughter of Albert Edward Russell and Alice, formerly Shaw. She was born on new years' day, 1887 and died on January 8th, 1951. She made ...

Added by
Simon Cotterill
Mabel Russell (Mrs Hilton Philipson)
- Whole-plate glass negative, 2 July 1927. Image donated to National Portrait Gallery by Bassano Ltd,. Available from NPG under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported licence. Get a licence via https ...

Added by
Simon Cotterill


Add a comment or share a memory.

Login to add a comment. Sign-up if you don't already have an account.


Co-Curate is a project which brings together online collections, museums, universities, schools and community groups to make and re-make stories and images from North East England and Cumbria. Co-Curate is a trans-disciplinary project that will open up 'official' museum and 'un-officia'l co-created community-based collections and archives through innovative collaborative approaches using social media and open archives/data.