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Breaking the Glass Ceiling…x

Whilst there does seem to have been to be a certain futility attached to women “getting on” in the bank, success IS achievable for the hard-working girl.  We can’t stress enough that in Martins’ time, women accepting their lot is not the same as some kind of open oppression.  The opportunities are there, and all the evidence points to Martins Bank recognising and growing the careers of those women who take those opportunities.  The major sacrifice when compared to today’s world is the stark choice between career OR family.  Not usually both. Take this example from Martins Bank Magazine’s visit to IPSWICH in 1950:

1959 Miss M L Perks MBM-Wi59P24

Going places?

Miss M L Perks in her

typing and cashiering

days at Ipswich

“The only girl at the Branch is miss M.L. Perks who entered the service in July 1940 at Ipswich, thus having completed nearly ten years at the Branch. She has passed all her Bankers’ examinations and acts as typist and cashier”…

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Times are different, and perhaps Martins Bank Magazine thinks Miss Perks is at first happy with her lot, but to have studied so hard for the Institute of Bankers’ Examinations  (considered to be the “crown jewels” of male banking upward mobility) to end up typing and cashiering for ten years, may not seem that rewarding.

1968 Miss ML Perks Trust Controller London (West End) MBM-Au68P52

Getting there!

Margaret as a Trust Controller for Martins Trust Company –

In this case Miss Perks thinks so too, and her hard work and studies pay off when she bucks the trend by becoming the first appointed woman in Martins Bank’s Trust Company. There, she is given a “Pro Manager” signing authority. We must of course bear in mind that in these times women are contractually obliged to leave the bank upon marriage, and that therefore investment in someone who could suddenly leave and have a baby is seen as inappropriate.  Miss Perks however breaks clean through the “glass ceiling” becomes a Trust controller at the Martins Bank Trust Company offices in London’s West End and goes on to play a major role in both Martins and Barclays. It was therefore, with great sadness that we learned of the death - just before Christmas 2012 - of Margaret Perks.  Then something extraordinary happened, which allowed us to learn much more about the life of this gifted woman…

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That’s the way to do it!


Fate is indeed a very strange thing.  When this scrapbook, featuring Mr Punch, and bearing the words “1955 to 64 so far” appeared on an internet auction site in 2013, we were drawn by the sales blurb promising “items of interest regarding 1960s banks and news stories”.  Having bid successfully for the book, we were amazed to find that it had actually belonged to Margaret Perks and had, quite sadly, ended up at a sale of house clearance items on the south coast following her death.

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The book is a fascinating insight into Margaret’s own world and explains a lot about her success. We can only bring you a small selection from this collections of stories from right across the national newspaper spectrum which are (mostly) about women and how they could rise to power in the workplace. Margaret kept two full page features on Hilda Harding, Barclays’ first woman manager in 1958. There is also the sad story of Mr F Burdon who managed Ipswich branch when Margaret worked there.

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Hilda Harding becomes Barclays’ First woman bank manager

Image © Daily Sketch

and successors, May 1958

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Eileen Muckle and Margaret Perks are appointed

Trust Controllers by Martins Bank

Image © Daily Sketch and successors, July 1967

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Scan No535Whilst working at Newcastle Gosforth Branch he is reported as going for lunch on a Thursday afternoon and then disappearing, leaving all his belongings behind him in the hotel where he had been living for a year.It was believed that Mr Burdon was extremely close to his brother, who had recently been admitted to a care home suffering from shell-shock incurred during the Second World War.  On a lighter note, the book is full of cuttings concerning Margaret’s passions – royalty, Young Conservatives, horse riding and film stars, but also great thinkers and people of the 50s and 60s who were going places. The book ends with several cuttings from Spread Eagle showing what, for Margaret, must have been a very satisfactory conclusion to the “merger” process – the acceptance by Barclays of Martins Bank Trust Company as the superior entity.  There is a picture of the first meeting of the newly renamed Barclays Bank Trust Company at Juxon House, St Paul’s Churchyard, in London.  Earlier in time there is a newspaper feature about Eileen Muckle and Margaret Perks being Martins’ first appointed female Trust Controllers. 

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1956 Ipswich 6 Buttermarket under construction MPE.jpg

The only known image of Martins Bank Ipswich Buttermarket, this steel frame is erected in 1956.

Image © East Anglian Daily Times and successors.

A succession of stories from the former newspaper The Daily Sketch – which chimes exactly with Margaret’s Conservative Views spills the beans on royalty at home and abroad, and tell stories of brave animals who have managed to help their owners – a horse helps out in a snow drift, a dog is awarded a medal for bravery, and so on.  Many of the clippings relate to Margaret’s friends and relatives, and we have chosen not to use them here.  Poignantly, the book stops with several blank pages to go, but with still a small collection of clippings waiting to be stuck in.  Margaret is another example of a member of Martins’ Staff who does not only go to extremes to be helpful, but is also driven with the purpose to succeed, and to take inspiration from those who have already made it.