Legendary former director the Electoral Reform Society
Enid Lakeman, OBE, dedicated her life to the cause of fair votes and came to dominate the history of the Society in the twentieth century.
Politics and electoral reform were in Lakeman’s genes. Her great-grandfather campaigned for the Reform Bill in the 1830s and her maternal grandmother was a London School Board election candidate in 1879 and a member of the Proportional Representation Society.
After graduating from London University with a First Class Degree in Chemistry, she served in various posts in the chemical industry from 1926 to 1941 when she joined Women’s Auxiliary Air Force and served as a radar operator until 1945. She checked electoral registration entries prior to 1918 and was one of only two women service personnel to stand as parliamentary candidates in 1945. She stood as the Liberal candidate in St. Albans at the 1945 general election and in the Brixton division of Lambeth in the 1950 general election.
Lakeman joined the staff of the then-Proportional Representation Society in 1945 as Research Secretary and became Director of the Electoral Reform Society in 1960 when the Society was renamed. She promoted the Society’s case for the Single Transferable Vote whenever an opportunity presented itself, at meetings, by written articles, and letters to the press.
In 1955 she wrote, with James Lambert, Voting in Democracies, a detailed comparative study of electoral systems in different countries. It went through several revisions and the latest, with Enid Lakeman as sole author, was published in 1974 under the new title How Democracies Vote.
In 1959 and in 1968 she campaigned in the Irish Republic in support of the system when Irish politicians wanted to abandon it for Westminster’s system. Miss Lakeman retired as Director of the Society in 1980, but continued to work in the office two or three days a week and to participate in international conferences.