Nan Hughes lived from 5 October 1885 to 27 June 1947. She was a socialist, local politician, and daughter of Keir Hardie, first leader of the Labour Party. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Agnes Paterson (Nan) Hardie was born in Cumnock in Ayrshire. She was the daughter of the first leader of the Labour Party, Keir Hardie and Lillie Wilson. She was educated in Cumnock, but her poor background and a serious illness in 1902 prevented her progressing very far. Although Keir Hardie spent much of his time from the 1890s in London, as an MP representing a London seat in Parliament, his family remained inCumnock.
Nan Hardie grew up into a strongly socialist but highly insecure individual given to bouts of severe depression. She worked as a secretary for her father when he became MP for Merthyr Tydfil in Wales in 1902. After her father's death in 1915 Nan Hardie campaigned against conscription, in the process meeting Emrys Hughes, who was imprisoned as a conscientious objector in 1916. They met again after the war when he went to Scotland to work as a journalist, and married in 1924, continuing to live in Cumnock. In 1933 Nan Hughes was elected as a Labour councillor on Cumnock Town Council and the following year she became Convenor of Cumnock Public Health Committee. In 1935 she became Provost of Cumnock, succeeding her husband in the role. Her main legacy was a major slum clearance and council-house building program that meant that by 1939, ¾ of the town's population were living in modern low rent accommodation.
Nan Hughes remained a prominent local politician in Ayrshire throughout the Second World War, despite increasing bouts of depression later attributed to the conflict between her pacifism and her role as a wartime community leader as the joint chair of the Cumnock Red Cross and War Work Committee. In 1946, Emrys Hughes was elected Labour MP for South Ayrshire in a by-election. Nan fell ill not long afterwards and died the following year.
This biography draws on research first published in "The Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women".