Margaret McMillan was born in 1860 during a time of great social change in Britain. The industrial revolution had caused a rise in the urban populations and the nature of employment had also changed, employers no longer felt any responsibility for the conditions in which their workers and their families lived.
Margaret McMillan and her sister, Rachel McMillan, were influenced by advances in the biological sciences, especially in the fields of neurology and physiology. At the same time, both Rachel and Margaret had a clear political purpose and became active members of the British Labour Movement.
Margaret McMillan, at least, also maintained her belief in a Christian God and in the doctrines of the established church, reconciling these beliefs with her work. The work of the two sisters in the Deptford area of London amongst deprived children has strong echoes with current problems and concerns.
Viv Moriarty lectures in Early Childhood Education, Institute of Education, University of London