Margaret Ackroyd was a native Rhode Islander who served in the State Labor Department for thirty years before her retirement. She served as Chief in the Division of Women and Children and Commissioner of Minimum Wage. She became known as the “architect of non-discriminatory employment standards for women”.
Born in Providence, she was a daughter of Timothy L. and Mary (McKenna) O’Connor. She was a graduate of Hope High School and Rhode Island State College in Kingston, now the
University of Rhode Island. Members of her college graduating class in 1929 named her “Most Likely to Succeed”.
She served in the state Department of Labor for 25 years as Commissioner of Minimum Wage and director of the Division of Women & Children. During her long career in public service, Mrs. Ackroyd was an advocate of women’s rights, and sought to implement federal guidelines requiring equal pay for women as men for doing the same work. In 1969, at a symposium at Rhode Island College, she said “Woman’s dilemma in education and society is primarily that our institutions have been formulated to suit the pattern of the living of men,” and explained that much of her work was an effort “to fit educational and employment opportunities into woman’s evolving pattern of life, which more and more includes both having a family and pursuing a career.” At her retirement in 1968, then-Governor Frank Licht described her as “the architect of non-discriminatory employment standards for Rhode Island women.”
Following her retirement from state employment she took a job with the Women’s Bureau in Washington, D.C. where she worked as a roving ambassador for the U.S. Department of Labor, helping to write women and children’s’ labor laws. In the early 1970s, at the request of the Organization of American States, she served as consultant on labor issues involving women to governments in Panama, Costa Rica and Venezuela. Ten years earlier, at the behest of the U.S. State Department, she provided similar consulting services in Turkey.
Mrs. Ackroyd was the local president of the Providence Chapter of the American Association of
University Women and was the chairwoman of the National Consumer League. In 1971, Mrs. Ackroyd was named Woman of the Year by the Journal-Bulletin. She won many honors and received an Honorary Doctor of Public Administration from the University of Rhode Island in 1964.
Margaret died on July 3, 1995. She was married to the late Fredrick Ackroyd. They had two sons.
-Russell J. DeSimone with contributions from the Providence Journal.