Ellen Wilkinson

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The Right Honourable
Ellen Wilkinson
EllenWilkinson.jpg
Minister of Education
In office
1945 – 1947 (died in office)
Prime Minister Clement Attlee
Preceded by Richard Law
Succeeded by George Tomlinson
Member of Parliament
for Middlesbrough East
In office
1924 – 27 October 1931
Preceded by Penry Williams
Succeeded by Ernest Young
Member of Parliament
for Jarrow
In office
14 November 1935 – 1947 (died in office)
Preceded by William George Pearson
Succeeded by Ernest Fernyhough
Personal details
Born (1891-10-08)8 October 1891
Ardwick, Manchester, UK
Died 6 February 1947(1947-02-06) (aged 55)
St Mary's Hospital, London
Political party Labour

Ellen Cicely Wilkinson PC (8 October 1891 – 6 February 1947) was a British Labour Party politician who served as Minister of Education from July 1945 until her death. She became a national figure after her role in the 1936 Jarrow Crusade when, as the MP for the northern constituency of Jarrow, she marched with representatives of the town's unemployed to London, to petition for the right to work. The crusade achieved little at the time, but gathered symbolic importance in later years, and affected post-Second World War attitudes to unemployment and state planning.

Wilkinson was born into a poor but aspirational Manchester family, and embraced socialism at an early age. As a student she was active in the cause of women's suffrage. After graduating from the University of Manchester she became an organiser for the Amalgamated Union of Co-operative Employees (AUCE), which later became the National Union of Distributive and Allied Workers (NUDAW). Inspired by the Russian Revolution of 1917, Wilkinson joined the British Communist Party on its formation in 1920, and preached revolutionary socialism while seeking constitutional routes to power through the Labour Party. She was elected Labour MP for Middlesbrough East in 1924, and became a forthright and flamboyant defender of working class interests. She also began writing prolifically, and published a novel based on the 1926 General Strike. In the 1929–31 Labour government she served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the junior Health Minister. Following her defeat at Middlesbrough in 1931, Wilkinson returned to parliament as Jarrow's MP in 1935. After the 1936 crusade she became a strong advocate for the Republican faction in the Spanish Civil War, and visited the battle zones.

During the Second World War Wilkinson served in Churchill's wartime coalition as a junior minister. first at the Ministry of Pensions and later at the Home Office where she formed a close bond with her senior minister, Herbert Morrison. She supported Morrison's attempts to replace Clement Attlee as the Labour Party's leader; neverthless, when he formed his postwar government Attlee appointed Wilkinson as Minister of Education. By this time her health was poor, the legacy of years of overwork. She saw her main task in office as the implemntation of the wartime coalition's 1944 Education Act, rather than the more radical introduction of comprehensive schools favoured by many in the Labour Party. In the exceptionally bitter English winter of 1946–47 she fell ill with a bronchial disease and died after an overdose of medication which the coroner at her inquest declared was accidental.

Life[edit]

Background, childhood and education[edit]

Early years[edit]

The building at the junction of Devonshire Street and Hyde Road, Ardwick, that housed the Ardwick Higher Elementary Grade School in the 1900s.[n 1]

Ellen Wilkinson was born on 8 October 1891, at 41 Coral Street in the Manchester district of Chorlton-on-Medlock.[2] She was the third child and second daughter of Richard Wilkinson, a cotton worker who became an insurance agent, and his wife Ellen, née Wood.[3] Richard Wilkinson was a pillar of his local Methodist church, and combined a strong sense of social justice with forthright views on self-help; rather than espousing working class solidarity, his view as later expressed by Ellen was: "I have pulled myself out of the gutter, why can't they"?[4] Although a trade unionist, he was a strong supporter of the local Conservative MP, the future prime minister A.J. Balfour, for whom he campaigned at election times.[5] Entirely self-educated, he ensured that his children received the best education available, encouraged them to read widely, and inculcated strong Christian principles.[6][7]

Ellen started school at six, in what she described as "a filthy elementary school with the five classes in one room".[8] but was soon struck down by a series of childhood illnesses that effectively kept her at home for two years. She was taught to read at home,[9] and on her return to school made rapid progress. At the age of 11 she won a scholarship to Ardwick Higher Elementary Grade School, where she continued to shine academically, but was often bored and at odds with the teachers.[10] Her outspoken and sometimes rebellious attitude, combined with her small stature and bright red hair, won her the nicknames of "Fiery Particle" and "Elfin Fury".[11] After two years she transferred to Stretford Road Secondary School for Girls, an experience she later remembered as "horrid and unmanageable".[12] She made up for the school's shortcomings by reading, with her father's encouragement, the works of Haeckel, Thomas Huxley and Darwin.[13]

Katherind Bruce Glasier, an early influence on Wilkinson

At the time, teaching was one of the few careers open to intelligent girls, and in 1906 Ellen won a bursary of £25 that enabled her to begin a course at the Manchester Pupil Teacher's Centre. This required her to attend the Manchester Day Training College for half the week, and to teach at Oswald Road Elementary School for the other half. Her individualistic approach to classroom teaching led to frequent clashes with head teachers and school inspectors, and convinced her that her future did not lie in teaching.[14][15] She fared better at the college, where she was encouraged to read more widely and to engage with the issues of the day. She discovered the works of Robert Blatchford, and became interested in socialism. By this time she was bored with religion, and socialism provided an attractive substitute.[16] At 16 she joined the Longsight branch of the Independent Labour Party, and at one of her first branch meetings encountered Katherine Bruce Glasier, whose crusading brand of socialism made a deep impact on the young Wilkinson.[17] Thirty years later she told her colleague George Middleton that Glasier had "brought me into the Socialist movement ... It always makes me humble to think of her indomitable courage".[18]

University[edit]

The main quadrangle at Manchester University's College Street building

In 1909 Wilkinson passed her matriculation examinations, the basic requisite for university entrance. She was now convinced that teaching was not her vocation; a university education would broaden her career prospects, but would be impossible without a scholarship. She therefore set her sights on the Jones Open History Scholarship, that would enable her to study history at Manchester University.[19] This objective did not deter her from other activities. After meeting the suffragist Hannah Mitchell while still a schoolgirl, Wilkinson took up the cause of women's suffrage, the major women's rights issue of the day. Despite her radical instincts she followed the constitutional rather than the militant path, performing mainly menial tasks such as leaflet distribution and putting up posters.[20][21] She made a considerable impression on Mitchell, who regarded her as "brilliant and gifted".[22]

Wilkinson won the Jones Scholarship—she had been confident of this outcome[23]—and began her studies at Manchester University in the autumn of 1910. There, she found many opportunities to extend her political activities. She began her lifelong association with the Fabian Society by joining the university's branch, of which she eventually became joint secretary.[21] She met and came under the influence of Walton Newbold, an older student who later became the United Kingdom's first Communist MP. The two were briefly engaged, and although this was soon broken off, they remained close political associates for many years.[24] Wilkinson continued her suffragist work by joining the Manchester Society for Women's Suffrage, where she impressed Margaret Ashton, the first woman member of Manchester City Council, by her efforts in the North Manchester and Gorton constituencies.[25] Through her involvements in the Fabian Society and with the suffrage movement she met many of the prominent figures in radical politics: the veteran campaigner Charlotte Despard, the ILP leader William Crawford Anderson, and Beatrice and Sidney Webb.[26]

In her final year at the university, Wilkinson was co-opted to the executive committee of the University Socialist Federation (USF), an inter-intstitutional organisation formed to bring together socialist-minded students from all over the country. This involvement brought her new contacts, who would typically meet at Fabian summer schools where they would be lectured by ILP leaders such as Ramsay MacDonald and Arthur Henderson, and trade union activists such as Ben Tillett and Margaret Bondfield. Meanwhile Wilkinson was gaining experience of practical socialism, by helping to organise home-working seamstresses in the Hulme distict into a trade union.[27] Amid these distractions she continued to study hard, and won several prizes. In the summer of 1913 she sat her finals and was awarded her BA degree—not the First Class honours that her tutors had expected, but an Upper Second. Wilkinson rationalised this: "I deliberately sacrificed my First ... to devote my spare time to a strike raging in Manchester".[28][29][n 2]

Early career[edit]

Trade union organiser[edit]

On leaving the university in June 1913, Wilkinson became a paid organiser for the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) in Manchester.[31] Her first task in this role was to help with the organisation of the Suffrage Pilgrimage of July 1913, in which more than 50,000 women marched from all parts of the country to a mass rally in London's Hyde Park.[32][33] Part of Wilkinson's general duties involved liaison with the Labour Party, which had by then committed itself to the cause of women's suffrage. This work helped her to develop an understanding of the mechanics of politics and campaigning. She became an expert speaker, able to hold her own even in the most threatening of situations at hostile public meetings.[34]

When the First World War began in August 1914, Wilkinson, like many in the Labour movement, condemned it as an imperialist exercise that would result in millions of workers killing each other for their masters' benefit. Nevertheless, she took on the role of honorary secretary of the Manchester branch of the Women's Emergency Corps (WEC), a body which found suitable war work for women volunteers. The advent of war curtailed most suffrage activity; the NUWSS became divided between pro-war and pro-peace factions and ultimately split, the peacemongers (who included Wilkinson's Manchester branch) eventually aligning themselves with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WIL).[35] With little suffrage activity to organise, Wilkinson looked for another job, and in July 1915 was appointed as a national organiser for the Amalgamated Union of Co-operative Employees (AUCE), with particular responsibility for the recruitment of women into the union.[36] As well as representing women's interests, such as equal pay with men for equal work, she was involved in general disputes over pay and conditions, and in a number of inter-union conflicts, particularly with the craft unions. These latter, which represented more skilled workers, were often antagonistic towards AUCE's efforts on behalf of the unskilled and lower paid. Wilkinson's management of one such internecine dispute, at a printing works in Longsight in 1918, was heavily criticised by the AUCE executive, which proposed to dismiss her. A workers' deputation in support of her led to her reinstatement.[37] In the years immediately after the end of the war in 1918, she served as the union's nominee on several Trade Boards—national consultative bodies which attempted to set minimum wage rates for low-paid workers.[38][39] In 1921 AUCE amalgamated with the National Union of Warehouse and General Workers to form the National Union of Distributive and Allied Workers (NUDAW).[40]

Wilkinson's work for AUCE enabled her to develop her organisational and political skills, to make new alliances, and to form new friendships. Her close relationship with John Jagger, the union's future president, became of considerable assistance to her as her political career developed.[41][n 3] Wilkinson was an active Fabian, and was a co-signatory of the 1916 report "The Right Moment" that recommended changes in the Fabian Society's constitution.[43] After the Fabian Research Department became the Labour Research Department in 1917, Wilkinson served on its executive committee.[44] She maintained her connection with the WIL, and at its 1919 conference took the non-pacifist stance that armed struggle was justified as a means of defeating capitalism.[45] After visiting Ireland in 1920 on behalf of the WIL she became an outspoken critic of the British Government's actions in Ireland, in particular its use of the "Black and Tans", as a paramilitary force. Her report called for an immediate truce and the release of republican prisoners.[3][46][47]

Communism[edit]

"[We] read with incredulous eyes that the Russian people, the workers, the soldiers, and peasants, had really risen and cast out the Tsar and his government ... we did no work at all in the office, we danced around tables and sang ... Everyone with an ounce of liberalism in his composition rejoiced that tyranny had fallen".

Margaret Cole, describing the British Left's reactions to the March 1917 revolution in Russia, in Growing up Into Revolution (1949)[48]

Under the influence of G.D.H. Cole, whom she had first met in her USF days, Wilkinson briefly espoused "guild socialism", a system in which industries were owned by the state but organised and controlled by workers through their membership of democratic guilds. While Cole argued that this could be achieved by constitutional means, Wilkinson and others asserted that a revolution would be necessary; along with many others in the Labour movement, her attitudes had been radicalised by the Russian Revolutions of 1917. She saw this as the shape of the future, and promised herself that as soon as there was a Communist Party in Britain she would join it; meantime she had little time for the gradualism represented by Cole.[49][50]

The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was formed in the summer of 1920;[50] Wilkinson was one of a group of ILP members with Marxist leanings who helped found it,[51] and was immediately appointed to a party commission charged with writing a "Programme for Action".[50] For the next few years the CPGB was the main focus of her political activity, although she kept her Labour Party membership; at that time the CPGB was not proscribed by the Labour Party, and dual memberships were not unconstitutional.[52] However, the Labour Party was resistant to the new party's attempts at formal affiliation, and regularly rejected this by large majorities at its annual conferences.[50]

In 1921 Wilkinson attended the Red Trade Union International Congress in Moscow, along with fellow-CPGB members Tom Mann, Harry Pollitt and Robin Page Arnot.[53] During this visit she met with Trotsky, the Soviet Union's Defence Minister, who impressed her with his ability to translate his Russian speeches into three different languages. She also met Nadezhda Krupskaya, the educationist who was Lenin's wife, whose speech Wilkinson considered was the best at the Congress.[50] The main outcome of the gathering was the foundation of the Red International of Labour Unions , often known as the "Profintern". The aim of this organisation, fully consistent with Wilkinson's own beliefs, was to seek revolutionary change through industrial action, leading to the overthrow of world capitalism.[54] Although she failed to persuade her union, NUDAW, to affiliate to the Profitern,[53] she continued to promote Russian achievements, especially its emancipation of women workers.[55] In November 1922, at a meeting celebrating the fifth anniversary of the Russian Revolution, Wilkinson said that the Russian people could look forward with hope, and asked whether the same could be said of the people condemned to live their lives in the slums of Manchester.[56]

Not all Wilkinson's activities were within a revolutionary framework. In February 1923 she appeared on the platform at a rally in Central Hall, Westminster in support of women's rights to equality in suffrage, pay and in the professions. Alongside her were Lady Astor, Eleanor Rathbone and Millicent Fawcett.[57] She was an early and lifetime supporter of the National Council of Labour Colleges, established in 1921 with NUDAW backing with the aim of educating working-class students in working-class principles.[58][59] Wilkinson also sought constitutional routes to political power. She became a NUDAW-sponsored parliamentary candidate, and in 1923, while still a CPGB member, applied for nomination as the Labour Party candidate for the Gorton.[60] She was unsuccessful, but in November 1923 the Gorton ward elected her to Manchester City Council;[3] Hannah Mitchell, an acquaintance from the prewar suffrage campaigns, was a fellow councillor.[61] In her short council career—she served only until 1926[3]—Wilkinson's main areas of concern were unemployment, housing, child welfare and education.[60]

Shortly after Wilkinson's election the prime minister, Stanley Baldwin, called a general election; Wilkinson was adopted as Labour's parliamentary candidate for Ashton-under-Lyne.[60] During the campaign she made no secret of her Communist affiliations, stating that "we shall have only one class in this country, the working class".[62]In a tight three-way contest she came third, with 6,208 votes behind the Conservative's 7,813 and the Liberal's 7,574.[63] The general election resulted in a hung parliament and a minority Labour government under Ramsay MacDonald.[64] During its short term of office the Labour Party proscribed the Communist Party and outlawed dual membership.[60] Wilkinson chose to leave the CPGB, citing the party's "exclusive and dictatorial methods which make impossible the formation of a real left wing among the progressives of the Trade Unions and the Labour Party".[65] By this time, she had been selected as Labour's candidate for the consituency of Middlesbrough East.[66]

Middlesbrough MP[edit]

In opposition, 1924–29[edit]

Ramsay MacDonald, Labour's first prime minister

On 8 October 1924 MacDonald's Labour government resigned, after losing a confidence vote in the House of Commons.[67] The latter stages of the ensuing election were dominated by the controversy surrounding the Zinoviev letter, which generated a "Red Scare" shortly before polling day and contributed to a massive Conservative victory.[68][69] Labour's representation in the House of Commons fell to 152, against the Conservatives' 415;[70] nevertheless, Wilkinson won Middlesbrough East with a majority of 927 over her Conservative opponent.[71] She was the only woman elected in the Labour ranks.[n 4]

Wilkinson's arrival in the House of Commons attracted considerable press comment, much of it related to the striking colours of her hair and clothing. This soon became a source of irritation to her;[73] the Woman's Leader, however, described her as a "vigorous, uncompromising feminist and an exceedingly tenacious, forcible and hard-headed politician".[74] In his ODNB biographical sketch, Brian Harrison observes that, as Labour's only woman MP, Wilkinson almost inevitably became a spokesperson for women's rights.[3] One of her first parliamentary victories came in 1925, when she persuaded the government to correct many anomalies affecting widows in its Pensions Bill.[75] On occasion she combined with Lady Astor from the Conservative back benches, as on 10 March 1926 when the pair attacked the government's proposal to decrease expenditure on women's training centres.[76] Harrison acknowledges that while "women's issues" were often to the fore in her speeches, she was primarily a socialist rather than a feminist, and if forced to decide between them would have chosen the former.[3] She rapidly developed as an effective speaker; one of her fellow-MPs likened her voice to "a well cast bell".[77] She was assiduous in her defence of the iron and steel workers in her Middlesbrough constituecy; she informed MPs: "I happen to represent in this House one of the heaviest iron and steel producing areas in the world–I know I do not look like it, but I do".[78]

Wilkinson was a fervent supporter of the May 1926 General Strike, and throughout its nine days' duration toured the country to expound the strikers' cause at meetings and rallies. She was devastated when the Trades Union Congress called off the strike. Early in June she joined George Lansbury and other leading Labour and union figures on the platform at an Albert Hall rally which raised around £1,200 for the benefit of the miners, who continued on strike despite the TUC decision.[79] In August 1926 Wilkinson made a fundraising trip to the United States, on behalf of the Miners' Federation, and received a generous response from the American miners.[80] Her reflections on the strike were recorded in A Workers History of the Great Strike (1927), which she co-authored with Raymond Postgate and Frank Horrabin,[81] and in a a semi-autobiographical novel, Clash, which she published in 1929.[82][83]

Throughout her career Wilkinson was an opponent of imperialism, and in February 1927 attended the Founding Congress of the League Against Imperialism in Brussells where, among others, she met and befriended the Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru.[84] In parliament, she established a reputation as a forthright defender of working class interests, displaying what Harrison calls "an amusingly sarcastic wit".[3] In 1927 she was elected for the first time to the Labour Party's National Executive, which gave her a voice in the formulation of party policy.[85] Her performances were noted with approval by Beatice Webb, who saw in her a future candidate for high office—ahead of more senior Labour women such as Margaret Bondfield and Susan Lawrence.[86] Her energy was such that among other journalism she was able to contribute a regular parliamentary column to the short-lived (February 1925 to July 1927) left-wing publication Lansbury's Labour Weekly.[87] On 29 March 1928 she voted in the House of Commons in favour of the bill that granted the vote to all women over the age of 21.[88] During discussion of the bill she said: "[W]e are doing at last a great act of justice to the women of the country ...just as we have [previously] opened the door to the older women, to-night we are opening it to those who are just entering on the threshold of life and in whose hands is the new life of the future country that we are going to build".[89]

In government, 1929–31[edit]

In May 1929 Baldwin called a general election. As a member of Labour's National Executive, Wilkinson helped to draft her party's manifesto, although her preference for a short list of specific policy proposals was overruled in favour of a lengthy and detailed statement of ideals and objectives.[90][91] In a Daily Herald newspaper article she addressed the recently-franchised younger women, and urged them to vote Labour.[92] In Middlesbrough she was re-elected with a majority increased to 3,199 over her Conservative and Liberal opponents.[63] Overall, Labour emerged from the election as the largest party, with 288 members (nine of whom were women),[90] while the Conservatives and Liberals won 260 and 59 respectively.[70] MacDonald formed his second minority administration, and included two women in ministerial posts: Margaret Bondfield as Minister of Labour and Susan Lawrence as Parliamentary Secretary (junior minister) at the Ministry of Health. Wilkinson was not given office, but was made Lawrence's Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS), an indication that she was marked down for future promotion.[93][94][n 5] Working closely with a minister gave Wilkinson an insider's view of the workings of government departments, an experience that was increased when she was appointed to the Donoughmore Committee, an independent body which was investigating the relationship between parliamentary and ministerial power.[96]

Almost from its inception the second MacDonald administration was overwhelmed by the twin crises of rising unemployment and the world trade recession that followed the financial crash in the autumn of 1929. The Labour Party was divided between those such as the Chancellor, Philip Snowden, who favoured orthodox economic policies including a strict curb on public expenditure, and those (including Wilkinson) who believed the government should spend its way out of the recession.[97] Her approach was that the problem was not over-production, but under-consumption, and that the solution lay in increasing, not squeezing, the spending power of the poorest in society.[98] On the issue of unemployment, Wilkinson supported Oswald Mosley's "Memorandum", a plan for economic reconstruction and public works that was rejected by the governemnt on the grounds of cost; Mosley resigned from the government in protest.[99][100]

"In a country that calls itself a democracy it really is a scandal that an unelected revising chamber should be tolerated, in which the Conservative Party has a permanent and overwhelming majority"

Wilkinson attacks the House of Lords, in a magazine article of August 1930[101]

Wilkinson helped to pilot Lawrence's Mental Treatment bill through parliament; it received the Royal Assent on 30 June 1930.[102] In the same year she co-sponsored a bill to limit shopworkers' hours to 48 a week, and poured scorn on Conservatives opposing the measure who seemed, she said, to think that all shop work was carried out in the "soothing atmosphere" and "exquisite scents" of Jermyn Street and Bond Street.[103] The bill was referred to a parliamentary committee for further consideration, but got no further.[102] As the parliament progressed, it became increasingly difficult to promote social legislation in the face of the mounting financial crisis and the use by the Conservative-dominated House of Lords of its statutory delaying powers.[104][n 6] The divisions in the Labour Party became more acute during 1931, as the governement struggled to meet the May Commitee's recommended cuts in expenditure of £97 million, the majority (£67 million) to be found from reductions in unemployment costs.[106] Wilkinson and a few colleagues tried in vain to block a proposal to restrict the rights of married women to claim unemployment benefit, a move which Wilkinson said would revive the "old, bad principle of discrimination against women".[104][107] On 23 August 1931 the government collapsed. MacDonald and a small number of Labour MPs formed a National Governemnt with the Conservatives and Liberals, while the bulk of the Labour Party, including Wilkinson, went into opposition.[108] In the general election that followed in October the Labour Party was utterly routed, retaining only 52 of its parliamentary seats.[70] In Middlesbrough East Wilkinson's vote was nearly the same as her 1929 total, but against a single candidate representing the National Government she was defeated by over 6,000 votes.[63]

Out of parliament, 1931–35[edit]

Wilkinson was temporarily demoralised by her defeat, but soon resumed her union and journalistic activities. She rationalised in a Daily Express article that Labour had lost because it was "not socialist enough", a theme she built on in numerous radical articles for a range of newspapers and journals.[109] Not all her writing was serious; in 1931 she published Peep at Politicians, a collection of humorous pen-portraits of parliamentary colleagues and opponents. She wrote that Winston Churchill was "cheerfully indifferent as to whether any new [ideas] he acquires match the collection he already possesses", and described Clement Attlee as "too fastidious for intrigue, and too modest for over-ambition".[110] Her second novel, The Division Bell Mystery, set in the House of Commons, was published in 1932 after being serialised in the Daily Express. Paula Bartley, Wilkinson's biographer, acknowledges that Wilkinson was not a first-class novelist, but "the autobiographical topicality of the books made them very appealing".[111]

In 1932 Wilkinson was invited by Krishna Menon of the India League to lead a small delegation to India and to report on conditions there. During the three-month visit she met Gandhi, then in prison, and became convinced that his cooperation was essential to any prospect of peace in India. On her return home she delivered her conclusions in an uncompromising report, The Condition of India, published in 1934.[112] Meantime her parliamentary prospects had been revived by her selection in 1932 as Labour candidate for Jarrow, a Tyneside shipbuilding town.[113] Jarrow had been devastated early in the 1930s by the run-down and closure of its shipyard, Palmers, and the consequent loss of most of the town's jobs. Early in 1934 Wilkinson led a deputation of Jarrow's unemployed to meet the prime minister, MacDonald, in his nearby Seaham constituency. The meeting produced nothing concrete, but in Wilkinson's view had the benefit of bringing Jarrow's problems to public attention.[114][n 7] She was unimpressed by the governement's Special Areas Act, passed late in 1934 and designed to assist distressed areas such as Jarrow; in her view the legislation provided inadequate funding and benefitted employers more than workers.[114][n 8]

Jarrow MP[edit]

Jarrow March[edit]

Town Hall and Palmer Statue, starting point for the Jarrow March, 5 October 1936[117] (2007 photograph)

In the November 1935 general election the National Government, led by Baldwin since MacDonald's retirement earlier that year, won convincingly, although Labour increased its House of Commons representation to 158.[70] Wilkinson was returned at Jarrow with a majority of 2,350.[63] At that time, although the poverty in the town was acute, there were hopes that its chronic unemployment would shortly be alleviated by the erection of a large steelworks on the derelict shipyard site.[118] Baldwin had spoken optimistically of such a scheme in the recent election.[119] However, it had attracted powerful opposition from the steelmasters represented by the British Iron and Steel Federation (BISF), who opposed all competition and thought that any increase in steel production should be handled by expanding their existing facilities.[120] It became apparent to Wilkinson that the government lacked the political will to challenge the BISF, and on 30 June 1936 she asked Walter Runciman, the responsible minister, "to induce the Iron and Steel Federation to pursue a less selfish policy than it is pursuing at present".[121] Her request was ignored, and the matter delayed indefinitely by the appointment of a committee to consider the general development of the iron and steel industry—a committee, a Times letter-writer noted, dominated by BISF members.[122] A deputation from Jarrow's town council met Runciman to protest the decision, but were told that "Jarrow must find its own salvation."[123][124]

According to Wilkinson, Runciman's dismissive phrase "kindled the town".[124] Under the general leadership of its chairman, David Riley, the town council began preparations for a demonstration in the form of a march to London to present a petition to the government, highlighting the town's plight.[125] Marches of the unemployed, often termed "hunger marches", had taken place since the early 1920s, often under the auspices of the communist-led National Unemployed Workers' Movement. This political dimension had associated them in the public mind with far-left propaganda.[126] The Jarrow council determined to organise its march free of all political connotations, and with the backing of every section of the town.[125] While it did so with some success, the march attracted voluble criticism: Hensley Henson, the Bishop of Durham denounced it as "revolutionary mob pressure", and condemned the action of his subordinate, the Bishop of Jarrow, who gave it his blessing.[127] Even within the Labour Party, Wilkinson found the leadership's attitude lukewarm, and fearful of any possible association with revolutionary socialism.[128][129]

On 5 October 1936, led by Riley, a selected group of 200 set out from Jarrow Town Hall to begin the 282–mile march.[127] The objective was to reach London by 3 November, when King Edward VIII would open the new session of parliament.[130] Wilkinson did not march all the way, but joined whenever her various commitments and state of health allowed.[131] At that year's Labour Party's annual conference, held in Edinburgh, she hoped to rouse enthusiasm but instead heard herself condemned from the platform for "sending hungry and ill-clad men across the country".[132] This negative attidude percolated through to some of the local parties on the route of the march; in such areas, Wikinson records with irony, it was the Conservatives and Liberals who saw to the marchers' needs.[133] On 31 October the marchers reached London. Baldwin refused to see them.[134] On 4 November, in the first sesion of the new parliament, Wilkinson presented on behalf of the marchers, a petition at the bar of the House of Commons. Signed by 11,000 citizens of Jarrow, it concluded: "The town cannot be left derelict, and therefore your Petitioners humbly pray that His Majesty's Government and this honourable House should realise the urgent need that work should be provided for the town without further delay."[135] In the debate that followed, Runciman opined that "the unemployment position at Jarrow, while still far from satisfactory, has improved during recent months". In reply a Labour backbencher commented that "the Government's complacency is regarded throughout the country as an affront to the national conscience".[136]

The marchers returned to Jarrow by train, with nothing concrete to show for their efforts; their unemployment was reduced as they had been "unavailable for work", had any vacancies arisen.[137][138] In assessing the longer-term benefits of the march, historians offer a more positive analysis. Malcolm Pearce and Geoffrey Stewart believe that it "helped to shape [post Second World War] perceptions of the 1930s" and thus pave the way to social reform.[139] According to Vernon, it brought the plight of the unemployed to the attention of the middle classes and planted the idea of social justice into their minds. "Ironically and tragically," Vernon says, in the shorter term "it was not peaceful crusading, but the impetus of rearmament which brought industrial activity back to Jarrow"[140]

International and domestic concerns[edit]

Through the 1930s Wilkinson viewed with increasing disquiet the growth of Fascism and Naziism in Europe. A particular focus of her concern was Spain, which she first visited in November 1934 to give support to the striking miners of Oviedo.[141] Wilkinson was a strong supporter of the Popular Front coalition, elected in Spain in February 1936.[142] When a section of the army under General Franco attacked the democratic government to precipitate the Spanish Civil War, Wilkinson argued in parliament against the British government's non-intervention policies: "[T]he Foreign Secretary knows perfectly well that this non-intervention has worked on the side of General Franco".[143] She made two visits to Spain during the course of the civil war, the first in April 1937 as a member of an all-women delegation that included her fellow-parliamentarians Eleanor Rathbone and the Duchess of Atholl. Wilkinson wrote of feeling "a helpless, choking rage" as she witnessed the effects of aerial bombing of undefended villages.[144] On her second visit, in December 1937, she was accompanied by Attlee, now leader of the Labour Party, and Philip Noel-Baker. Having observed the near-starvation of schoolchildren in Madrid, on her return to Britain she set up a "Milk for Spain" fund, together with other humanitarian initiatives.[145]

Wilkinson was strong opponent of the National Government's appeasement policies towards the European dictators. She accused Neville Chamberlain, who became prime minister when Baldwin retired in May 1937, of signing the Munich Agreement in September 1938, to "fix up a sale of the liberties of Czechoslovakia".[146] In the House of Commons on 6 October she said of Chamberlain's actions: "Only by throwing away practically everything for which this country cared and stood could he rescue us from the results of his own policy".[147] On 24 August 1939, as the House considered the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed the previous day, Wilkinson attacked Chamberlain's failure to ally with Russia in a common front against Hitler. "Time after time", she told the House of Commons, we have had the prime minister ... putting the narrow interests of his class and of the rich, before the natural interests of the country".[148]

Although she had long broken her formal ties with the British Communist Party, Wilkinson retained strong links with communist organisation at home and abroad. She incurred official Labour Party disapproval through her support of a British Popular Front, including the communists, in the fight against fascism. However, she could not afford to risk losing her parliamentary seat, and thus kept her rebellious instincts within bounds.[149][150] In 1937 she was one of a group of Labour figures–Aneurin Bevan, Harold Laski and Stafford Cripps were others—who founded the left-wing magazine Tribune; in the first issue she wrote of the need to fight unemployment, poverty, malnutrition and inadequate housing.[151] However, she initially opposed the principle of family allowances, believing that these payments would be used to keep down wages.[21] She was the prime mover behind a bill to regulate hire purchase agreements, at the time a subject of frequent abuse, and with all-party support secured the passage of the Hire Purchase Act 1938.[152]

Second World War[edit]

Families sheltering in a London Tube station, c. 1940

When Britain declared war on Germany on 3 September 1939, Wilkinson fully supported the decision, although she became a regular critic of Chamberlain's conduct of the war.[153] In May 1940, when Chamberlain's government was replaced by Churchill's all-party coalition, Wilkinson was appointed Parliamentary Secretary at the Ministry of Pensions. In October 1940 she transferred to the Ministry of Home Security, as one of Herbert Morrison's three Parliamentary Secretaries, with particular responsibilities for air raid shelters and civil defence.[154] When aeriel bombardment of British cities began in the summer of 1940, many Londoners used Underground stations as improvised shelters, often living there for days in conditions of increasing squalor.[155] From the beginning of 1941 Wilkinson promoted the use of the indoor "Morrison shelter", a reinforced steel table with wire mesh sides, under which a family could sleep. By the end of 1941 she had supervised the distribution of more than half a million of these.[156] Dubbed the "shelter queen" by the press, Wilkinson toured the bombed cities frequently, to share hardships and raise morale.[157] She also had a prominent role in the organisation of the auxiliary fire services, including the conscription of young women for fire-watching duties—a controversial policy that provoked considerable opposition.[158]

The discipline of working in a ministerial post with a direct bearing on the war effort, together with the influence of Morrison, turned Wilkinson away from many of her former left-wing stances. She supported Morrison's decision in January 1941 to suppress the communist newspaper The Daily Worker on the grounds of its anti-British propaganda.[159][160] She approved the wartime legislation that banned strikes in key industries,[159]and and opposed the right of trade unions to mandate the votes of their sponsored MPs.[161] Now accepted within the mainstream of the Labour Party, she served on several key policy committees, and in June 1943 became vice-chair of the party's National Executive. She succeeded to the chair when the incumbent, George Ridley, died in January 1945.[162] In the 1945 New Years Honours list she was appointed a Privy Counsellor, only the third woman (after Margaret Bondfield and Lady Astor) to receive this honour.[159][163] In April 1945 she was part of a parliamentary delegation that travelled to San Francisco, to begin work on the establishment of the United Nations.[164]

Postwar career[edit]

Leadership manoeuvres[edit]

Wilkinson had formed a close relationship with Morrison, personally and politically, before and during their wartime ministerial association.[3] She thought that he, rather than the sedate Attlee, should be leading the Labour Party, and from May 1945, with the war won and an election pending, began openly promoting Morrison's leadership credentials.[165] Morrison made no secret of his ambition, informing Attlee that after the forthcoming election he would seek the leadership "in the interests of party unity".[166] Wilkinson's activities on Morrison's behalf caused considerable disquiet within the Party and came close to earning her a motion of censure.[167] Labour won a landslide victory at the general election held in June 1945, with 393 seats against the Conservatives' 213. This did not prevent Wilkinson and others from continuing to press for a change of leader. Attlee forestalled any question of this by quickly accepting the king's invitation to form a government. He showed no bitterness towards either Morrison or Wilkinson; the former was appointed Lord President of the Council and deputy prime minister, while Wilkinson was made Minister of Education, with a seat in the cabinet. Emmanuel Shinwell, just appointed Minister of Fuel and Power, commented that "it is not bad tactics to make one's enemies one's servants".[168][169]

Minister of Education[edit]

Wilkinson was the second woman, after Margaret Bondfield, to achieve cabinet rank in the British government. She saw her as main task the implementation of the 1944 Education Act that had been passed by the wartime coalition. While Labour had opposed aspects of this Act, Wilkinson believed that it embodied important reforms. It provided free secondary education for all, and raised the minimum school leaving age from 14 to 15, as from 1947. Secondary education was to be organised on a tripartite system of grammar, technical and "modern" schools, into which children would be selected by means of an examination taken at the age of 11—the "11-plus". Many Labour Party members and supporters saw this structure as perpetuating elitism and wanted a more radical reorganisation of secondary education, on the basis of what was then called the "common school" or "multilateral" principle, later known as "comprehensive". This envisaged large schools under a single roof, with a range of appropriate courses of study for different levels of ability and flexible movement between courses as aptitudes changed. Wilkinson believed, however, that such a major reconstruction was unrealistic in the conditions of economic constraint that prevailed in the immediate postwar years, and limited herself to more attainable objectives. Her cautious attitude disappointed and angered some of the Labour left wing, who considered her approach a betrayal of socialist principles.

Wilkinson made her primary objective the raising of the school leaving age by 1 April 1947. This meant the urgent recruitment and training of thousands of extra teachers, and creating classroom space for almost 400,000 extra children. She therefore set up the Emergency Training Scheme (ETS), whereby ex-servicemen and women were given grants to train as teachers on an accelerated one-year programme. The ETS was very successful; by the end of 1946 more than 37,000 had been or were being trained. As building materials were generally unavailable, the necessary expansion of school premises was largely achieved by using temporary huts—some of which became permanent features of schools. On 31 October 1946, faced with parliamentary scepticism, she promised the former education minister R.A. Butler that arrangements were on track for implementation of the new leaving age by the following 1 April,[170] and thereafter rejected all suggestions that the policy be deferred. Although this measure was central to Wilkinson's tenure as minister, she piloted several other reforms through parliament, including free school milk, an increase in university scholarships, and an expansion in the provision of post-school education through county colleges.

Alongside the day-to-day pressures of her ministerial office, Wilkinson found time to travel abroad, to examine and report on educational provision and practice. In October 1945 she went to Germany to report on how the destroyed German education system could best be reactivated. She found time to visit the displaced persons' camp at Belsen, and was deeply affected by conditions there, six months after the war's end. Other trips included visits to Gibraltar, Malta and Czechoslovakia. In November 1945 she chaired an international conference in London, held under the auspices of the embryonic Umited Nations, that led to the establishment, a year later, of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). In one of her final speeches in parliament, on 22 November 1946, she emphasised that UNESCO stood for "standards of value ... putting aside the idea that only practical things matter". She prophesied that the organisation "will do great things", and urged the government to give it its full backing.[171]

Illness and death[edit]

Wilkinson, who had inherited her father's bronchial asthma and whose health was neglected during the Second World War,[172] took an overdose of barbiturates, while ill with emphysema, pneumonia and bronchitis[172] and died[173] at St Mary's Hospital, London[172] on 6 February 1947, at 55. The official cause of death was recorded as being a heart attack brought on by an accidental overdose of barbiturates but that was privately disputed by Labour insider J. F. Horrabin, who contended that Wilkinson had committed suicide over Morrison.[174] Morrison was anxious to keep his affair with Wilkinson quiet and did not attend her funeral.[175]

Appraisal and legacy[edit]

Signage for the Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls in Acton, London, one of two named in her honour (September 2006).

Wilkinson was linked romantically in turn to Labour MPs John Jagger and Herbert Morrison, who was estranged from his wife. It is unlikely that either she or Morrison would have received cabinet appointments if their long affair had become public knowledge.[175] Neither of Wilkinson's relationships led to marriage, leaving her, according to one commentator, 'disappointed in her emotional life'. The Times nostalgically describes Wilkinson as "a passionate, intelligent old-school socialist",[176] She is remembered as "one of the leaders of the Jarrow March and among the best known pioneer women MPs".[177] On her death the Times Educational Supplement said: "Ellen Wilkinson illustrated not unfairly in her political career, which was her life, the broad evolution of Labour views and attitudes over the past quarter century".

According to The Independent, "She was not the only significant Labour woman MP at that time – Edith Summerskill, the scourge of the boxing fraternity, Bessie Braddock, that larger-than-life Liverpudlian, such compassionate personalities as Peggy Herbison and Alice Bacon – but no one else quite spelt out the grievances of her people with Red Ellen's power and charisma." Her feminism and concern for social justice inspired others to similar political activity.

Two schools in England still bear her name, but Ellen Wilkinson High School in Ardwick, Manchester was merged with Spurley Hey to form Cedar Mount in 2000. A Humanities building at the University of Manchester has been renamed in her honour. A block of flats in Bethnal Green, East London is named Ellen Wilkinson House and was built in 1949. The University of Manchester's School of Arts, Languages and Culture new graduate offices are in the Ellen Wilkinson Building on campus.

Books by Ellen Wilkinson[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ The building housed, successively, Ardwick Higher Grade School, 1894-1911, Ardwick Central School, 1911-1952, Ardwick Secondary Technical School, 1952-1957, Ardwick Technical School, 1957-1967, Nicholls-Ardwick High School (later Ellen Wilkinson High School), 1967 until its closure.[1]
  2. ^ In June 1914, 12 months after her graduation, Wilkinson's degree was upgraded to MA. In accordance with the university's regulations at that time, no thesis or further study was required.[30]
  3. ^ In relation to rumours, common at the time, that Wilkinson and Jagger were lovers, Betty Vernon, Wilkinson's biographer, found no firm evidence to support this. Although Jagger's influence on Wilkinson was considerable, Vernon believes that the relationship was in all probability platonic.[42]
  4. ^ In the 1923 general election, three Labour women—Margaret Bondfield, Susan Lawrence and Dorothy Jewson—had been elected, but all three lost their seats in 1924.[72]
  5. ^ The House of Commons official website explains the role of Parliamentary Private Secretaries thus: "He or she is selected from backbench MPs as the 'eyes and ears' of the minister in the House of Commons. It is an unpaid job but it is useful for an MP to become a PPS to gain experience of working in government."[95]
  6. ^ Before 1911 the House of Lords had a power of veto over Commons legislation. Under the Parliament Act 1911 this power was reduced; the Lords could delay legislation other than finance bills for a period of two years. The period of delay was reduced to one year in 1949.[105]
  7. ^ Wilkinson records that at the end of the meeting MacDonald said to her: "Ellen, why don't you go out and preach socialism, which is the only remedy for all this?" This "priceless remark", she says, brought home the "reality and sham ...of that warm but so easy sympathy".[115]
  8. ^ The four "special areas" covered by the Act were Scotland, South Wales, West Cumberland and Tyneside. Initially the amount provided for relief for all four areas was £2 million. The historian A.J.P. Taylor comments that "the old industries could not be pulled back to life by a little judicious prodding.[116]

References

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  2. ^ Bartley, p. 1
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Harrison, Brian. "Wilkinson, Ellen Cicely". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography online edition. Retrieved 3 October 2014.  (subscription or UK public library membership required)
  4. ^ Wilkinson 1938, p. 402
  5. ^ Wilkinson 1938 , pp. 400–02
  6. ^ Bartley, p. 2
  7. ^ Vernon, pp. 4–5
  8. ^ Wilkinson 1938, p. 407
  9. ^ Wilkinson 1938, p. 403
  10. ^ Vernon, p. 6
  11. ^ Jackson, p. 19
  12. ^ Bartley, p. 3
  13. ^ Wilkinson 1938, p. 405
  14. ^ Vernon, pp. 7–8
  15. ^ Wilkinson 1938, p. 408
  16. ^ Jackson, p. 24
  17. ^ Bartley,p. 3–4
  18. ^ Letter from Wilkinson to to Middleton, quoted by Bartley, p. 5
  19. ^ Vernon, p. 9
  20. ^ Vernon, p. 23
  21. ^ a b c Debenham, pp. 221–24
  22. ^ Mitchell, p. 193
  23. ^ Wilkinson 1938, p. 416
  24. ^ Vernon, pp. 33–37
  25. ^ Vernon, p. 40
  26. ^ Vernon, pp. 29–30
  27. ^ Vernon, pp. 30–31
  28. ^ Cole 1938, p. 67
  29. ^ Vernon, pp. 28–29
  30. ^ Vernon.p. 29
  31. ^ Jackson, p. 239
  32. ^ Bartley, p. 6
  33. ^ Cochrane, Kira (11 July 2013). "Join the great suffrage pilgrimage". The Guardian. 
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  40. ^ Bartley, p. 15
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  46. ^ Vernon, p. 43
  47. ^ Leeson, pp. 88 and 179
  48. ^ Cole 1949, p. 86
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  50. ^ a b c d e Bartley, pp. 16–17
  51. ^ Cole 1949, p. 96
  52. ^ Bartley, pp. 24–25
  53. ^ a b Vernon, pp. 62–63
  54. ^ Bartley, p. 18
  55. ^ Bartley, p. 19
  56. ^ "Communism in Manchester". The Manchester Guardian. 6 November 1922. p. 11. 
  57. ^ Bartley, pp. 26–27
  58. ^ Vernon, pp. 57–58
  59. ^ Bidwell, Syd (Spring 1953). "National Council of Labour Colleges". International Socialism (12): p. 25. 
  60. ^ a b c d Bartley, pp. 23–25
  61. ^ Mitchell, p. 206
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  63. ^ a b c d Vernon,pp. 240–41
  64. ^ Blythe, p. 278
  65. ^ Vernon, p. 64
  66. ^ Bartley, p. 27
  67. ^ Marquand, p. 377
  68. ^ Andrew, Christopher (September 1977). "The British Secret Service and Anglo-Soviet Relations in the 1920s Part I: From the Trade Negotiations to the Zinoviev Letter". The Historical Journal 20 (3): 673–706.  (subscription required)
  69. ^ Marquand, pp. 381–86
  70. ^ a b c d Vernon, p. 242
  71. ^ Bartley, p. 28
  72. ^ Abrams, p. 229
  73. ^ Vernon, pp. 78–79
  74. ^ Women's Leader, 7 November 1924, quoted in Vernon, p. 78
  75. ^ Bartley, pp. 35–36
  76. ^ "Training Centres for Women". Hansard 192: col. 2278–79. 10 March 1926. 
  77. ^ Vernon, p. 85
  78. ^ "Civil Estimates And Estimates for Revenue Departments, 1928". Hansard 214: col. 734–35. 1 March 1928. 
  79. ^ Shepherd, p. 237
  80. ^ Vernon, pp. 89–90
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  86. ^ Webb, p. 133
  87. ^ Shepherd, p.227
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  89. ^ "Representation of the People (Equal Franchise) Bill". Hansard 215: col. 1402–06. 29 March 1928. 
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  92. ^ Shepherd, p. 255
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  94. ^ Vernon, p. 102
  95. ^ "Parliamentary Private Secretary". United Kingdom Parliament. Retrieved 10 October 2014. 
  96. ^ Vernon, p. 103
  97. ^ Bartley, p. 50
  98. ^ Bartley, p. 51
  99. ^ Skidelsky, pp. 195–209
  100. ^ Vernon, pp. 108–09
  101. ^ Article in The New Dawn, 2 August 1930, quoted in Bartley, p. 53
  102. ^ a b Bartley, p. 49
  103. ^ "Shop (Hours of Employment) Bill". Hansard 236: col. 2337–38. 21 March 1930. 
  104. ^ a b Bartley, pp. 52–53
  105. ^ "The Parliament Acts". UK Parliament. Retrieved 14 October 2014. 
  106. ^ Marquand, p. 609
  107. ^ "Unemployment Insurance No. 3 Bill". Hansard 255: col. 485–715. 15 July 1931. 
  108. ^ Blythe, pp. 282–83
  109. ^ Bartley, pp. 56–57
  110. ^ Quoted in Vernon, p. 133
  111. ^ Bartley, p. 57
  112. ^ Vernon, p. 107
  113. ^ Vernon, p. 138
  114. ^ a b Bartley, pp. 63–64
  115. ^ Wilkinson 1939, pp. 195–96
  116. ^ Taylor, p. 436
  117. ^ Wilkinson 1939, p. 200
  118. ^ Wilkinson 1939, pp. 172–73
  119. ^ Wilkinson 1939, p. 180
  120. ^ Wilkinson, pp. 175 and 184–85
  121. ^ "Iron and Steel Works, Jarrow". Hansard 314: col. 205–07. 30 June 1936. 
  122. ^ Wilkinson 1939, pp. 184–85
  123. ^ Vernon, p. 141
  124. ^ a b Wilkinson 1939, p. 198
  125. ^ a b Vernon, p. 142
  126. ^ Bartley, p. 88
  127. ^ a b Bartley, p. 89
  128. ^ Bartley, p. 91
  129. ^ Vernon, p. 143
  130. ^ Blythe, p. 191
  131. ^ Bartley, p. 90
  132. ^ Wilkinson 1939, p. 204
  133. ^ Wilkinson 1939, p. 205–06
  134. ^ Bartley, p. 92
  135. ^ "Petitions, Jarrow". Hansard 317: col. 75. 4 November 1936. 
  136. ^ "Jarrow". Hansard 317: col. 76–77. 4 November 1936. 
  137. ^ Bartley, p. 93
  138. ^ Blythe, p. 199
  139. ^ Pearce and Stwart, p. 359
  140. ^ Vernon, pp. 146–47
  141. ^ Bartley, p. 75
  142. ^ Bartley, p. 76
  143. ^ "Spain". Hansard 323: col.1359–60. 6 May 1937. 
  144. ^ Jackson, p. 143
  145. ^ Bartley, pp. 79–80
  146. ^ Bartley, pp. 74–75
  147. ^ "policy of His Majesty's Government". Hansard 339: col. 524–25. 6 October 1938. 
  148. ^ "International Situation". Hansard 351: col. 50–55. 24 August 1939. 
  149. ^ Bartley, pp. 95–96
  150. ^ Collette, Christine (3 March 2011). "The Jarrow March". BBC History. Retrieved 19 October 2014. 
  151. ^ Vernon, p. 171
  152. ^ Gardiner, pp. 531 and 682
  153. ^ Bartley, p. 102
  154. ^ Vernon, pp. 184–85
  155. ^ Vernon, pp. 185–86
  156. ^ Vernon, p. 188
  157. ^ Bartley, pp. 106–08
  158. ^ Bartley, pp. 110–11
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  162. ^ Vernon, p. 195
  163. ^ Vernon, p. 194
  164. ^ Bartley, p. 116
  165. ^ Bartley, p. 118
  166. ^ Jago, p. 163
  167. ^ Bartley, p. 119
  168. ^ Vernon, pp. 196–98
  169. ^ Bartley, p. 121
  170. ^ "School-leaving Age (Huts)". Hansard 428: col. 758. 31 October 1946. 
  171. ^ "United Nations Educational Organisation". Hansard 430: col. 1219–31. 22 November 1946. 
  172. ^ a b c Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Volume 58. Oxford University Press. 2004. p. 997. ISBN 0-19-861408-X. Article by Brian Harrison, who considered her death was "almost certainly accidental".
  173. ^ Vernon, Betty D. (1982). Ellen Wilkinson: A Biography. Law Book Co of Australasia. p. 234. ISBN 978-0-7099-2603-0. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 
  174. ^ Chris Wrigley, A.J.P. Taylor: Radical Historian of Europe (2006), p. 116.
  175. ^ a b Francis Beckett, 'Secrets and lies', New Statesman, (16 January 2006), p. 12.
  176. ^ Six working-class heroes, The Times, 5 May 2007 
  177. ^ Amos, Mike (7 June 2004), John North: The first ladies, Northern Echo 

Sources

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Penry Williams
Member of Parliament for Middlesbrough East
19241931
Succeeded by
Ernest James Young
Preceded by
William George Pearson
Member of Parliament for Jarrow
1935–1947
Succeeded by
Ernest Fernyhough
Political offices
Preceded by
George Ridley
Chair of the Labour Party
1944–1945
Succeeded by
Harold Laski
Preceded by
Richard Law
Minister of Education
1945–1947 (died in office)
Succeeded by
George Tomlinson