Helen Crawfurd

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Helen Crawfurd
Helen Crawfurd (cropped).jpg
Helen Jack

(1877-11-09)9 November 1877
Glasgow, Scotland
Died18 April 1954(1954-04-18) (aged 66)
Dunoon, Scotland
OccupationPolitician, Activist, Suffragette
Spouse(s)Alexander Montgomerie Crawfurd
George Anderson

Helen Crawfurd Anderson (9 November 1877 – 18 April 1954) was a Scottish suffragette, Rent Strike organiser, Communist activist, and politician. She was born in Glasgow and brought up there and in the London area.


Born Helen Jack, at 175 Cumberland Street in the Gorbals area of Glasgow, Helen's parents were Helen L Kyle and William Jack.[1] Her mother worked a steam-loom before she wed,[2] and Helen's family moved to Ipswich while Helen was young, and Helen later went to school in London and Ipswich before moving back to Glasgow as a teenager. Her father, a Master Baker,[1] was a Catholic but converted to the Church of Scotland and was a conservative trade unionist.

(L - R) Helen Crawfurd, Janet Barrowman, Margaret McPhun, Mrs A. A. Wilson, Frances McPhun, Nancy A. John and Annie S. Swan.

Initially religious herself and a Sunday School teacher, she felt a call to be married at 21 to their 67-year-old family friend,[2] widower Alexander Montgomerie Crawfurd (29 August 1828 – 31 May 1914),[3][4] a Church of Scotland Minister, at 9 Park Avenue in Stirling on 19 September 1898,[5] but became increasingly radical.[6] Alexander died aged 85 at 17 Sutherland Street in Partick, Glasgow.

In 1944 Helen remarried, to widower George Anderson, of Anderson Brothers Engineers, Coatbridge. He was a member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.[7] He died on 2 February 1952[8] and Helen died at Mahson Cottage, Kilbride Avenue, Dunoon, Argyll, aged 76.[9]

Political activity[edit]

Crawfurd first became active in the women's suffrage movement around 1900, then in 1910 during a meeting in Rutherglen,[10] she switched her support to the more radical Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) of the Pankhursts. In 1912, she smashed the windows of Jack Pease, Minister for Education, and received a one-month prison sentence. In March 1914, Helen was arrested in Glasgow when Emmeline Pankhurst was speaking, received another month in prison,[2] and went on an eight-day hunger strike.[10] Following one more arrest, she left the WSPU in protest at its support of World War I and in 1914,[2] she joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP).[6]

Mary Barbour Statue - Front view

During the war, Crawfurd was involved with the Red Clydeside movement, including the Glasgow rent strikes in 1915 when she led the South Govan Women's Housing Association to resist rent increases and prevent evictions, alongside Mary Barbour, Mary Laird, Mary Jeff and Agnes Dollan. She had co-founded the Glasgow branch of the Women's International League [2]and become secretary of the Women's Peace Crusade. On 23 July 1916, she organised the first demonstration of the Women's Peace Crusade, which was attended by 5,000 people.[11][12]

In 1918 she was elected as Vice-chair of the Scottish division of the Independent Labour Party. Shortly afterwards, she became a founder member of the ILP's left-wing faction which campaigned for it to affiliate to the Communist International. Crawford went to Moscow in 1920 for the Congress of the Third Communist International and interviewed Lenin.[2] When the affiliation policy was defeated, she joined the new Communist Party of Great Britain, within which she served on the Central Committee, and was involved with various journalistic projects. She also became secretary of Workers' International Relief.[6]

Crawfurd ran in 1921 as the first Communist Party Candidate in the Govan Ward.[13]

Crawfurd stood for the CPGB in Bothwell at the 1929 general election and Aberdeen North in 1931, but did not come close to election.[6]

During the 1930s, Crawfurd was prominent in the Friends of the Soviet Union. She retired during World War II but was elected as Dunoon's first woman Town Councillor[10] shortly after the war, retiring in 1947 due to poor health.[6][14]

Helen Crawfurd died in 1954.[2]


  1. ^ a b "SR Birth Search for Helen Jack (Statutory Births 644/12 1466)". Scotland's People.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Atkinson, Diane (2018). Rise up, women!: the remarkable lives of the suffragettes. London: Bloomsbury. pp. 308, 532. ISBN 9781408844045. OCLC 1016848621.
  3. ^ "OR Birth and Baptism Search CRAWFORD, ALEXANDER (O.P.R. Births 612/01 0020 0089 ST QUIVOX)". Scotland's People.
  4. ^ "SR Death Search for Alexander Montgomerie Crawfurd (Statutory Deaths 644/22 0321)". Scotland's People.
  5. ^ "SR Marriage Search for CRAWFORD, ALEXANDER M - JACK, HELEN (Statutory Marriages 490/00 0075)". Scotland's People.
  6. ^ a b c d e Ed. A. T. Lane, Biographical Dictionary of European Labor Leaders, Vol. 1, pp. 224–226.
  7. ^ "SR Marriage Search Anderson George Crawford Helen COATBRIDGE OR OLD MONKLAND Lanark 652/02 0071". Scotland's People.
  8. ^ "SR Death Search ANDERSON, GEORGE (Statutory Deaths 510/02 0002)". Scotland's People.
  9. ^ "SR Death Search ANDERSON, HELEN (Statutory Deaths 510/01 0067)". Scotland's Peopl.
  10. ^ a b c Leneman, Leah (2000). The Scottish Suffragettes. British Library: NMS Publishing Limited. pp. 58–61. ISBN 1-901663-40-X.
  11. ^ Liddington, Jill (1984). The Life and Times of a Respectable Rebel: Selina Cooper (1864–1946). Virago.
  12. ^ Wiltshire, Anna (1985). Most Dangerous Women: Feminist Peace Campaigners of the Great War. Pandora.
  13. ^ "HelenCrawfurd_GovanElectionPoster1921". Govan's Hidden Histories. 17 June 2015. Retrieved 2 July 2016.
  14. ^ "Crawfurd Helen", Compendium of Communist Biography
Political offices
Preceded by
New position
British Secretary of Workers International Relief
1921 – 1925
Succeeded by
Jack Leckie
Party political offices
Preceded by
New position
National Women's Organiser of the Communist Party of Great Britain
1922 – 1924
Succeeded by
Beth Turner