James Mawdsley (trade unionist)

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Mawdsley c. 1899

James Mawdsley (9 January 1848 – 4 February 1902) was an English trade unionist. Alongside Winston Churchill, he stood as a Conservative Party candidate in the double Oldham by-election of 1899.


James Mawdsley was born in Preston, Lancashire, to cotton spinner James Mawdsley and his wife Jane.[1] From the age of nine, young James worked in a cotton mill as a "half-timer" (he spent half the working day in the mill and half at school). By 16, he was working full-time. In 1871, Mawdsley married Ann Wright and they had seven children together. In 1878, he became the General Secretary of the Amalgamated Association of Operative Cotton Spinners.[1] At the time, cotton spinners were considered an elite group among other union factions.[2] In 1886 the Association worked with the Amalgamated Association of Card and Blowing Room Operatives and the Northern Counties Weavers Amalgamation, to form the United Textile Factory Workers Association; the collaboration was brought about because the unions desired to promote legislation. Mawdsley became General Secretary. Under his leadership, the UTFWA was regarded as a sober and moderate union, which was opposed to socialism.[3]

Through much of the 1880s and 1890s, Mawdsley sat on the Trades Union Congress (TUC)'s parliamentary committee and was chairman of the TUC in 1885.[1] Mawdsley was politically active; in line with most cotton workers, but against the majority of trade unionists, Mawdsley was a supporter of the Conservative Party. In 1895 there was a nascent plan for Mawdsley to stand for Parliament as a Conservative in conjunction with David Holmes of the Weavers' union as a Liberal, both being regarded as Labour representatives.[4] In 1899, a double by-election was held in Oldham. Mawdsley was chosen as a candidate for the alongside future British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill. Mawdsley was unusual as a Conservative Party candidate who was also heavily involved in trade unions.[5] He was also one of the first trade unionists that Churchill was associated with.[5]

James Mawdsley died in 1902 at Taunton, Ashton-under-Lyne, from complications following an accident. His injuries were sustained by sitting in a china bath and breaking it.[6] He was buried at Christ Church in Ashton-under-Lyne.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Bythell, Duncan (May 2006). "Mawdsley, James (1848–1902)". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/34951. Retrieved 17 August 2010 
  2. ^ Howell (1984), p. 54
  3. ^ Frank Bealey and Henry Pelling, "Labour and Politics 1900–1906", Macmillan, 1958, p. 99.
  4. ^ Frank Bealey and Henry Pelling, "Labour and Politics 1900–1906", Macmillan, 1958, p. 17.
  5. ^ a b Wrigley (2002), p. 257
  6. ^ Jenkins, Roy (2001). Churchill. Pan. p. 47. ISBN 0-330-48805-8. 
Trade union offices
Preceded by
J. S. Murchie
Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of the TUC
1886 – 1887
Succeeded by
James Millar Jack
Preceded by
Thomas Birtwistle
Secretary of the United Textile Factory Workers' Association
c.1892 – 1902
Succeeded by
Joseph Cross
Preceded by
John Burns and David Holmes
Trades Union Congress representative to the American Federation of Labour
With: Edward Cowey
Succeeded by
John Mallinson and Sam Woods