Ellen Wilkinson
in English radicalism in the twentieth century
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Wilkinson was a working-class woman who gained a scholarship to university and had a high-profile career in the labour movement, as a trade union official, MP and eventually Government Minister. She was influenced by her Nonconformist background, and by her idealistic internationalism. In her youth she was involved with several left-wing movements, including Guild Socialism, and the CPGB. Although she supported the cause of women’s suffrage, she saw the struggle for women’s emancipation as a part of the more generalised movement for socialist change. As an MP, she was effective and influential. When MP for Jarrow, she became a nationally recognised figure as leader of the ‘Jarrow March’ of the unemployed. During the Second World War Wilkinson was a valued member of Churchill’s coalition government; and she became Minister for Education in Attlee’s 1945 government. She died, prematurely, in 1947.

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