Ellen Wilkinson
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Wilkinson was described as an outgoing romantic who wrote some idiosyncratic novels, as well as being an inspirational orator and defender of the under-privileged. Originally from a Methodist background in Manchester, Ellen Wilkinson became women's organiser of the Co- operative Employees at the age of 24, eventually gaining pre- eminence within NUDAW - a shopworkers union.

Following involvement with the ILP, she was elected as Labour member of Middlesbrough East in 1924. Identified with the far left, in fact Wilkinson was involved with various forms of labour movement activism.

She was a tough character and resilient to jibes as both an orator and hardened union negotiator. She lost her seat in 1931, returning in 1945 as Education Secretary for two years until her death in 1947.

It was in the 1930s that her energy and passion lit up the movement, during what was a difficult time for the Party. This is not to say that she was immune to the contradictions of this time. Her attachments to the Socialist League, the Unity Front, Herbert Morrison's bid for the party leadership in 1935 and a succession of anti-fascist and pacifistic movements seem erratic in retrospect.

As one of the instigators of the Jarrow March and the Left Book Club she showed her forte was in developing an activist creativity and producing organisational catalysts for socialism. This she did with a flair and style that reflected her own personality. Practically, what is perhaps most important is that she represented an important wing of the party.
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