History Podcasts

Minnie Lansbury

Minnie Lansbury


We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

Minnie Glassman, the daughter of Jewish coal merchant Isaac Glassman, was born in Stepney in 1889. She became a school teacher and was active in the campaign for women's suffrage.

In 1913, Sylvia Pankhurst, with the help of Millie Glassman, Julia Scurr, Keir Hardie and George Lansbury, established the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELF). An organisation that combined socialism with a demand for women's suffrage it worked closely with the Independent Labour Party.

As June Hannam has pointed out: "The East London Federation of Suffragettes was successful in gaining support from working women and also from dock workers. The ELF organized suffrage demonstrations and its members carried out acts of militancy."

In 1914 Millie married Edgar Lansbury, the son of George Lansbury, the Labour Party MP for Bow & Bromley. Millie was a pacifist and opposed the First World War. In March 1916 Sylvia Pankhurst renamed the East London Federation of Suffragettes, the Workers' Suffrage Federation (WSF). The newspaper was renamed the Workers' Dreadnought and continued to campaign against the war and gave strong support to organizations such as the Non-Conscription Fellowship. In 1918 Millie was elected Assistant Secretary of the Workers' Socialist Federation.

In November 1919 Millie Lansbury was elected to Poplar Council. The Labour Party had won 39 of the 42 council seats. In 1921 Poplar had a rateable value of £4m and 86,500 unemployed to support. Whereas other more prosperous councils could call on a rateable value of £15 to support only 4,800 jobless. George Lansbury proposed that the Council stop collecting the rates for outside, cross-London bodies. This was agreed and on 31st March 1921, Poplar Council set a rate of 4s 4d instead of 6s 10d. On 29th the Councillors were summoned to Court. They were told that they had to pay the rates or go to prison. At one meeting Millie said: "I wish the Government joy in its efforts to get this money from the people of Poplar. Poplar will pay its share of London's rates when Westminster, Kensington, and the City do the same."

On 28th August over 4,000 people held a demonstration at Tower Hill. The banner at the front of the march declared that "Popular Borough Councillors are still determined to go to prison to secure equalisation of rates for the poor Boroughs." The Councillors were arrested on 1st September. Five women Councillors, including Millie Lansbury, Julia Scurr and Susan Lawrence, were sent to Holloway Prison. Twenty-five men, including George Lansbury and John Scurr, went to Brixton Prison. On 21st September, public pressure led the government to release Nellie Cressall, who was six months pregnant. Julia Scurr reported that the "food was unfit for any human being... fish was given on Friday, they told us, that it was uneatable, in fact, it was in an advanced state of decomposition".

Instead of acting as a deterrent to other minded councils, several Metropolitan Borough Councils announced their attention to follow Poplar's example. The government led by Stanley Baldwin and the London County Council was forced to back down and on 12th October, the Councillors were set free. The Councillors issued a statement that said: "We leave prison as free men and women, pledged only to attend a conference with all parties concerned in the dispute with us about rates... We feel our imprisonment has been well worth while, and none of us would have done otherwise than we did. We have forced public attention on the question of London rates, and have materially assisted in forcing the Government to call Parliament to deal with unemployment."

While in Holloway Prison Minnie Lansbury developed pneumonia and she died on 1st January 1922. According to Janine Booth she had told friends " that imprisonment had weakened her physically, leaving her body unable to fight off the illness that killed her." Her father-in-law, George Lansbury said: "Minnie, in her 32 years, crammed double that number of years' work compared with what many of us are able to accomplish. Her glory lies in the fact that with all her gifts and talents one thought dominated her whole being night and day: How shall we help the poor, the weak, the fallen, weary and heavy-laden, to help themselves? When, a soldier like Minnie passes on, it only means their presence is withdrawn, their life and work remaining an inspiration and a call to us each to close the ranks and continue our march breast forward."

Minnie, in her 32 years, crammed double that number of years' work compared with what many of us are able to accomplish. Her glory lies in the fact that with all her gifts and talents one thought dominated her whole being night and day: How shall we help the poor, the weak, the fallen, weary and heavy-laden, to help themselves?

When, a soldier like Minnie passes on, it only means their presence is withdrawn, their life and work remaining an inspiration and a call to us each to close the ranks and continue our march breast forward.

On the very first day of 1922, Poplar's labour movement suffered a personal and political tragedy with the death of Minnie Lansbury from influenza and pneumonia. That evening, Charlie Sumner announced Minnie's death to a thousand-strong meeting at Bow Baths: "The audience for a moment was stricken silent ... Then out of the silence came a woman's cry of grief, followed by the weeping of many women." After a few minutes' standing tribute, the meeting was abandoned.

Aged 32, Minnie was the youngest of the jailed councillors. Councillor Joe Banks wrote that "The movement has lost a valuable member whose place it will be hard to fill", Councillor Thomas Blacketer that "Our loss is irreplaceable". Minnie, he said, had "died for the cause", arguing that imprisonment had weakened her physically, leaving her body unable to fight off the illness that killed her.

On January 4, a crowd of thousands, mainly women, gathered outside Minnie's house to march to her funeral in tribute - the same house at which she had held a daily surgery at 9 a.m. during her years of involvement in the council and the community. Four of her fellow councillors bore her coffin on their shoulders' preceded by the Shenfield Boys' Band and followed by 500 local unemployed at the head of a vast procession and cars full of floral tributes from Labour Party, Communist Party and trade union branches. At the crematorium's', Reverend Kitcat told of Minnie Lansbury's three great qualities: "her intellectual power... her extraordinary liberal mind and generosity of disposition... and her love of justice, and depth of her sympathy, for suffering and sorrow. Mourners wearing red flowers and badges sang The Red Flag. A local newspaper wrote, "Cut off in the midst of her social and municipal activities, with only a few days warning, the tragic suddenness of Alderman Mrs Lansbury's death has made a profound impression on her many friends in Poplar."


Minnie Lansbury - History

Today is the 86th anniversary of the death of one of my all-time heroes: Minnie Lansbury.

Yet another woman whom history has ignored in favour of her male comrades and family members - Minnie was George Lansbury's daughter-in-law - she deserves to be much better-known amongst socialists, feminists and those with any interest in labour movement history.

Born in 1889 to Jewish parents in Stepney, Minnie Glassman became a school teacher before marrying Edgar Lansbury in 1914. She was a committee member of Sylvia Pankhurst's East London Federation of Suffragettes, which mobilised and involved working-class women (and men) whom 'Votes For Ladies' campaigns elsewhere held in contempt. In 1916, she became Assistant Secretary, and when ELFS became the Workers’ Socialist Federation in 1918, Minnie was elected Assistant Secretary.

Minnie served on Poplar's War Pensions Committee from 1914-18. She joined the Communist Party as soon as it was formed in 1920.

When Labour swept to power on Poplar Borough Council in 1919, it appointed Minnie Lansbury as one of its Aldermen. In this role, she played an important part in the Rates Dispute of 1921 (about which I am writing a book, due to be published later this year). Minnie and 29 of her fellow Councillors were imprisoned after they refused to collect precepts for cross-London bodies, preferring to raise money only to support the population of the desperately poor, recession-ravaged, dockside borough of Poplar. The Poplar Councillors' militancy, stubbornness and mass working-class support brought them victory, forcing the government to adjust the local government funding system massively in favour of the pooorer boroughs.

But it cost Minnie Lansbury her life. On January 1st 1922, she died of pneumonia, almost certainly made worse by the effects of six weeks imprisonment in the previous September and October.

I have some fantastic photos (not yet ready for reproduction) of Minnie going off to Holloway prison, cheered on by thousands of local men and women, the crowds stretching back as far as you can see. As she went, she gave a quote to the Daily Herald: ‘I wish the Government joy in its effort to get this money from the people of Poplar. Poplar will pay its share of London’s rates when Westminster, Kensington, and the City do the same!’


Minnie Lansbury

innie Lansbury (1889 - 1 January 1922) was a leading suffragette and an alderman on the first Labour-led council in the Metropolitan Borough of Poplar.

Minnie was the daughter of Jewish coal merchant Isaac Glassman and the first wife (married 1914) of Edgar Lansbury, son of George Lansbury, mayor of Poplar and later leader of the Labour Party. (After Minnie's death, Edgar married actress Moyna Macgill and became the father of Angela Lansbury.)

In 1921, she was one of five women on Poplar Council who, along with their male colleagues, were jailed for six weeks for refusing to levy full rates in the poverty-stricken area. Due to her imprisonment, she developed pneumonia and died in 1922. She was buried in the Jewish cemetery in East Ham.

There is a Minnie Lansbury Memorial Clock on Electric House in Bow Road, Tower Hamlets that was erected in the 1930s. The Memorial Clock was restored in 2008 and re-fitted on Electric House. The clock was restored through a public appeal organised by the Jewish East End Celebration Society and the Heritage of London Trust. From the appeal the Heritage of London Trust raised over £13,000, which was given to Tower Hamlets Council to complete the restoration. Angela Lansbury was among those who made a donation towards the restoration of the clock. The restored clock, now painted green and gold, was officially unveiled in the presence of relatives of Minnie Lansbury and local people on Thursday, October 16, 2008.


1920’S POPLAR COUNCILLORS

Minnie Lansbury became a teacher, and joined the East London Federation of Suffragettes in 1915. She was also chairman of the War Pensions Committee, fighting for the rights of widows, orphans and wounded from World War I. She was elected alderman on Poplar’s first Labour council in 1919, before women received Parliamentary suffrage. She and Susan Lawrence were part of the Labour group that defied central government and refused to set a rate, arguing that the poverty in the area meant that the poor were being asked to pay for the poor. Lawrence was imprisoned for five weeks in Holloway Prison in 1921, but ultimately she and her fellow councillors' campaign succeeded, in that government passed a law to equalise Poor Law rates. Writs were served on 30 Popular councillors, who were jailed in September 1921. Twenty four male councillors went to Brixton prison, while six women were held at Holloway. The arrests took place over a number of days and attracted huge attention, and a film was made of them. Fifteen thousand people marched to Holloway to support the jailed women councillors with trade union banners much in evidence. The struggle was also reported in the Daily Herald, the edition of the paper for 5 September 1921 had the headline 'Our Editor In Gaol For Justice' of which George Lansbury was editor. The fight of the councillors attracted national attention and the area became known as 'Red Poplar' Supporters singing the Red Flag and a huge number of visitors continually harassed the prison authorities. The campaigning pressure forced the Home Office to allow all 34 councillors to hold Poplar council meetings in Brixton prison.Women were taken by cab to Brixton where council meetings were held. Susan Lawrence used the time to read Tolstoy and prepare a pamphlet on taxation. However conditions in prison were not pleasant. Several councillors became ill and within a few weeks of her release Minnie Lansbury, one of George Lansbury's sisters, had died, partly as a result of her treatment in Holloway where she caught pneumonia and never fully recovered her health.

The Minnie Lansbury Clock bares the plaque inscription "The clock above was erected by public subscription in memory of Minnie Lansbury who after a life devoted to the service of the poor of this borough, died on New Year's Day, 1922, aged 32 years." In 2008 the clock was restored through a public appeal organised by the Jewish East End Celebration Society and the Heritage of London Trust and included contribution from actress Angela Lansbury, whose father Edgar Lansbury had been married to Minnie prior to her early death.


Stories of forgotten heroines fighting for equality told on International Women's Day

It is a sad indictment of our society that history omits so many remarkable and inspirational women.

Examples of great untold stories include the brave undercover journalist who exposed poverty in the early 1900s and the teenage boxer who trained many of the great fighters of the 1920s.

But change is in the air as we mark International Women’s Day.

Those uniting to speak out on gender equality include suffragist descendant Helen Pankhurst, Hollywood star Helena Bonham Carter, Doctor Who star David Tennant and climate change activist Hilda Nakabuye.

Did you know about these forgotten heroines? Have your say in the comments section

They all back March4Women’s Stop Telling Half the Story campaign, organised by CARE International – which wants more women in leadership roles.

Helena, 54, said: “If we want a fairer, more equal world we need women to be represented in all their diversity at the decision-making table, in positions of power.”

And two friends are boosting representation by ensuring the great women of the past are recognised. Sara Huws and Sarah Jackson started fundraising in 2015 to set up a women’s museum in London after being disgusted that a Jack the Ripper museum was given the go-ahead.

Now, Sara and fellow trustees are app­­ealing for women to tell their stories before the East End Women’s Museum opens later this year.

She said: “Women make history every day, they always have. We all know a woman who made a difference this year. There’s so much history to discover, stories of courage, compassion, genius, resilience and humour.”

So to mark International Women’s Day, here are some of the trailblazers the museum will be honouring…

Annie Newton, Boxer and trainer

Formidable Londoner Annie lost two husbands in the First World War. A single mum, she turned to giving men boxing lessons.

She had boxed in fairground tents from the age of 10 and by the age of 32, she could punch a bag 900 times without missing.

Sign up to our newsletter to get the day&aposs biggest news straight to your inbox

The Mirror&aposs newsletter brings you the latest news, exciting showbiz and TV stories, sport updates and essential political information.

The newsletter is emailed out first thing every morning, at 12noon and every evening.

Never miss a moment by signing up to our newsletter here.

However in 1926 when she organised a match for herself, it caused a scandal .

The Mayor of Hackney claimed that women fighting would “gratify the sensual ideals of a crowd of vulgar men”.

Annie declared: “Is boxing any more degrading, or half as hard work as scrubbing floors?”

Women were eventually granted a licence to fight by the British Boxing Board yet it wasn’t featured in the Olympic Games until 2012, some 57 years after Annie’s death in 1955.

With bombs screaming down around her and a broken ankle, the medic continued to calmly tend to the injured during an air attack on an East London wharf.

The year was 1941 and it was unusual to find young female doctors, much less ones born to poor Jewish immigrants. But there was nothing run of the mill about Hannah.

She qualified as a medic in 1925, when there were few women doctors, and set up a small practice in Cable Street providing free healthcare to the poor.

Her bravery during the war earned her the George Medal and the nickname among locals as “The Angel of Cable Street”. In 1945, she was appointed MBE but asked Buckingham Palace to post it as she was “too busy” collect it.


Minnie Lansbury - History

Before WWI, most Poplar councillors were drawn from Poplar’s small middle class, were Conservative or Independent, or were even openly sponsored by large local firms. It was not unusual for councillors to have a registered business address in Poplar, but live somewhere else in London.

This, historically, was the nature of local authorities from the early 19th century Boards of Guardians, through District Boards of Works, to the Metropolitan Borough Councils created in 1900. These were patriarchal and well-to-do administrators rather than genuine representatives of local people. Even though Poplar was one of the poorest boroughs in the country, the Labour party and other reformers were not trusted to be able to properly manage the council or were frequently seen as troublemakers threatening the established order

So, when Poplar Labour Party – led by George Lansbury – won control of Poplar Borough Council in 1919, they were just as surprised as everyone else. When George Lansbury was elected as Mayor Poplar during the council’s first meeting, he said:

I thought I should always be in opposition and fighting a forlorn hope. But something like a miracle has happened, and here I am!

George Lansbury visiting Poplar slum housing

In the following couple of years, the council made a number significant social reforms, aimed at alleviating unemployment, hunger and poverty. However, the still-applicable Poor Law of 1834 demanded that borough councils fund their own local poor relief there was no national government financial support. This meant that unemployment benefits and similar had to be paid for out of the rates, and any plans to increase relief meant raising the rates.

Council rates at the time were based on a ‘rateable value’ deriving from rents. Because Poplar was such a poor borough, property rents – and hence, rate incomes – were low. Even long before the election of a Labour-run council, Poplar had to charge higher rates than other boroughs. In 1906, for example, Poplar Borough Council combined rates were 11s 8d in the pound, the highest in London, and twice as high as in Kensington. Clearly, the system was unfair and penalized the poorer boroughs two-fold: because they had the lowest rate income, and the highest poor relief bill.

And, in addition to local rates collection, borough councils were expected to collect a so-called ‘precept’ for the funding of four cross-London authorities: London County Council, Metropolitan Police, Metropolitan Asylums Board and the Metropolitan Water Board.

It was this precept that the council decided not to pay, as leverage in forcing a fairer rate system which did not penalize poorer boroughs. At its meeting on 22 March 1921 the Poplar Council resolved not to pay its precepts and to apply these revenues instead to the costs of local poor relief.

Julia Scurr speaking at a rally

This illegal action created a sensation, and led to legal proceedings against the council.. On 29 July the thirty councillors involved marched in procession from Bow to the High Court, headed by a brass band.

Marching to the high court.

Informed by the judge that they must apply the precepts, the councillors would not budge early in September, Lansbury and 29 fellow-councillors were found guilty of contempt of court and sentenced to imprisonment. Among those sentenced were his son Edgar, Edgar’s wife, Minnie and a pregnant Nellie Cressall.

Final meeting of the Poplar Council offices, September 1921

On the day they were due to be arrested and imprisoned, the five women councillors – Julia Scurr, Nellie Cressall, Minnie Lansbury, Jenny Mackay and Susan Lawrence – gathered together outside Poplar Town Hall on Newby Place. A large crowd of supporters tried to prevent their imprisonment. But Susan Lawrence spoke to the crowd saying, “We are here representing a principle which we have the right to defend as well as the men. If you prevent us from going, you do us the worst turn you can.” The women were given flowers and then driven slowly down the East India Dock Road surrounded by 10,000 supporters before being taken to Holloway Prison (the men were taken to Brixton Prison).

Minnie Lansbury on her way to arrest.

Women councillors leaving for prison. Millie Lansbury (at window),
Jeannie MacKay, Susan Lawrence and Nellie Cressall.

The Daily Herald printed the parting messages of some of the councillors:

Sam March – We are as determined as ever to see the matter through. The workers must stick to the fight. They must follow it up while the Council is away.

Mrs Cressall – We expect the working women who are left behind to back us up by refusing to pay if the rates are levied.

Miss Susan Lawrence – We go cheerfully determined to see this thing through. I hope our example will not be lost on all local authorities throughout the country.

Alderman Minnie Lansbury – I wish the Government joy in its effort to get this money from the people of Poplar. Poplar will pay its share of London’s rates when Westminster, Kensington, and the City do the same!

Mrs Julia Scurr – We are happy about going to prison for a principle. We expect all working women to carry on the fight for rates equalisation while we are there.

Mrs Jennie Mackay – We want our sisters to stand by us, even it it comes to a “no rent” strike.

George Lansbury – We are going to stand together, and we expect the movement to do likewise.

H.W. Sloman – I am quite prepared for anything that comes along so long as we can do the people some good determined to win.

J.J. Rugless – All the prisons in the country will not alter our determination to win.

B. Fleming – Fighting to a finish. There can only be one end – a win for Poplar. But the people must back us up.

J.T. O’Callaghan – It is criminal to expect a casual labour borough to pay heavy rates. All are willing to remain in prison till our aim is achieved.

E.C. Williams – I should be a traitor to those left behind on the battlefields if I did not take my stand against the attempt to overburden soldiers’ widows with heavy rates.

George Cresswell – This stand is to bring about equalisation of rates which politicians have been talking about for 30 years.

T.J. Goodway – We don’t want to leave you, but we think we ought to go!

T.E. Kelly – We are determined to stand by our principle no matter how long we may be in gaol.

R.J. Hopwood – It’s a goal through gaol we want!

Edgar Lansbury – Personal liberty is an important thing. So is justice. We will sacrifice liberty till justice is done.

Alderman John Scurr – Glad to be in this fight. Poplar leads the way, and we are going to win. Our motto is “No surrender!”

J. Heales – When Mayfair does its bit the people of Poplar will be able to do theirs.

J.H. Banks – Our fight will be the forerunner of a complete change in the social conditions of the people.

J.H. Jones – I am proud to belong to a Council which is doing a real Christian action.

W.H. Green – We are determined to carry on.

Charlie Sumner – Government departments have not carried out their pledges. Therefore, ours is the only method of maintaining the poor.

A. Baker – As I started, so I will continue to fight for the right of the poor of Poplar.

The revolt received wide public support. Lansbury addressed the crowds that regularly gathered outside, through the prison bars. Neighbouring councils threatened to take similar action. Trade unions passed resolutions of support and collected funds for the councillors’ families. “Poplarism” became a political term associated with large-scale municipal relief for the poor and needy, and also with local defiance of central government. Eventually, after six weeks’ imprisonment, the Court responded to public opinion and ordered the Councillors released, which occasioned great celebrations in Poplar. Meanwhile, a bill, the Local Authorities (Financial Provisions) Act 1921, was rushed through Parliament more or less equalising tax burdens between rich and poor boroughs. But it would be 1929 before Poor Law Unions were wholly abolished, and the poor relief burden lifted from local councils.

Alderman Susan Lawrence, Councillor Julia Scurr and Councillor Jennie Mackay. Photo: Island History Trust

The Labour Party remained in control of the council for many more decades, and the names of some of the jailed councillors are commemorated throughout Poplar, including on the Isle of Dogs.

Lansbury Estate signboard

Cressall House, Tiller Rd (named after George)

Susan Lawrence School, Cordelia St.

John Scurr House, Branch Rd

Minnie Lansbury Memorial Clock, on the side of Electric House, Bow Rd. Recently restored thanks to efforts of Jewish East End Celebration Society


You can read more article this month

Minnie Lansbury: Suffragette, Socialist, Rebel Councillorby Janine Booth(Five Leaves Publications, £12.99)

A FASCINATING tour of London’s East End working-class history, this small volume is more than a mere biography of Minnie Lansbury.

Highlighting the role of immigrants, militant labour movement struggles and battles for women’s rights, its relevance to our own times is astonishing.

Lansbury, born in 1889 into a secular Jewish family from eastern Europe, was a bright student at school, winning scholarships and then training to become a teacher. Through her activism in local struggles she met Edgar, son of the Labour Party’s future leader George Lansbury, and the two married in 1914.

She became a significant figure in the labour and communist movements of the time and, while there are few written records of her life, Booth has done superb research in digging out almost everything discoverable and fitting the small mosaic pieces together into a coherent and highly readable narrative.

Lansbury became an alderman on Poplar local council at the age of only 30 in 1919 and was instrumental in helping to improve services on all fronts, from children’s health to housing and women’s rights.

In 1921, the council was faced with a funding crisis due to the financial crash. Then, as now, central government starved poorer boroughs of funds due to the unfair rating and financing system and Lansbury and her fellow Labour councillors challenged this and went to prison for their principles — a stand directly relevant to struggles today. The council was renowned for its militancy and was often dubbed the Poplar Soviet.

The following year, she became a founder member of the Communist Party and remained one until the day she died. But she stayed in the Labour Party because at that time there was no bar on communists being members.

She campaigned vigorously for women’s suffrage and, alongside Sylvia Pankhurst, helped establish the East London Federation of Suffragettes and its militant paper, the Dreadnought.

The organisation split away from Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union, which seemed more concerned about fighting for the right to vote for propertied middle-class women than allying the movement with the aspirations of their working-class counterparts.

Lansbury and her husband vehemently opposed the war in 1914 and campaigned for increased support for women during the slaughter, setting up the League of Rights for Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Wives and Relatives.

Then, as now, the Jewish Chronicle and the religious Jewish establishment were exceedingly conservative and vehemently attacked Jewish socialist organisations, opposed further Jewish immigration from eastern Europe and were gung-ho on the war.

In 1915, Lansbury left teaching to become assistant honorary secretary, alongside Sylvia Pankhurst, of the East London Federation of Suffragettes, which soon morphed into the Workers’ Suffrage Federation.

She and her husband welcomed the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and he was a delegate to the huge conference in Leeds in 1917 in support of it, at which a decision was taken to set up British workers’ and soldiers’ councils.

When the Spanish flu epidemic swept the country at the end of the war, she became one of its victims. She was already physically weakened by the six weeks she had spent in jail and succumbed in January 1922 at the age of only 32.

Janine Booth and Five Leaves are to be congratulated on producing another important working-class biography of someone who deserves to be better remembered and celebrated.


The Suffrage Campaigners Forgotten by History

While leading suffrage campaigners like Millicent Fawcett, Emmeline Pankhurst, and Emily Wilding Davison are rightly celebrated and remembered for their devotion to the cause, many others have been forgotten by history and are largely missing from the archives. Here we celebrate the contributions of just a few of those lesser-known women and men, reimagined by illustrator Charlotte Trounce.

"Dora Montefiore" (автор – Charlotte Trounce)Первоисточник: Mayor of London.

Portrait of Dora Montefiore, a member of the Women’s Local Government Society who campaigned in Sussex. She later joined the WSPU and the Women's Tax Resistance League.

"Agnes Pochin" (автор – Charlotte Trounce)Первоисточник: Mayor of London.

Portrait of Agnes Pochin, the first woman to speak about suffrage on a public platform, at the first public meeting of the Manchester National Society for Women’s Suffrage. Previously – in 1855 – she had written The Right of Women to Exercise the Elective Franchise, calling for women to have equal rights in voting, education, divorce, and ambition. Agnes died in 1908, ten years before The Representation of the People Act.

"Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington" (автор – Charlotte Trounce)Первоисточник: Mayor of London.

Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington

Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington, a suffragist and Irish nationalist, born in County Cork and raised in Dublin. She founded the Irish Women's Franchise League (IWFL). The IWFL used militant tactics, smashing the windows of Dublin's General Post Office, the Custom House, and Dublin Castle. Hanna and her fellow suffragettes were all arrested and imprisoned for 1-6 months.

"Helen Blackburn" (автор – Charlotte Trounce)Первоисточник: Mayor of London.

Here's Helen Blackburn, an early campaigner for working women's rights, and secretary of the Bristol and West of England Suffrage Society. In 1891, Helen co-founded the Women's Employment Defence League. She edited the Englishwoman's Review from 1889-1902 and, in 1896, co-edited The Conditions of Working Women and the Factory Acts.

"Margaret Haig" (автор – Charlotte Trounce)Первоисточник: Mayor of London.

Margaret Haig (known as Mrs Humphrey Mackworth during the suffrage years), who was secretary of the Newport branch of the WSPU. From 1911 she was president of the Cymric Suffrage Union, and later vice-president of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage. On the death of her father in 1918, Margaret succeeded his title as Viscountess Rhondda. She launched Time and Tide magazine in 1920 and the Six Point Group, a gender equality campaigning group, the following year.

"Rev. Claude Hinscliff" (автор – Charlotte Trounce)Первоисточник: Mayor of London.


Minnie Lansbury - History

Issue #1854 January 30, 2019

Book Review by John Green

Minnie Lansbury:
Suffragette, Socialist, Rebel Councillor

A fascinating tour of London’s East End working-class history, this small volume is more than a mere biography of Minnie Lansbury. Highlighting the role of immigrants, militant labour movement struggles and battles for women’s rights, its relevance to our own times is astonishing.

Lansbury, born in 1889 into a secular Jewish family from eastern Europe, was a bright student at school, winning scholarships and then training to become a teacher. Through her activism in local struggles she met Edgar, son of the Labour Party’s future leader George Lansbury, and the two married in 1914.

She became a significant figure in the labour and communist movements of the time and, while there are few written records of her life, Booth has done superb research in digging out almost everything discoverable and fitting the small mosaic pieces together into a coherent and highly readable narrative.

Lansbury became an alderman on Poplar local council at the age of only 30 in 1919 and was instrumental in helping to improve services on all fronts, from children’s health to housing and women’s rights.

In 1921, the council was faced with a funding crisis due to the financial crash. Then, as now, central government starved poorer boroughs of funds due to the unfair rating and financing system and Lansbury and her fellow Labour councillors challenged this and went to prison for their principles – a stand directly relevant to struggles today.

The following year, she became a founder member of the Communist Party and remained one until the day she died. But she stayed in the Labour Party because at that time there was no bar on communists being members.

She campaigned vigorously for women’s suffrage and, alongside Sylvia Pankhurst, helped establish the East London Federation of Suffragettes and its militant paper, the Dreadnought .

The organisation split away from Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst’s Women’s Social and Political Union, which seemed more concerned about fighting for the right to vote for propertied middle-class women than allying the movement with the aspirations of their working-class counterparts.

Lansbury and her husband vehemently opposed the war in 1914 and campaigned for increased support for women during the slaughter, setting up the League of Rights for Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Wives and Relatives. Then, as now, the Jewish Chronicle and the religious Jewish establishment were exceedingly conservative and vehemently attacked Jewish socialist organisations, opposed further Jewish immigration from eastern Europe and were gung-ho on the war.

In 1915, Lansbury left teaching to become assistant honorary secretary, alongside Sylvia Pankhurst, of the East London Federation of Suffragettes, which soon morphed into the Workers’ Suffrage Federation.

She and her husband welcomed the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and he was a delegate to the huge conference in Leeds in 1917 in support of it, at which a decision was taken to set up British workers’ and soldiers’ councils.

When the Spanish flu epidemic swept the country at the end of the war, she became one of its victims. She was already physically weakened by the six weeks she had spent in jail and succumbed in January 1922 at the age of only 32.

Janine Booth and the publishers of the book, Five Leaves, are to be congratulated on producing another important working-class biography of someone who deserves to be better remembered and celebrated.


Leading by example: The life and struggles of Minnie Lansbury

MINNIE Lansbury was born in 1889 in Stepney in the East End of London. Her parents, Annie and Isaac Glassman, were Jewish refugees from Poland, who had escaped the pogroms fomented by the Russian Tsarist police. Her tragically short life amongst the slums of the area where she was born was filled with struggle alongside the poor and the oppressed.

In 1911, Minnie became a teacher in a primary school in Whitechapel, where she became active in the National Union of Teachers (NUT). She also became a socialist and suffragette. These were the years of the “Great Unrest”, a huge wave of strikes by dockers, rail and road transport workers and miners. In Ireland it saw the Dublin Lockout struggle led by Jim Larkin and James Connolly.

The East End saw strikes on the London docks in the summer of 1911 and again in 1912. Thanks to their syndicalist and socialist leadership, these strikes helped overcome the racism that had recently divided Irish and Jewish workers from each other. The families of Whitechapel Jewish tailoring workers took in some 300 dockers’ children during the latter three-month dispute. During the docks and transport strikes, schoolchildren marched in support of the strikers.

Only a decade earlier, a virulently anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic organisation called the British Brothers League had been established in the East End. Its poisonous agitation claimed the credit for Britain’s first modern racist controls on immigration, the 1905 Aliens Act. Building bridges of solidarity during strikes was thus a vital weapon against this early precursor of fascism.

Suffragettes and socialists

Another component of the “Great Unrest” was the campaign of direct action by the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), the “suffragettes”, led by Emmeline, Christabel and Sylvia Pankhurst. Minnie became a militant in Sylvia Pankhurst’s East London Federation of the WSPU, which focused on mass working class women’s action for universal suffrage, adopting militant tactics and welcoming support from men. For these tactics, Sylvia was imprisoned and went on hunger strike several times.

Minnie Glassman married Edgar Lansbury in 1914. Edgar’s father George Lansbury (1859-1940) was already a prominent socialist in the East End. He became Labour MP for Bow and Bromley in December 1910, and started publishing the Daily Herald.

Originally a strike paper, the Daily Herald became the paper of the militant wing of the labour movement in 1912, giving unstinting support to the suffragettes. In the same year, George Lansbury even resigned his seat to stand on a platform of universal suffrage both for men (whose right to vote was still restricted by a property qualification) and women (who did not have the vote at all), but lost the ensuing by-election.

In 1913 Christabel and Emmeline expelled their far more radical sister Sylvia from the WSPU, for sharing a platform at the Albert Hall with George Lansbury and Jim Larkin, in support of locked out Dublin workers. Sylvia’s grouping renamed itself the East London Federation of Suffragettes (ELFS), and began to develop a more broadly socialist politics.

When the First World War started in the summer of 1914, the ELFS threw itself into campaigning and providing for the welfare of women suffering on the “home front”. It organised milk distribution and ran a day nursery, cost-price restaurants and a toy factory to provide employment. It also fought for higher and more regular allowances for soldiers’ wives, price controls and higher wages for women workers.

Minnie gave up her teaching job in 1915 to become Assistant Secretary of ELFS, where she brought suffragette-style direct action to these new causes. Sylvia Pankhurst recounted one example of this as follows:

“Minnie Lansbury burst in, exultantly announcing ‘a riot in the Roman!’ A crowd of women had threatened to storm a fish and chip shop for potatoes. A policeman attempting to stop them had been swept aside and ‘they tore off all his buttons!’, her black eyes twinkled with merriment. To save further disturbance the policeman had compelled the fishmonger to bring out his store of potatoes and sell them at three halfpence a pound from a table outside his door.”

War, elections and revolution

As the war was coming to an end in 1918, another wave of class struggle broke out. Bus, tram and underground workers went on strike against their union officials’ advice, demanding equal pay for women workers.

However, five days after the war ended on 11 November 1918, Prime Minister David Lloyd George called a snap election. This was the first to be held under nearly universal male suffrage, and with women over 30 voting for the first time. Lloyd George went to the country in alliance with the Tories, devastating Herbert Henry Asquith’s wing of Lloyd George’s own Liberal party, which had not endorsed this alliance.

Labour won only a limited number of seats, 57 compared to its 42 seats in 1910. However, it polled 2,385,472 votes, compared to 309,963 in 1910. And only a year later in 1919, Labour swept the board in many borough councils across London, and did well in elections to the London County Council and to the Boards of Guardians, which administered benefits to unemployed workers whose insurance had run out.

In Poplar, Labour had 39 out of 42 of councillors. Amongst them were seven dockers, seven railworkers, four labourers, two postmen, a toolmaker, a boilermaker and a lead worker.

Four of the councillors were women (Jeannie MacKay, Jane March, Nellie Cressall and Julia Scurr), as also were two aldermen (sic), Susan Lawrence and Minnie Lansbury. George and Edgar Lansbury were also elected. Minnie opened her house to constituents every morning, and delivered significant improvements in maternity and child welfare provision. Poplar’s Labour Council radically improved services for the working class residents who had elected it.

In the meantime, the Russian revolution in November 1917 had aroused considerable enthusiasm in the British labour movement. The ELFS, which had renamed itself the Workers’ Socialist Federation (WSF) in May 2018, took part in the unity discussions with Russia’s Bolsheviks and other British revolutionary socialists that eventually led to the formation of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) in 1920.

Minnie and Edgar remained in the WSF during these discussions, while also remaining members of the Labour Party. A key sticking point in these discussions, however, was the Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin’s advice that communists should stand for elections and seek affiliation to the Labour Party, remaining inside it where they were already members.

This was something to which Sylvia Pankhurst was completely opposed, and which left her and her supporters outside of the CPGB’s ranks after the conclusion of all the various “unity congresses” in 1921. Here Sylvia and Minnie parted ways. Minnie agreed that socialism would come through a revolution, but understood that working class representation in parliament and councils could provide a tribune for those waging the class struggle outside of it. Minnie was soon proved right.

The Poplar Rates Rebellion

In January 1920 a major depression broke out in the USA, hitting Britain in April. Unemployment soared to 17 per cent by 1921. And unemployment insurance only lasted a short time, following which the jobless were forced to undergo a savage “means test” under the 1834 Poor Law, to verify that claimants had practically no other resources.

Moreover, each borough (however rich or poor) had to provide for its own “paupers”. Thus Poplar council faced a choice: to cut services, to raise rates or to defy an unjust funding system. It chose the third, and refused to collect the precepts for cross-London bodies (like London County Council, the Water Board and the Metropolitan Police), until measures were taken so that richer boroughs in the West End paid a bigger share.

The law was soon invoked against the Poplar councillors. Thousands demonstrated in their support when the councillors marched to court, with Minnie in the front ranks. After a High Court ruling, Minnie was imprisoned at the start of September 1921, along with 30 of her fellow councillors. The six women went to Holloway prison, and the men to Brixton.

Minnie waged a ceaseless struggle inside demanding better conditions, especially for Nellie Cressall who was heavily pregnant. They both also exposed the terrible conditions suffered by “ordinary” prisoners.

On 21 September, Nellie was forcibly released, having previously refused release unless all her fellow councillors were released with her. Demonstrations outside the prisons kept up the pressure on the government. The remaining councillors were released on 12 October, six weeks after their arrest, without having yet “purged their contempt” of court.

The government backed down and rushed through the Local Authorities (Financial Provisions) Act 1921, which provided for pooling of local government funding. This benefitted Poplar council by £250,000 per year, as well as other poor London boroughs. It was a magnificent victory for both militant defiance and mass mobilisation.

But over Christmas 1921, Minnie developed influenza, which rapidly turned into pneumonia. Under normal circumstances, a healthy 32-year-old woman’s body would have fought this off. Minnie’s body was weakened by her six-week spell in prison. She died on 2 January 1922.

Thousands of East End workers – men as well as women – turned out for her funeral, many wearing red flowers. The Red Flag was sung, appropriately enough since, metaphorically speaking, she was one of those whose “hearts’ blood dyed its every fold”.

Minnie, in her 32 years, crammed double that number of years’ work compared with what many of us are able to accomplish. Her glory lies in the fact that with all her gifts and talents one thought dominated her whole being night and day: How shall we help the poor, the weak, the fallen, weary and heavy-laden, to help themselves? When a soldier like Minnie passes on, it only means their presence is withdrawn, their life and work remaining an inspiration and a call to us each to close the ranks and continue our march breast forward.”


Watch the video: Ethel Merman Live - Everythings Coming up Roses (May 2022).