The Mighty Atom: Ellen Wilkinson, 1891–1945
Ellen Wilkinson was born in Manchester to working-class parents. She was clever, won a scholarship to grammar school and later to university. From an early age, she craved a political career. This chapter shows how she chose jobs which put her socialist and feminist politics into practice: from work in the suffrage movement to becoming a trade union organiser. Her trade union sponsored her as a parliamentary candidate and she became MP first for Middlesbrough, then for Jarrow where she helped organise the Jarrow Crusade. Ellen Wilkinson’s sympathy with communism led to inappropriate relations with known spies and conflicts with the Labour Party, particularly over her involvement in anti-fascism. During the Second World War, she became a junior Minister which helped establish her political respectability.