Ellen Wilkinson

Born:  Ellen Cicely Wilkinson was born in 1891 in Chorlton upon Medlock, a working-class district of Manchester. Her parents were Richardson Wilkinson and Ellen Wood. She was one of four children.

Educated: She went to Ardwick Elementary School and Stretford Road Secondary School. She was able to attend Manchester University after winning a scholarship and she graduated from there in 1913.

Married: Ellen became engaged to Walton Newbold for a while, but never married.

Family:  She had no children.

Home:  Ellen Wilkinson spent her last years in a flat in Dolphin Square in Westminster.

Known for:  Ellen Wilkinson was a socialist politician who campaigned tirelessly for women’s rights and a better standard of living for working people. In 1915 she became the national women’s organiser for the Amalgamated Union of Co-operative Employees. She was also a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. In 1924 she was elected M.P. for Middlesbrough East, a constituency that had been created six years earlier. At that time she was the only female Labour M.P. She campaigned for better pay for working people and supported the General Strike of 1926. She kept her seat in Middlesbrough East at the 1929 election, but when the local opposition united behind the Liberal candidate at the 1931 election, she lost the seat in spite of securing more votes than she had in 1924. In 1935 she became M.P. for Jarrow and in the following year she led the famous Jarrow Crusade to London. In 1945 she was made Minister of Education in Clement Attlee’s Government and set about implementing the Education Act of 1944. She introduced free school milk for all pupils and free school dinners for needy children.

Died: During the severe winter of 1947, Ellen Wilkinson developed bronchial problems and died in hospital in London.

Further Information:

“Ellen Wilkinson: From Red Suffragist to Government Minister” Paula Bartley (2014)