"A thorough, readable account of a remarkable life. From working class roots in Manchester, Ellen Wilkinson went on to become a socialist, suffragist, Labour MP, journalist, novelist, internationalist, trade unionist, Jarrow Crusade leader, and the only woman in Attlee s postwar Cabinet a lifetime journey few women, or men, could achieve even now." --Pat Thane, coauthor of Sinners? Scroungers? Saints? Unmarried Motherhood in Twentieth-Century England
"Extremely well researched and exceptionally well written, Red Ellen is work of the very highest caliber by an immensely talented historian of twentieth-century Britain. Beers provides a real sense of who Ellen Wilkinson was, how people reacted to her, and most importantly of all, why she mattered." --Andrew Thorpe, author of Parties at War: Political Organisation in Second World War Britain
Red Ellen: The Life of Ellen Wilkenson, Socialist, Feminist, Internationalist though it neatly sums up who this book is about, there are many other descriptions of the formidable Ellen Wilkenson that could have been added to its subtitle: indefatigable union organizer, charismatic member of parliament...Not to mention the nicknames she garnered over decades of public service: the Mighty Atom, Elfin Fury, Five Feet of Pugnacity, and, of course Red Ellen.
In fact despite the painstaking research of the author and academic Laura Beers, Red Ellen's 450 pages seem barley to scratch the surface of the life of a women who was, according to the author 'the pre-eminent female British politician of her day'. She travelled the world, and met Lenin, Gandhi and Einstein. She reported the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s and led the workers on the Jarrow Hunger March in 1936.
Throughout her career, she grappled with decisions that pitted her ideals against her pragmatism, winning admirers and enemies. Driven by a deep-held belief in the interconnectedness of the world's nations and the need for social justice, Ellen was was ahead of her time - and would recognize many challenges we face today, including austerity (she fought hard against government budget cuts in the early 1930's).
Before I picked up this book, I had never heard of Ellen Wilkinson. Now I wish I could have met her." --New Internationalist Four Starred Review
Laura Beers is Associate Professor of History at American University and a Birmingham Fellow at the University of Birmingham.