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Book reveals secrets of Jarrow March hero ‘Red Ellen’ Wilkinson

MARCH HERO ...the cover of Matt Perry's book on 'Red Ellen' Wilkinson.

MARCH HERO ...the cover of Matt Perry's book on 'Red Ellen' Wilkinson.

A MAJOR new biography is set to be published about a politician forever linked with the Jarrow March of 1936.

Ellen Wilkinson was the fiery MP who led the marchers out of the town on their legendary crusade for work.

Several years in the making, the book, Red Ellen Wilkinson – Her ideas, movements and world, looks at the life and career of the charismatic politician.

But author Matt Perry, Reader in Labour History at Newcastle University, faced many obstacles in writing what is set to become the definitive book about the former Jarrow MP and later cabinet minister, including the burning of her personal papers.

Running to more than 400 pages, the book draws on a wealth of historical data to piece together the life of an extraordinary woman, from Wilkinson’s birth in Ardwick, Lancashire, in 1891, to her death in 1947, over which rumours of suicide still circulate.

The book also examines Wilkinson’s often tangled love life, including her close relationship with sometime Home Secretary Herbert Morrison.

Mr Perry, who has previously published a book about the Jarrow March, writes: “This book has germinated over many years, beginning with my research into the Jarrow Crusade.

“If that event attained mythical status, Ellen Wilkinson appeared to be equally elusive and enigmatic.

“She remains a potent symbol in the local Labour movement and of female achievement.

“Yet despite her celebrity, the destruction of personal papers and the need to piece together fragments from a multiplicity of sources, has discouraged biographers.

“The present renewal of scholarly interest in Ellen Wilkinson is both overdue and timely.”

The book looks at Wilkinson’s role in the Jarrow March, plus her meteoric political rise, including her role as Minister of Education during the Labour Government of 1945, when she was responsible for the 1944 Education Act and introducing secondary education for all.

Wilkinson’s links with Spain during the 1930s, her political philosophy, role in the feminist movement, her failing health and death are also explored in minute detail.

n Red Ellen – Her ideas, movements and world, will be published by Manchester University Press, on June 30.

Twitter: @terrykelly16

 

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