Bloomsbury via Middlesbrough and Jarrow: Clash

Ellen Wilkinson, Clash, edited with an Introduction by Ian Haywood and Maroula Joannou (Nottingham: Trent Editions, 2004)

At the centre of ‘Clash’ is the 1926 General Strike, but is not just about the clash between strikers and government. It is about feelings of guilt and jealously of the first woman union organiser as she is joined by more women as paid officials. It is about necessary hobnobbing with the Bloomsbury set; the jealously of miners wives towards another woman, and an outsider at that; the resentment of striking miners towards women support groups, and in the final pages, a dilemma: to marry for love or fulfilment? The issues are nuanced in this groundbreaking novel first published in 1929.

Ellen Wilkinson was a full time organiser for the nascent shop workers union and a tireless campaigner before becoming the first female Labour MP, for Middlesbrough in 1924, and Jarrow in 1935. She also wrote ‘The Town That was Murdered’, about Jarrow, and the crime novel ‘The Division Bell Mystery. She took a leading role in organising the Jarrow March and became Minister of Education in the Attlee Government.

Shields Gazette on all you need to know about Red Elllen.