Socialist Sunday Schools
For a generation of working class children, Socialist Sunday Schools provided an introduction to political thinking and alternative ideas that neither mainstream education nor traditional church Sunday schools would countenance.
The first was set up by Mary Gray, a member of the Social Democratic Federation, in Battersea in 1892. Another opened independently in Glasgow, and by 1896 there were 16 in operation.
The schools were in a radical tradition stretching back to the Owenite and Chartist movements of 50 years earlier, and arose in response to feeling among socialists that their children were missing out on the education provided by church and chapel Sunday schools.
Socialist Sunday Schools offered secular hymns and even their own hymn book, a Socialist Ten Commandments, and a monthly periodical, The Young Socialist.
By 1914 there were 120 schools, many with hundreds of pupils. But the first world war marked the beginning of the end, and many teachers were called up or imprisoned as conscientious objectors.
Later, splits in the Labour movement as the SDF went its own way into the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Independent Labour Party left the Labour Party further weakened the movement. By the end of the 1930s the influence of Socialist Sunday Schools had effectively ended.
The Library holds a selection of Socialist Sunday School Hymn, Tune or Song Books ranging from 1907 to 1932. The earliest one held was published in March 1907 for Yorkshire Socialist Sunday School. More on Socialist Sunday Schools...