by Bernard Barry
The life story of Angela Tuckett can never be told in full. This human dynamo did far more each day than most of us do in a week or more. It is impossible to fully chronicle all her multifarious activities, among which were author, historian, diarist, song writer, theatrical producer (with sister Joan), solicitor, political activist, Marxist scholar and lecturer, internationalist, feminist, qualified pilot and international hockey player.
In addition, she was a delegate to the London Trades Council, on the Executive Committee of the Labour Monthly, on the editorial committee of the William Morris Society, active in the International Concertina Association, the English Folk-Dance and Song Society, municipal and county council candidate for the Swindon Communist Party, one of the 'Women in Black' - the list seems endless.
How she found the time, besides all this, to conduct a lively correspondence with so many contemporaries at home and abroad and with local and national newspapers, the BBC, ITV, various universities etc.... and then record it all in detail in her voluminous diaries, simply beggars the imagination, one wonders when she slept in her 25-hour day!
Her youthful sympathy for Bristol's unemployed quickly became active support for the Welsh contingent on the 1931 Hunger March, bringing them food and the Daily Worker, daily. She soon joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and thereafter made an indelible impact in all the Communist Party branches in which she worked. To quote Harry Pollitt's message to her on her 50th birthday, she "brought to the Labour Movement her organising ability, fertile imagination and the power to take endless pains".
However, Angela was critical of her own work and that of the Communist Party and other organisations she was involved in, always looking for more efficient ways of propaganda and ever warmly responsive to the many appeals for help from students, researchers, trade unionists and others seeking legal advice.
In the 1930s she travelled widely in Europe and the USA. During these years she was involved in the League of Progressive Writers. In 1940 she took charge of the legal department of the National Council for Civil Liberties and in 1942 joined the staff of the Daily Worker, becoming in turn legal adviser, sub-editor, and staff reporter. From 1948 to 1978 she worked on the Labour Monthly and for a time was assistant editor under R.P. Dutt.
In 1962 Angela married Ike Gradwell, secretary of the Swindon Communist Party, and worked ceaselessly with him to build up the branch. She had a leading part in all the Party activities, from organising exhibitions to distributing election addresses to win support for the parliamentary campaign of Judith Gradwell (Ike's daughter) in which she was an excellent propagandist and frequent contributor to the local press.
Age did not wither her. Despite increasing health problems, she was out busking in Swindon streets in her 80s playing her concertina to raise funds for the striking miners in 1984. Angela kept all her diaries and correspondence and was an avid collector of historical material to which the appended lists bear vivid witness, indeed if ever a biography was waiting to be written - this is it!
Angela Tuckett, 1906-1994
Related Object of the Month
September 2016: Manuscript of Angela Tuckett's book 'Our Enid'
This display coincided with the launch of the Library's publication of that manuscript - a long-overdue biography of Enid Stacy, an inspiring public speaker who won over tens of thousands of working class men and women to the cause of socialism in the late 19th century.
Resources about Angela Tuckett in the library collection
List of material held by the Library: The Angela Tuckett archive (Opens as pdf)
- Civil liberty and the industrial worker (1942) - Shelfmark: J21/9
- The Scottish carter: the history of the Scottish Horse and Motormen's Association, 1898-1964 (1967) - Shelfmark: B47
- Up with all that's down!: history of Swindon Trades Council (1971) - Shelfmark: AG Tuckett Box 19
- Yesterday, today and tomorrow (poems) (1973) - Shelfmark: AG Poetry Box 5
- The blacksmith's history: what smithy workers gave trade unionism (1974) - Shelfmark: B30
- Sing and stay human (songs and music) (1978) - Shelfmark: AG Songs Box 5
- Ike Gradwell: man of the people 1906-79 - a memoir (1980) - Shelfmark: AG Tuckett Box 2
- Verses against war and fascism (poems) (1935) - Shelfmark: AG Tuckett Box 4
- The people's theatre in Bristol 1930-45 (Bristol Unity Players), in Our History, pamphlet 72 (1980) - Shelfmark: AB Periodicals main sequence
- The Scottish Trades Union Congress: the first 80 years 1897-1977 (1986)- Shelfmark: E19
Together with sister, Joan Tuckett (Plays)
- The Bulls see Red
- Passing unnoticed
- Smash and Grab
- Aiden & Abetten
- Charity begins
They called her 'our Enid'. Life story of Enid Stacy, socialist, feminist and worker for democratic rights 1868-1903