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Last updated:24 May 2018


Activists are people who are willing to take action: they take a Front cover of a book of stickersstand, they speak out; they organise and inspire others.

Our collection contains information about many important activists, often including their personal papers:

Frank Allaun (1913-2002) - journalist, and Labour MP for Salford East who helped to organise the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's first Aldermaston march in 1958.

Edward Aveling (1849-1898) - socialist activist (lthough distrusted by many in the Socialist movement) and partner to Eleanor Marx.

Teresa Billington-Greig (1877-1964) - journalist, Independent Labour Party organiser and part of the militant suffrage movement including being one of the founders of the Women’s Freedom League.

Margaret Bondfield (1873-1953) - first female cabinet minister, as Minister of Labour in the Labour government of 1929–31.

Bessie Braddock (1899-1970) - campaigner for better housing and health facilities and an MP for 25 years. The first woman to be suspended from the House of Commons, after defying the Speaker.

Barbara Castle (1910-2002) - involved in national Labour politics from an early age and held many Cabinet positions in the 1960s and '70s.

John S Clarke (1885-1959) - socialist activist, poet and lion tamer...

James Connolly (1868-1916) - campaigner for socialism, executed by the British authorities after helping to lead the Easter Rebellion in Ireland in 1916. Connolly visited and gave speeches in Salford in 1901 and 1902 (amongst other places).

William Cuffay (1788-1870) - a tailor and active Chartist in London, who became a prominent national figure in the movement. His father was black and he was sometimes attacked because of his race. He was tried in 1848 for treason and felony due to his activities in the Chartist Movement and transported to Tasmania where he died in 1870.

William Davidson (1780s-1820) - born in Jamaica of mixed parentage. He was one of a number of men arrested for an alleged plot (the Cato Street Conspiracy) led by Arthur Thistlewood to assassinate the Cabinet and was beheaded on 1 May 1820.

Fanny Deakin (1883–1968) - activist from North Staffordshire on many issues, including lifetime campaigning for better maternity services.

Jayaben Desai (1933-2010) - leader of the 1976-78 Grunwick strike, which involved a mainly Asian female workforce. She told the final meeting of the strikers: ‘We have shown that workers like us, new to these shores, will never accept being treated without dignity or respect’.

Charlotte Despard (1844-1939) - a campaigner for peace and for women's suffrage, she was one of the first women to stand as a parliamentary candidate.  Amongst many causes she espoused were those of Sinn Fein and the Communist Party of Ireland.

Len Dole (1919-2004) - conscientious objector during the Second World War, Labour Party agent for Nelson and Colne and someone who devoted his life to socialism, peace, co-operation and anti-racism.

Alice Foley (1891-1974) - left school at 13 and worked in the cotton mills; ended her career as General Secretary of the Amalgamated Weavers Union.

Katharine Bruce Glasier (1867-1950) - editor of the anti-war Labour Leader during WW1, she also wrote fiction and lectured;  her speeches were said to have had the 'emotional force of a revivalist'.

Winifred Holtby (1898-1935) - author of the novel South Riding and a number of other works set in East Yorkshire; also a feminist, socialist and pacifist.

CLR James (1901-1989) - journalist, writer, political theoretician and active Trotskyist, whose writing on cricket, history and politics continue to be influential.

Len Johnson (1902-1974) - from Manchester and a successful boxer in the 1920s, but was denied titles because he was black. Len later became an active member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.

Ernest Jones (1819-1869) - lawyer, poet, journalist and one of the later leaders of the Chartists, the working men's movement to reform parliament and improve the rights of ordinary people.

Annie Kenney (1879-1953) - Oldham born mill worker who became a suffragette. Went to prison 13 times and became head of the Womens Social and Political Union in London.

Mary Macarthur (1880-1921) - founder of the National Federation of Women Workers and the periodical The Woman Worker, and involved in myriad campaigns around women's employment conditions and wages.

Ewan MacColl (1915-1989) - Salford-born folk singer, songwriter and socialist who spent his life exploring ways to communicate ideas. Best known as a musician, he also acted, wrote plays and made radio programmes. His best-known songs are ‘Dirty Old Town' and ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face'.  

Tom Mann (1859-1941) - trade unionist and politician who was a founder member of the Independent Labour Party, General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and president of the Dockers' Union.

Harriet Martineau (1802-1876) - campaigner for the abolition of slavery in the United States, who  also occupies an important place in the development of sociology, political economy and women’s rights. She was an early female journalist, too.

Eleanor Marx (1855-1898) - feminist, socialist and a translator, journalist and editor.  She was an important figure in the development of the trades union movement in the 1880s, with particular emphasis on the organisation of women workers.

James Maxton (1885–1946) was a Scottish socialist politician and WW1 pacifist. He was elected to Parliament as a Clydeside Independent Labour Party MP in 1922 and remained there until his death.

Dora Montefiore (1851-1933), activist for women's rights and involved in the 1913 Dublin Lockout and in the formation of the Communist Party in 1920.

JWT Newbold (1888-1943) was elected as one of the first Communist Party MPs in 1922, although he later acquired a reputation as a right winger and a denouncer of Communism.

Ada Nield Chew (1870-1945) - began a long activist career at the age of 24 with a series of letters to a local newspaper exposing the conditions in the Crewe factory where she worked.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) - revolutionary writer and radical political thinker and author of Common Sense, Rights of Man and Age of Reason.

Adela Pankhurst (1885-1961) - the least remembered of the Pankhurst sisters, an activist for women's suffrage and for peace who later though became an advocate for fascism.

Sylvia Pankhurst (1882–1960) - often considered only as part of the ‘Pankhurst family’, Sylvia made a distinguished contribution not only to Votes for Women, but also to Internationalism, Anti-fascism and Anti-colonialism as well as British Socialism.

Emma Paterson (1848–1886) - activist who worked to encourage the formation of trades unions for women workers.

Harry Pollitt (1890-1960) - one of the founder members of the Communist Party of Great Britain, of which party he was for a long time General Secretary.

Mary Quaile (1886-1958) - trade unionist who focused on improving the lives of working women via such means as Manchester Women’s Trades Council, where she was Organising Secretary.

Ernie Roberts (1912-1994) - politician, who cited as his influences the treatment afforded to soldiers after the First World War, the General Strike and the operation of the Poor Law.

Benny Rothman (1911-2002) - rambler and campaigner who in April 1932 led hundreds of trespassers on to the Peak District moors of Kinder Scout; this led to new laws allowing better access to the countryside for working people. Lifelong trade unionist and environmental campaigner.

Jessie Stephen (1893-1979) - socialist, trade unionist and suffragette. She worked on many causes and in many places, from Glasgow to Bristol, and particularly for better working conditions for women.

Will Thorne (1857–1946) - a leading light in the development of ‘New Unionism’ in the late 1880s, his starting point a deep sense of frustration that the existing trade union movement cared little for semi-skilled or unskilled labourers.

Angela Tuckett (1906-1994) - led a busy life as a journalist and campaigner active in many areas of the labour movement, a remarkable individual.

Francis Fletcher Vane (1861-1934) - officer in the British Army who spoke out against murders committed by the army in Dublin during the Easter Rebellion in 1916. Also an early scout leader, and supporter of peace and women's suffrage movements.

Ellen Wilkinson (1871-1947) - first female Labour MP and first female Minister for Education.  Came to national prominence in 1936 when, as the town's MP, she figured prominently in the Jarrow March of the town's unemployed to London to petition for the right to work.

Mary Wollstonecraft (1757-1797) - author of A vindication of the rights of woman and works about the education of women and the principle of reason in political life; mother of Mary Shelley.

The Library also holds tape recordings of interviews with many activists.