Working Class Movement Library

A blog from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford

An exciting Manchester link to our Holloway suffragette badge

Posted by wcmlibrary on September 4, 2014

Suffragette BadgeWe have on display in our hall a suffragette badge. The badge is styled as a portcullis with the prison motto of the arrowhead mounted on the face in the suffrage campaign colours of purple, green and white. On either side of the badge are free-hanging chains representing the gate ropes. The badge was presented to imprisoned suffragettes on their release from Holloway.  Richard Pankhurst credits his mother Sylvia with designing the so-called ‘Holloway Badge’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Until now the story of whose badge it was was lost.  We’ve just discovered however that this particular badge has a fascinating local link. It was presented to Lillian Forrester in 1913, when she was released after she had been imprisoned for damaging artworks in Manchester Art Gallery.

The Manchester Guardian of 4 April 1913 reported the event as follows:

“Just before nine ‘clock last night, when the Manchester Art Gallery was about to close and few people were about, an attendant in a room leading to the big room of the permanent collection heard crackings of glass follow each other rapidly. He immediately rushed into the big room followed by another attendant, who was nearby. They found three women [Annie Briggs, Lillian Forrester and Evelyn Manesta] making a rush around the room, cracking the glass of the biggest and most valuable paintings in the collection. They had already completed their work on the right side of the room going in, where pictures by such great artists as Watts, Leighton, Burne-Jones and Rossetti were hung, and were going around the top of the room. The outrage was quickly and neatly carried through, and when the attendants came running in the women were within reach of two more large pictures – one by Millais, the other by Watts. The attendants at once rushed to arrest them but as there were three to two of them the women escaped from the room. The attendants, however, called to the door-keeper and immediately the big doors were closed and the retreat cut off.
The women were quietly kept within closed doors while the Town Hall were informed. The Chief Constable and a superintendent at once went across and took the women to the Town Hall. There they questioned them and, after charging them, allowed them out on bail until this morning, when they will appear before the stipendiary magistrate.”

The three women arrested in the Art Gallery

The three women arrested in the Art Gallery – l to r Annie Briggs, Evelyn Manesta, Lillian Forrester

The women had left in the gallery a small hammer, around which was tied a ribbon declaring “Votes for Women” and “Stop Forcible Feeding”.  Lillian Forrester made a statement stating that “we broke the glass of some pictures as a protest but we did not intend to damage the pictures”.  When the case came to court she was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. The judge stated: “If the law would allow I would send you round the world in a sailing ship as the best thing for you.”

The Art Gallery story is told in detail by Michael Herbert at http://radicalmanchester.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/the-suffragette-attack-on-manchester-art-gallery-april-1913/.

 

Lynette Cawthra, Library Manager

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Then and now – two decades of growth at the Working Class Movement Library

Posted by wcmlibrary on July 15, 2014

Sorting through some old photographs recently we came across a picture of the library taken in 1990 and what was striking was the lack of greenery around the library. Visitors to the library nowadays cannot help but be struck by the garden surrounding us, with all its large shrubs and colourful flowers, but as the picture on the left shows this has only happened in the last 24 years.

Photograph of the exterior of the Working Class Movement Library in 1990

July 1990

Photograph of the exterior of the Working Class Movement Library in 2014

July 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And much of the change was down to Ruth Frow, one of our founders, who was a keen gardener as well as an avid bibliophile.  We were also helped by Mike Weaver, who came to the library as a garden volunteer and ended up as our library assistant, and by our (now retired) librarian Alain Kahan, who still puts in a few hours in the garden each week.  We also have had invaluable help from a volunteer, Sally Richardson, who as well as helping out in the garden, has been working on her PhD here at the library.

Other changes include the blocking off of Aldred Street where it joins The Crescent and the creation of the grassed area, with the sign that stops us recreating the 1990 photograph exactly.  Keen eyed viewers will also notice we no longer have someone standing just inside the gate and that’s because we now have a flower bed there as well.

We think the garden is a vast improvement to the library and thank everyone involved in keeping it looking so good.

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A new treasure of a donation, from someone who’s just found out about us

Posted by wcmlibrary on July 11, 2014

A lovely treasure has come our way, thanks to Sally Swift who read the recent article about us in The Observer and reckoned we sounded like we’d provide a good home for an autograph book that’s been in her family since the 1920s.   Her grandparents Melanie and William Moody were keen long-term members of the Salisbury Labour Party and Co-operative Movement, and Melanie compiled the autograph book with signatures mostly taken from letters addressed to the Moodys in relation to Labour Party matters.

The names are a veritable Who’s Who of the early 20th century Labour Party – George LansburyEllen Wilkinson, Ramsay MacDonaldMargaret Bondfield,  A.A. Purcell the subject of Kevin Morgan’s new book and recent talk at the Library, and many more.

autograph

Even Oswald Mosley makes an appearance, from the time when he was a Labour Party member and then MP.

What a wonderful addition to our collection – and what a great by-product of the Observer article (which also resulted in a highly welcome £350 in Paypal donations to the Library).

Like everything else in the Library the autograph book is now available for everyone to come and have a look at. Our opening times for drop-in visitors remain Wednesdays to Fridays 1-5pm.

autograph_book

Lynette Cawthra, Library Manager

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What links Edward Carpenter, Keir Hardie and Vic Feather?

Posted by wcmlibrary on June 25, 2014

We have been lucky enough to be given some of the books from the collection of Vic Feather, a former general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, by his son, Sandy.  Among the collection is Towards Democracy – a collection of prose poetry by Edward Carpenter which includes a handwritten dedication to Joseph Whittaker and which was sent to Whittaker by Carpenter himself.  Accompanying the book is a letter from Carpenter thanking Whittaker for a copy of his book of poems In Divers Tones and commiserating with him regarding his poor health.

ImageBy a happy coincidence the library also has a copy of In Divers Tones.

The donation also included a postcard also sent to Joseph Whittaker, this time by Keir Hardie, thanking him for a copy of another of his books of poems – Far Off Fields, but unfortunately the library does not (yet) have a copy.

ImageThe donation also included a number of other books dedicated to Vic Feather by such labour movement figures as Will Lawther, Walter Citrine and Jack Jones.  Others include inscriptions from the authors thanking Vic for his help in the production of the book.

Many thanks to Sandy Feather for giving us these fascinating items.

Jane
Librarian

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Rochdale Women’s Social and Political Union demand the vote. A recent acquisition tells the story in the women’s own words.

Posted by wcmlibrary on May 20, 2014

We have recently been lucky to be given the minutes of the Rochdale branch of the Women’s Social and Political Union, which was formed on 11 January 1907. The minute book dates from 4 May 1907 and continues until 20 November 1915. There are also some loose pages from 1933, 1934 and 1935.

Included in the minutes there is a list of nearly 50 members and women friends who attended the “monster demonstration” on 21 June 1908, when between 200,000 and 300,000 women gathered in Hyde Park to further their campaign for votes for women.  Also minuted is their intention to order a banner from the National Women’s Social and Political Union.  It was to be purple with “Rochdale WSPU demand the vote” in white lettering and left in London to be collected on the day and taken on the demonstration.

Intriguingly the minutes for 22 September 1908 read simply “Mov. and sec. that we purchase 15 chains at 1/- each”. Whether the chains were ever purchased or used is unfortunately not minuted.

On 12 June 1913 a special meeting was held to “consider the matter of sending delegates to represent Rochdale at the funeral of Miss Emily Wilding Davison who had laid down her life in the cause of women” and it was decided to send 3 women, along with flowers which were paid for by Mrs Whitworth.

But it was not all serious business members also had picnics, tea parties, dances and socials to raise much needed funds.  In fact at one tea party, attended by about 50 people, the women were presented with a tea urn by a “gentleman sympathiser”!

Many thanks are due to Bob Jones and Gina Bridgeland for donating the minute book – which gives such a fascinating insight into a local part of the national struggle for votes for women.

Jane
Librarian

 

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From The Abolitionist to The Young Socialist: another A-Z journey through one library’s periodical collection

Posted by wcmlibrary on April 11, 2014

As part of our ongoing effort to make our collections more accessible I have just finished cataloguing our long run periodicals collection and I see that it was just over a year ago that I finished the short run periodicals. So now all our unbound periodicals have been catalogued. I think that merits an extra biscuit with my afternoon tea.

And no, I haven’t just been working on the long run periodicals since then. That’s because there are significantly fewer titles – only 483 to be exact – as opposed to the 3000-odd short run titles.

As you would expect they cover the usual subjects such as socialism, communism, politics and trade unions, but we also have a good collection of other periodicals covering such subjects as literature, poetry and even the arts and crafts movement with a near complete run of the journal of the William Morris Society.

Catonsville Roadrunner - May 1969 (cover)

The Catonsville Roadrunner

City Fun - Vol 2 No 17

City Fun

 

Manchester also gets a look in with City Fun – a Manchester fanzine from the 1970s and 1980s to which Morrissey contributed an article about Sandie Shaw under the pseudonym Bert Macho – along with Manchester Free Press, a community paper; Manchester Women’s Liberation newsletter and New Manchester Review, another community paper.

And then there are the quirky titles, such as The Catonsville Roadrunner, a revolutionary Christian magazine, with a bit of anarchism thrown in for good measure.

 

All of which, and more, can be found by searching our online catalogue www.wcml.org.uk/catalogue/adlib-catalogue

Happy searching

Jane
Librarian

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Homage to Sartaguda – moving tales from the Spanish Civil War, told at our most recent volunteers’ lunch

Posted by wcmlibrary on February 10, 2014

The Library’s monthly volunteers’ lunch on 30 January was the occasion for a talk by myself, Stuart Walsh, a long time volunteer at the Library, and Pippa Sherriff, who came up for the day from Church Aston in Shropshire. Both of us are members of National Clarion Cycle Club, and the talk concerned our cycle ride from Bilbao to Barcelona between 17 and 25 October 2013, which commemorated the 75th anniversary of the withdrawal of the International Brigades.

Pippa and Stuart at the talk

Pippa & Stuart. On the table is a simplified flag of Lower Navarre, with soil from Parque de la Memoria in centre

The title of the talk was Cycling for the Memories: to honour those who fought against fascism, and to remember those who died. Eight members of the club started the ride, myself, Pippa, Terry Lynch, Charles Jepson, Manuel Moreno, Ruth Coates, Martin Perfect, and Lyn Hurst, and we were joined near Caspe in Aragon by our Catalan member Anna Marti, who lives just north of Barcelona.  Maite de Paul Otoxtorena, who hails from San Sebastian in the Basque country, but now lives in Ammanford near Swansea, was our liaison with all of the people we met in Spain, and she joined us at Calafell in Catalonia. And we shouldn’t forget Margaret Jepson, who was the driver of our support bus.

Chalking names onto the monument

Chalking the names

National Clarion has a long standing involvement with the Spanish Civil War, and three of our members, Ray Cox, Roy Watts, and Tom Oldershaw, died fighting in the International Brigades. One of the purposes of the ride was to honour their memory, and one of the most moving moments of the whole trip was when we leaned three bikes against a memorial plaque at Parque de la Memoria in Sartaguda, in Navarre,  and chalked their names onto the monument.  As well as this involvement with the International Brigades, two of our members, Ted Ward and Geoff Jackson, cycled from Glasgow to Barcelona in 1938, raising money for Aid to Spain, and we recreated that ride in 2008, during which we met many of the cyclists and other contacts whose acquaintance we would renew in 2013, not least our friends in Gernika Cycle Club, who as in 2008 joined us for the first four days of our ride.  [For anyone interested in that earlier ride, the blog is at http://1938glasgow2barcelona2008.wordpress.com]

Although this was a cycle ride the main purpose of the trip was an educational and publicity one, but something should be said about the actual ride however brief. We had some very hard days in the saddle, not least because we had a timetable where we had to be present for civic receptions, and other meetings with memorial groups and other associations. In nine days we cycled a total of 500 miles, and thanks to Terry, who has a state of the art Garmin computer on his bike, can break that down a little by saying that we spent a total of 36 hours in the saddle, with the longest day being 80 miles, our average speed over the 500 miles was 13mph, and top speed was 46mph on a mountainous descent on the second day. During the ride, as in 2008, we had daily exposure in the print, TV, and radio media, and one of the tasks at the end of the day was reviewing press and other reports from the previous day. I would like to concentrate on two of the events of the trip, the exhibition on the 1936 Barcelona Workers Olympiad, and our reception at the Parque de la Memoria in Sartaguda.

After the cycling was over on 25 October we were invited to the opening of an exhibition on the 1936 Barcelona Workers Olympiad, in Sant Feliu de Llobregat which is about 15 miles or so east of Barcelona. The organiser of the exhibition, Carles Vellejo, is the son of one of the organisers of the 1936 Olympiad, and Carles particularly wanted Clarion to officially open the exhibition because of our club’s history, in that many of our members went to participate. The event of course never took place because of the launch of the military coup, and some of the Clarion members, including Roy Watts, stayed on to fight against the fascists in the International Brigade. At the exhibition, I presented to Carles a framed letter of support from the Library, signed by Lynette, Jane, Sam, and 16 volunteers, as well as a framed illustration from the library archives of ribbons of the 1937 Workers’ Olympiad in Antwerp, from the Bolton Clarion scrapbook. These were well received by Carles, as his father had participated at Antwerp, and everyone present, but unfortunately, all the pictures from the night, except this one were wiped from our camera!

At Sant Feliu

All of the riders, with Mayor of Sant Feliu, members of Sant Feliu Cycling Club, and members of the Garibaldi Association, with original 1937 flag of Italian Brigaders

The exhibition itself was most interesting, and Carles said that in future venues he would be sure to include the letter and the Bolton Clarion prints from the library. As a poignant postscript to this episode, we learned after we were back home that Carles, a lifelong republican and trade unionist, had been tortured over ten days in a large police station in Barcelona, said police station is now the home of the CCOO socialist trade union, and a visit there, with Carles, was our first civic reception in Barcelona. A fitting coda I feel of the unfinished business still left over from Spain’s years of civil war and the subsequent dictatorship.

Without doubt the visit on Sunday 20 October to the Parque de la Memoria in Sartaguda was the most moving of the whole trip. Setting out early from Logrono, we reached the town of Lodossa where we were met by cyclists from all over Navarre and the Basque country, and we set out together about 50 strong for a ride of about 5 kilometres to Sartaguda. Carrying various flags and banners, including the one that adorned the table during the talk at the Library (see photo above), we arrived at the park at about noon where we were met by the mayor and members of the Association of the Widows of Sartaguda. It is known as the town of widows because when the fascists took over the town in 1936, they murdered almost 100 of the male inhabitants, which was 8% of the total population. As one of the speakers said at the inauguration of the park in 2008, this was ” Truly a massacre. Those murdered were the elected officials of the town, as well as other civic leaders such as teachers, lawyers, indeed anyone who was suspected of being supporters of the democratically elected Second Republic”.

Handing over the soil

Presenting the Parque soil to the Library

The park itself was opened in May 2008, after years of fundraising, with the support of other associations of historical memory, that had mushroomed since a famous case in 2000 in which a Madrid journalist had discovered and opened the grave of his grandfather and 12 others who were murdered in the wake of the fascist victory. While there I spoke with a lady named Maria del Carmea Moreno Galetxl, who told us her story of the long years of humiliation that her mother, and the other widows, had to endure in the years of the dictatorship, including having to parade around the town with insulting signs tied around their necks, and others who had their hair shaved, like the collaborators in France in 1944. In their case though, no crime was committed, these, and other petty humiliations were inflicted not because of what they had done, but for who they were.

While there we were presented with red bandanas with the Parque’s logo, by relatives of those who were murdered, the flag we brought to adorn the table as we gave the talk, and with soil of the Parque, wrapped in one of the red bandanas, which was given to us by Julio Sesma, President of the Village Association of Widows. This soil has now been formally presented to the Library, and accepted by Maggie Cohen on behalf of the trustees, and will stay in the Library wrapped in its red park bandana as a symbol of friendship between the Library and the Parque. In the inaugural speech for the Parque in 2008, the President of the Association of Widows, Julio Martinez, said, ” from today on we wish our village to be known as the village of memory and hope”.  In this lovely park in Navarre this hope is given solid form, and I urge anyone who visits this part of Spain to visit it and ponder on its message.

Since coming back from the ride we have kept in touch with our friends, and were especially thrilled with notice we received on 14 November that the Parliament at Pamplona had passed a new law for the Reparation of Victims of 1936.  Many of those who we met at Sartaguda were also at the Parliament that day, and afterwards sent us photographs of their celebration of “our great victory” in the Parliament. Thus the struggle for justice in Spain for the Widows of Sartaguda, and the countless others who were murdered and mistreated during the long and bitter years of Franco’s dictatorship goes on.

And work goes on in the Library as well concerning the struggle in Spain. My own project at the moment is cataloguing two folders of Spanish Civil War photographs, one of which is this one.

Aileen Palmer with Thora Silverthorne

Aileen Palmer (right) with Thora Silverthorne

It is a hitherto unknown picture of Australian interpreter Aileen Palmer, and the English nurse Thora Silverthorne, while on the Aragon front. Aileen Palmer had been in Spain at the time of the coup, and in fact had been working as translator for the Workers’ Olympiad when the coup broke out. When I found this out it seemed an apt illustration of the ongoing links that this great Library has with Spain, past and present, and I hope in the future that these links, both with the Parque and the wider progressive elements in Spain, can be strengthened and extended.

I will end this blog contribution as Pippa and I ended our talk: Viva la República!!!!!

Stuart Walsh

PS More information about the event at the Parque de la Memoria is at http://www.parquedelamemoria.org/noticias/la-biblioteca-working-class-de-manchester-lucir%C3%A1-un-pa%C3%B1uelo-y-tierra-del-parque-de-la-memor

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In 1923 Dan Griffiths asked ‘What is Socialism?’ … now we have all the answers

Posted by wcmlibrary on February 6, 2014

The library has just received a very exciting donation of around 100 letters written to Dan Griffiths in 1923 in response to his question What is socialism?.

Dan, a school teacher in Llanelli, was very active in the labour movement and considered standing for parliament for the Labour Party, but stood down in favour of another candidate.  He also wrote a number of books, including What is Socialism?: a symposium - the book that the definitions of socialism were included in.

Dan’s great-niece, Rosemary, has kindly donated the folder of letters, which were received from a wide spectrum of people including politicians, trade unionists and writers, to the library along with a group photograph which includes both Dan and Ramsay MacDonald.

Dan Griffiths (third left) with Ramsay MacDonald and others

Most of the letters are very positive and give full and detailed responses to Dan’s question,  but a letter from May Starr of Plebs states:

“I am writing at Com. Horrabin’s request .. with reference to his definition of socialism he asks me to say that he really does not wish to add anything further to his definition.  In fact he feels that there is nothing to add to that particular statement – it must stand and fall as it is, and being an exceedingly hard pressed and busy chap begs to state that he can’t face the ordeal of starting all over again.  If the space really mus be filled up why not add “Buy the Plebs, 6d monthly” or similar phrases.” 

Other highlights of the collection include letters from Ramsay MacDonald, Ellen Wilkinson, Alfred and Ethel Holdsworth, Leonard Woolf, AJ Cook, GDH Cole and Tom Mann.

Letter from Ellen Wilkinson

Letter from Ellen Wilkinson

We are extremely grateful to Rosemary for giving us these letters which provide a fascinating insight into the politics of the 1920s.

Jane Taylor
Librarian

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The Cato Street conspirators – a little bit of extra history hidden in the Library

Posted by wcmlibrary on February 3, 2014

The Library has a great collection of material relating to trials of the last 200 years, from suffragettes to the Shrewsbury pickets, from Meerut to Hone.  There are 205 items on our catalogue with the subject term ‘trials’ – have a browse!

Some of our most rare material dates from the early 19th century and concerns radicals accused of crimes from seditious libel to treason.   One such item is a two-volume account of the trial of the Cato Street conspirators.  A group of men involved in radical politics plotted to kill government ministers dining at Lord Harrowby’s house on 23 February 1820. The conspirators assembled in a hayloft in Cato Street, near Grosvenor Square in London.  However, the ministers were not at the house and it was a trap. George Edwards, a member of the group, was in fact an agent provocateur working for the government.

The trials of Arthur Thistlewood, James Ings, John Thomas Brunt, Richard Tidd, William Davidson, and others, for high treason, at the Sessions House in the Old Bailey, … 17-28th April, 1820, with the antecedent proceedings: in two volumes was published shortly after the trial from the verbatim shorthand notes of William Brodie Gurney.   Interesting indeed.  But the Library’s copy of volume 2 has a few even more exciting pages bound in at the back.  They show printed specimen handwriting from the accused men.  According to our founders Ruth and Eddie Frow a few copies of the book were printed with these pages, after the Counsel for the prisoners asked each of them to write something.

William Davidson, one of the accused, was born in the 1780s in Jamaica. He answered the request by writing the following:

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is a folly and a shame upon him.
Thou shalt not oppress a stranger in a strange land.
Thou shalt not pervert the judgement of a stranger.
W Davidson

On 28 April 1820, William Davidson, James Ings, Richard Tidd, Arthur Thistlewood and John Brunt were found guilty of high treason. They were hanged outside Newgate Prison on 1 May 1820.

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From Right to Left: a (training) archivist’s journey

Posted by wcmlibrary on January 20, 2014

During the course of their careers many archivists will have the opportunity to work at different repositories with archive collections that cover a variety of subjects.

However none appear to be so distinctly opposite than the collections I have worked with in the last 12 months.

Whilst studying for my course in Archives and Records Management at Liverpool University I was required to complete a two-week cataloguing placement at an archive repository.  In January I came to work at the Working Class Movement Library tasked with beginning to catalogue the papers of the Communist Party of Britain. As users and supporters of the Library will know the archives collections here include records of trade unions and working class politics, protest and campaigning.  

EVT-MINE-0022Before starting my course I worked as an Archive Assistant at the Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. The Archives Centre is primarily known for holding the papers of Sir Winston Churchill but also collects. In the course of my job I was able to work with and explore many of the collections held at the Centre including the papers of Margaret Thatcher.

So it’s been rather a remarkable change to go from working with the archive of Conservative Prime Minister Mrs Thatcher to exploring the papers of the Communist Party. And my surroundings have changed too from working around portraits of Churchill and Thatcher to busts of Lenin and trade union banners!

Of course as an archivist my job is to help catalogue and preserve the papers under my care whatever their nature, and as a lover of British history I have found it just as fascinating to be around the unique history held at the Library as I did working with the eminent collections at Churchill College.

Philip Cosgrove (with illustration supplied by the Library of a poster in our collection! We’d like to thank Phil for his sterling work giving us a structure for cataloguing the CPB papers which have been sitting awaiting attention for some years… Any other student or volunteer archivists out there, give us a shout…) 

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