Working Class Movement Library

A blog from the Working Class Movement Library in Salford

Archive for January, 2015

Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, ‘Breaking the bonds of capitalism’

Posted by wcmlibrary on January 28, 2015

Ethel Carnie Holdsworth portrait

Ethel Carnie Holdsworth

We’ve just received from the author Roger Smalley a copy of his new book about Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, Breaking the bonds of capitalism: the political vision of a Lancashire mill girl (North West Regional Studies, Lancaster University, 2014).  We’ve written before in the blog about Ethel, the author of one of the first novels published by a British woman of working class background, and about our holdings of her books.

We also hold a decent run of The Woman Worker, the journal for which Ethel wrote after Robert Blatchford offered her a job in 1908.  This is the focus of a chapter in the new book.

In addition, we have in our collection two issues (Nos 8 and 12, Jan and May 1924) of the now very rare journal The Clear Light, published by Ethel and her husband Alfred, which is written about in detail in a further chapter in the book.    The May 1924 issue reported concerns about fascism in Britain and in October that year the Holdsworths turned The Clear Light into the organ of The National Union for Combating Fascism.

Ethel, in Roger Smalley’s words, ‘wrote poetry, novels, short stories and journalism in the cause of socialist unity, women’s rights, conscientious objection and the fight against capitalism and fascism. Much of her work was widely read, yet she died in poverty and obscurity’.  It is good to have this book in stock to bring together in detail Ethel’s many facets and remind the world of this early 20th century working class woman’s place in the tradition of British political dissent.


Come and have a read of the book, of Ethel’s novels, and of the many sources quoted in the book which we hold here in the Library.



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