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Adamson [née Johnston], Janet Laurel (1882–1962), labour movement activist and politician, was born at Kilmarnock on 9 May 1882, one of the six children of Thomas Johnston, a railway porter, and Elizabeth, née Denton. Her father died young and her mother had to become a dressmaker to support the family. As ...

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Burns, John Elliott (1858–1943), labour leader and politician, was born in South Lambeth, London, on 20 October 1858, the sixteenth child of Alexander Burns, a Scottish fitter, and Barbara Smith. He left St Mary's national school when he was about ten and after a series of short-term jobs was apprenticed as an engineer....

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John Elliott Burns (1858–1943) by John Collier, 1889 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Bywater, (Richard) Arthur Samuel (1913–2005), munitions factory official, was born on 3 November 1913 at 1 Teignmouth Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham, the third son of Walter Bywater, clerk at a tinplate works, later chief clerk of stores at the Austin Motor Company, Longbridge, Birmingham...

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Campbell, David Robb (1874/5–1934), labour leader, was born in Belfast, the son of an insurance agent. The family was protestant; his father belonged to the Orange order. Educated in Belfast, Davy, as he was known, also went into insurance. He developed an interest in trade unionism and became the secretary of the life assurance agents' association in the city. As such, he won a seat in 1906 on the ...

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Chew, Ada Nield (1870–1945), labour organizer and suffragist, was born at Hollins, Butt Lane, Audley, Staffordshire, on 28 January 1870, the second child in a family of thirteen of William Nield, brick maker, and his wife, Jane, née Hammond. Ada was taken from school at the age of eleven to help look after the family, especially her younger sister ...

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Collison, William (1865–1938), workers' leader, was born on 22 June 1865 at 22 Greenfield Street, Mile End, London, the eldest of twelve children of William Collison, policeman, and his wife, Leah (née Brett). Collison's formal education did not progress beyond elementary school; it must be presumed that his later fluency with the pen was the result of his own efforts at self-improvement. A long series of casual jobs, punctuated by a two-year period of service in the British army, took him into the world of ...

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Dash, Jack O'Brien (1907–1989), political activist and unofficial dockers' leader, was born on 23 April 1907 in Southwark, south London, the youngest of four sons of Joseph Thomas Dash, a stagehand, and his wife, Rose Gertrude Johns, an actor. According to Dash's own account, his upbringing was one of great material hardship. His mother died of tuberculosis when he was seven and his father, who then had an even greater struggle to support the family, also died of a lung complaint a few years later. After an elementary schooling, his skill at drawing led to a trial period with an engraving firm, but pressure to take home a better wage resulted in a series of menial jobs, starting in a ...

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Grimshaw, Mortimer (1824/5–1869), cotton weaver and labour leader, was born into a working-class family in or near Great Harwood in north-east Lancashire. Little is known about his family background, but his father is said to have had a reputation as a radical orator. ...

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Henson, Gravener (1785–1852), workers' leader and author, was born in Nottingham in 1785, the son of James Henson, knitter. He may well have received some education at a local Wesleyan Sunday school, but he became familiar with popular contemporary writers, British and European, through hard study in his leisure time. He married ...

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Hodges, Frank (1887–1947), labour leader and politician, was born at Woolaston, Gloucestershire, on 30 April 1887, the son of Thomas and Louisa Hodges. Hodges' family moved to south Wales during the pre-1914 boom years when annual production in the coal industry reached its peak. After attending ...

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Eleanor Gordon and Campbell F. Lloyd

Irwin, Margaret Hardinge (1858–1940), women's labour activist, was born at sea on 13 January 1858 on the barque Lord Hardinge, after which she was named. She was the only child of James Richie Irwin, master mariner, of 3 Pine Terrace, Broughty Ferry, Forfarshire...

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James Larkin (1874–1947) by unknown photographer, 1914 Getty Images

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Larkin, James (1874–1947), labour leader in Ireland, was born on 4 February 1874 at 41 Combermere Street, Toxteth Park, Liverpool, the second of the six children of James Larkin (1845–1887), a forge labourer, and his wife, Mary Ann McNulty (1842–1911). His parents were part of that vast exodus from ...

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Macarthur [married name Anderson], Mary Reid (1880–1921), women's labour organizer, was born at Glasgow on 13 August 1880, the eldest daughter of John Duncan Macarthur, proprietor of a drapery business, and his wife, Anne Elizabeth Martin. She was one of six children, of whom only three survived. Educated at ...

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Mary Reid Macarthur (1880–1921) by unknown photographer by permission of the People's History Museum

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Mboya, Thomas Joseph (1930–1969), labour leader and politician in Kenya, was born at Kilima Mbogo, near Thika, north of Nairobi, on 15 August 1930, the eldest of the six children of Leunadus Ndiege, a sisal worker from Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria, and his wife ...

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Thomas Joseph Mboya (1930–1969) by unknown photographer, 1960 © reserved; East African Newspapers (Nation) Ltd; photograph National Portrait Gallery, London

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David Watts Morgan (1867–1933) by Bassano, 1915 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Morgan, David Watts (1867–1933), miners' leader and politician, was born at Skewen, Neath, Glamorgan, on 18 December 1867, the son of Thomas W. Morgan, miner, and his wife, Margaret, née Davies. After attending the national school at Skewen, and other elementary schools in ...