A gleaming green and gold clock on the side of Electric House in Bow Road forms a fine tribute to Minnie Lansbury, one of the most remarkable women to emerge from the East End, whose life and achievements are the subject of a recent book from Five Leaves Publications.
It was a life cut tragically short at the age of only 32. She had been a leading suffragette, a fighter for decent pensions for those widowed or orphaned in the first world war, an alderman on Poplar council, and a leader of the councillors’ rates strike in protest over the levy on one of London’s poorest boroughs that took money away from people who really needed it – a strike that became a cause célèbre, brought about her imprisonment, but resulted in reform of local government finance.
She worked as a schoolteacher and in 1914 married Edgar Lansbury, whose father, George, was to be Mayor of Poplar, editor of the Daily Herald, a Labour MP, and in due course Labour Party leader.
The clock was restored to its former glory in 2008 thanks to the efforts of the Heritage of London Trust in conjunction with JEECS. We featured her story in issue 9 of our magazine, The Cable, in 2009.
Now author Janine Booth examines her life and achievements in detail in Minnie Lansbury: Suffragette, Socialist, Rebel Councillor, a book that is also the story of Eastern European immigrant Jews in Cockney London, of the fight against poverty and for enfranchisement, of opposing war while defending its victims, of embracing revolutionary possibilities and of defying bad laws. She argues that Minnie Lansbury’s experiences and struggles are directly relevant to today’s labour movement, and to today’s campaigns against antisemitism and for women’s equality.
Janine Booth is a writer and activist who lives in Hackney, east London. She is a well-known figure in her trade union (RMT), in the wider labour movement, and in disability rights and feminist circles. She writes and performs poetry, which has been widely published. She has researched, written and spoken on the subject of Minnie Lansbury for several years, including writing a book about the Poplar rates rebellion.
Website: Five Leaves Publications