History

George Lansbury, Minnie Lansbury and Their Relevance to Modern Feminism

Text of the George Lansbury Memorial Lecture, given on 16 November 2016 at Queen Mary University, London.

 

I’m working on the assumption that most of you know a fair bit about George Lansbury but rather less about his daughter-in-law Minnie. So I’m going to tell you who Minnie Lansbury was, and as we walk through her life, and its intersection with George’s, we will find relevance and lessons for modern-day feminism.

21 October 1966

villanelle about the Aberfan coal mining disaster, in which 144 people, including 116 school children, died when a coal mining waste tip collapsed. There was a lot of anger at the National Coal Board for its neglect of safety, and at the inquest, one father insisted, "I want it recorded – "Buried alive by the National Coal Board." That is what I want to see on the record. That is the feeling of those present. Those are the words we want to go on the certificate."

The miner insisted the coroner record
The Pantglas School building a homicide scene
They were buried alive by the National Coal Board

We Are Not Heroes

We are not heroes, not the valiant sort
We let them take us, fell in to survive
The heroes are the ones who stood and fought

Our bodies packed together frail support
The nudging of her foot kept me alive
But we're not heroes, not the valiant sort

Our best fought underground, our martyrs caught
Resistance from the shadows, fire and strive
The heroes are the ones who stayed and fought

Verses from the First World War: Conscientious Objectors

Published in Solidarity 397, 9 March 2016

Once the Military Service Act come into force in 1916, men aged 18-41 had to apply to a Military Tribunal if they believed that they had a reason not to be drafted. The majority had health, work or family reasons, but 2% were Conscientious Objectors (COs): men who objected to military service because they objected to war.

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