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No Mean City: 1914 to 1950s


Helen Crawfurd Anderson

By Neil Rafeek

Born Helen Jack on 9 November 1877 in the Gorbals district of Glasgow, Helen Crawfurd Anderson (1877-1954) was the fourth child of William and Helen Jack who were politically Conservative and strongly religious. She met her future husband, the Rev Alexander Montgomerie Crawfurd, at evangelical Sunday school meetings. They married on 19 September 1898. Helen Crawfurd joined the Suffrage movement in 1900 and the Women's Social and Political Union (WPSU) in 1910. She began militant action for suffrage from 1912, breaking windows on several occasions, and was sentenced to a month's imprisonment in Glasgow where she conducted a hunger strike, an action repeated in Perth Prison in 1914 for five days. She left the WPSU in 1914 because of its support for the First World War and joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP). In 1915 Crawfurd was secretary of the Glasgow Women's Housing Association and involved in the Rent Strikes in Glasgow. Also that year she formed the Women's International League with Agnes Dollan (1887-1966) and in 1916 became national secretary of the Women's Peace Crusade.

A major figure in the Scottish ILP by 1918, Crawfurd attended the Second Congress of the Third International in Moscow in 1920 where she met Lenin. When the ILP rejected affiliation to the Third International, Crawfurd joined the Communist Party of Great Britain and was soon on its Executive Committee. She became secretary of the Workers International Relief Organisation (WIR) in 1923. She moved to Dunoon, Argyllshire, just before the Second World War and from 1945 until 1948 was appointed the first woman councillor there. Widowed in 1914, she married fellow Communist Party member George Anderson in 1945. Helen Crawfurd Anderson died at her home in Dunoon on 18 April 1954. Of tall elegant appearance, she was an impressive figure often wearing the black and purple colours of suffrage.

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