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Breaking the Bonds of Capitalism: the political vision of a Lancashire mill girl by Roger Smalley







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Poet, novelist, journalist and political radical, Ethel Carnie Holdsworth (1886-1962) was born in Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire. From the age of thirteen she worked in cotton mills, but also attended evening classes and read voraciously in a Co-operative Society library.  She published her first poetry in 1907, joining the Blackburn Independent Labour Party soon after. As a young woman Holdsworth wrote regularly, studied at Owens College, Manchester, and taught at Bebel House, London, whilst developing her personal political philosophy - all before she was entitled to vote. Marriage and the responsibilities of family life did little to lessen her literary output: in 1920 alone she published three novels, even though she gave birth to her second daughter in January that year. Holdsworth's work was published in Russia and the USA, but her star waned in the 1930s and she died in obscurity. The rediscovery of the 1921 film of her novel Helen of Four Gates has led to renewed interest in her life, work and vision.

Roger Smalley has a special interest in the radical tradition and the history of political dissent in the North West of England; his PhD thesis (UCLan, 2006) was on the life and work of Ethel Carnie Holdsworth.

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