Helen Crawfurd Anderson
(1877 – 1954)
Helen Crawfurd Anderson was a Scottish suffragette, rent strike organiser, Communist activist and politician.
She was born in the Gorbals district of Glasgow.
Shocked by the inequality and poverty that she saw in Glasgow, she became a socialist. Initially her campaigning was dedicated to the women’s suffrage movement, joining the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in around 1900. She became one of the most popular speakers in the Scottish suffrage movement because of her debating skills. However she grew frustrated with the speed of progress of the movement and joined the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in 1910, embracing their militant tactics. She was imprisoned a number of times for her involvement in WSPU protests, including being sentenced to two years for her alleged role in the bombing of the Glasgow Botanic gardens in 1914.
Alongside Mary Barbour and Agnes Dollan, she set up the Glasgow Women’s Housing Association. She also co-ordinated the successful Rent Strikes of 1915, which led to the implementation of the Rent Restriction Act.
She helped to establish the Women's Peace Crusade during the first World War and organised their first demonstration in 1916 which was attended by 5000 people.
Helen became secretary of the Worker’s International Relief Organisation in 1922, a group which provided aid and support in struggling industrial regions. She also provided assistance during the 1926 General Strike by giving speeches and distributing food.
In 1933 she became the honorary secretary of two committees aimed at combating fascism and anti-Semitism in Scotland and in 1938 she organised the Peace and Empire Congress, the goal of which was to coordinate a peace movement across the British Commonwealth.
During the 2nd World War she retired to Dunoon and in 1946 she was the first woman councillor to take her place on Dunoon Council. She lived there until her death in 1954.
Throughout her life she worked tirelessly for what she believed in with an impressive list of achievements. She made a significant difference to the lives of people not just in Glasgow, but also in the whole of the UK and further afield in Europe.