Ellen Wilkinson was born on 8th October 1891 in Chorlton-on-Medlock, a district of Manchester. Her father, Richard Wilkinson, was a former cotton worker and insurance agent. At the time of Ellen's birth, her parents were unable to afford a competent midwife, and the lack of unemployment or child welfare support meant that her childhood was a tough one. Frequent childhood illnesses prevented her from attending school as a young child, but she remained an avid reader and curious mind. At the age of 11 she won a scholarship to Ardwick Higher Elementary Grade School. At school she was known for being a rebellious mind and a self-confident pupil.
Who were Ellen Wilkinson's early influences?
Wilkinson was greatly influenced by her father Richard Wilkinson, a devout Methodist and socialist. Richard Wilkinson had no formal education with a great deal of self-taught knowledge, and he encouraged his growing daughter to be the same. Ellen would accompany her father to lectures on theological subjects, and in later life she continued to attend Methodist chapel whenever possible. Alongside this, her father frequently gave her books to read, including works by thinkers including Darwin and Huxley.