MP for Jarrow, 1935-1947
In 1935 Ellen Wilkinson became MP for Jarrow. In the mid 1930s Jarrow was a disadvantaged town - local industries including Jarrow shipyard had been closed, and government schemes designed to help had fallen short, leaving thousands destitute, unemployed and desperate. Wilkinson had been involved in Jarrow for a number of years, leading protests and establishing herself within its community. Her relationship with Jarrow's constituents would prove to be one of the most defining of her political career.
During her time as MP for Jarrow, Wilkinson was outspoken in the House of Commons, frequently drawing attention to the daily lived experiences of her constituents. Speaking about malnutrition in 1936, she said
"I remember one woman speaking to me and saying that because of the means test she had gone to live with her married son and daughter, who already had four small children. She said, "You know, I do not want to be a burden on them, so I slip out at meal times and say that I have had a bite at my neighbour's." I remember that case very vividly because the woman died. There was cardiac disease on the certificate, but her doctor told me that, of course, it was obvious the woman was more than half starved."