Books in 100: Edith Summerskill – Life and Times of a Pioneer

Scott Cresswell looks at the life of a pioneering Labour MP in 100 words

History is littered with the names of those who deserve to be remembered. Unfortunately, some parliamentarians are forgotten. Edith Summerskill is one.

Her progressive and feminist beliefs in the conservative thirties make her an ideal candidate for a biography; Mary Honeyball’s book is essential.

Like all good biographers, Honeyball “got to know Edith” Summerskill and paints her life sympathetically. Some areas of Summerskill’s career deserve much analysis, particularly her battle with the Catholic Church over birth control.

While the biography’s structure may be ordinary and rudimentary, Honeyball argues a hugely compelling case for why the life, career, and achievements of Edith Summerskill must be remembered. 

Scott Cresswell is a commentator and writer of political history and current affairs. Currently a student at Middlesex University. Uses Twitter (@ScottCresswell8) whenever he remembers it exists. His website is https://scottpcresswell.co.uk

Publisher’s Synopsis

An Independent Book of the Month Edith Summerskill was a remarkable politician, feminist, physician, campaigner and writer. At a time when there were few powerful women in public life, Dr Edith, as she was known, served in Clement Attlee’s transformational post-war Labour government and oversaw the National Insurance scheme which solidified the welfare state in Britain. Here, Labour MEP Mary Honeyball, provides the first biography of this remarkable early pioneer for women in politics. Honeyball shows how Edith Summerskill’s direct campaigning was instrumental in promoting women’s causes throughout her life and lays out her remarkable achievements in securing the equal rights of housewives and divorced women over property. This is an uplifting and enlightening account of a forgotten Labour hero.

It is available via Bloomsbury academic publishers here

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