This rich history tells the life story of Ada Salter, who, in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, had pioneering roles in local politics as well as in feminist and ethical socialist movements. Graham Taylor here shifts the focus, usually on Ada’s husband Alfred, to Ada’s remarkable work, and her significant impact on Bermondsey and on national politics.
Both in the ‘Bermondsey revolution’ and nationally, Ada Salter was a pioneer of ethical socialism. Yet her role in the socialist politics of the early twentieth century has for a long time been neglected. This book, based on extensive original research, for the first time tells the story of this remarkable woman, and documents her significance for the history of both socialism and feminism.
Salter was responsible for most of the ideas behind the Bermondsey Revolution, drawing on her experiences in the women’s movement and as President of the Women’s Labour League. Her groundbreaking ideas on urban development then spread all over London through her work as an LCC councillor, and all over Britain through her role as Chair of the National Gardens Guild.
The book shows how Salter’s experiences as a ‘Sister of the People’ in the London slums eventually led her to the Independent Labour Party, and to the belief that achieving democracy and social justice in Britain required a grassroots alliance between the labour and women’s movements. Other women in the ILP had similar ideas, but it was only Ada Salter who actually took political power, implemented her ‘utopian’ ideas, and won elections by huge majorities.
Ideas of ethical socialism have recently returned to contemporary politics, adding to Ada Salter’s importance as a figure of topical historical interest. Her story is thus one that deeply resonates with contemporary political concerns.