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Winifred Langton: the Cumbrian Based Campaigner who Fought for Peace, Workers and Women’s Rights



Winifred Langton was born in Plaistow, East London to working class parents.


Winifred's father was the son of a freed slave from Guyana, he worked as an active trade unionist and as a foreman for Woolwich Arsenal. Her mother was a founding member of the UK communist party.


Informed by her parents' views, Winifred told the Guardian in 2002 about how they inspired her: “She learned how to fight from her mother and how to care from her Father”.


Winifred was a highly intelligent young woman, she attended Bostall Lane School in Abbey Wood and it earned her a scholarship to Kingswarren school in Bexleyheath.


However, she left Bexleyheath when she was 16 because of what Win (as she’s known by friends and family) describes in her book Courage, "I was being educated to become a snob".


Winifred started her career as a campaigner in the 1920s where she started selling The Workers Weekly, a unionist publication in Woolwich, Arsenal.


Shortly after this work, Win became a cycle messenger for trade unions in 1926 and even helped out with the Jarrow Hunger Marches in 1936 which saw the people of Jarrow in South Tyneside protest because of the unemployment and poverty that ravished the town.


Some of the men making their way from Jarrow down to London for the protest


They marched from the North Eastern town to London where they were met by Winifred with food in a demonstration of support and compassion towards the community.


Perhaps Win was not only driven by her caring nature, but also the fact that they were a communist movement known as The National Unemployed Workers Movement, she has always been a staunch communist from her mothers teachings.


Winifred’s link to Cumbria is followed by quite an eventful couple of decades that saw herself and her family move to the Isle of Sheppey when war broke out in the UK in the 1940s.


Not only did Win care for her own family she cared for others during this time, a reflection of her doting nature. Unfortunately in 1947 she lost her second husband and by the end of the decade she lost her parents.


Having suffered multiple losses and a long stint in the Isle of Sheppey as an orderly at a hospital, Winifred was seeking a peaceful environment for her and her third husband, who was seriously ill. So they made the move to Ulverston to live with Win’s eldest daughter.


The move to Cumbria did not stop Winifred campaigning and in 1967, at the heart of Ulverston - market cross, she inaugurated a Hiroshima day vigil that spanned three decades.


Win Langton remembers Hiroshima on August 6 in 1990 at Ulverston war memorial.

Photo credit: North West Evening Mail


By the 1980s Win and fellow campaigners that dubbed themselves pensioners of peace joined the protest At Greenham common. They protested against nuclear weapons being made on the RAF base.


The protest began on the 5th of September 1981 after a Welsh group of women protested for the removal of cruise missiles and nuclear weapons that only bring about destruction with world peace being the end goal. The campaign ran for almost 20 years.


Greenham Common women's protest 1982, gathering around the base, near to

Greenham, West Berkshire, Great Britain. Photo credit: Geograph.org


Winifred established herself as a pacifist and communist. Through the influence of her parents and her own desire, she raised a massive amount of money for medical aid to Vietnam.


Due to this, Winifred was awarded a medal and invited to the opening of the hospital she helped to equip with the resources they needed. In 1988 the Vietnamese ambassador even came to stay with her at her council house in Ulverston.


London Protest against Vietnam War caption: Protest against the Vietnam War in

Grosenvor Square London 1968. Photo credit: David Hurn


In 1999 Ulverston’s council commemorated the work of Win and she was awarded a certificate in appreciation of her work for the local community.


Winifred's work was influential at a time where people needed campaigners to step up and act as a voice for so many people. She will be remembered as a Cumbrian as much as she will be as a Londoner.


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