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James Keir Hardie

(1856-1915)

James Keir Hardie was born on 15th August 1856 the illegitimate son of Mary Keir.
His was an extremely poor working-class family. After working for several years as a delivery boy he obtained employment at the age of 11 as a coalminer. Having never attended school he was completely illiterate but with the help of his mother he taught himself to read and write. This harsh upbringing was to influence his whole life enabling  him to have a true understanding of working class problems.
Hardie helped start a union in 1880 at the colliery where he was employed. Later he led the first ever strike of Lanarkshire miners. This resulted in his dismissal and being blacklisted from other Scottish mines. In 1886 he was made secretary of the Scottish Miners' Federation. later he publishes a left wing newspaper. He had been a Liberal Party supporter but became disillusioned by Gladstone's policies.
In  1892 he stood as the Independent Labour candidate in West Ham an Essex constituency. Hardie won and became the country's first socialist member of parliament. Hardie however lost his seat in the 1895 General Election and for the next few years spent his time organizing the  Labour Party. The Labour Party won 29 seats in the 1906 General Election and Hardie was elected leader of the party. His vision of what the Labour party should be won him a great deal of support from working people. 
In 1908, Hardie resigned as leader of the Labour Party and was replaced by Arthur Henderson. Hardie spent the rest of his life campaigning for votes for women and developing a closer relationship with Sylvia Pankhurst. He also campaigned for self-rule for India and an end to segregation in South Africa. During a visit to the United States in 1909, his criticism of sectarianism among American radicals caused intensified debate regarding the American Socialist Party possibly joining with the unions in a labor party.
A pacifist, Hardie was appalled by the First World War and along with socialists in other countries he tried to organise an international general strike to stop the war
and was denounced as a traitor.. His stance was not popular, even within the Labour Party, but he continued to address anti-war demonstrations across the country and to support conscientious objectors. James Keir Hardie died of a stroke on 25th September, 1915 some say the slaughter and waste of life caused by the war had broken him. His friend and fellow pacifist Thomas Evan Nicholas (Niclas y Glais) delivered the funeral service.

 

       


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