Dora Montefiore, born in 1851, was a woman of many identities – suffragist, feminist, socialist and communist. She was a founder of the British Communist Party in 1920. (Pictured left in 1923.)
One of the London WSPU’s founders she had achieved notoriety in the 1890s, fore by urging civil disobedience by means of a tax strike. In 1906, Montefiore, a woman of independent means and mind, actually did herself refuse to pay her taxes on the basis that "taxation without representation is tyranny". Her house was besieged for six weeks by bailiffs waiting to get out furniture valued to the amount of tax she owed.
Unlike many WSPU activists, she was a committed Marxist. In October 1913, two months into the massive Dublin lock-out, she obtained the agreement of Jim Larkin that the starving children of the city should be evacuated to be looked after by the British labour movement for the duration of the hostilities. Soon she had offers of 350 places for children, and more were coming all the time. Labour movement bodies, trade union branches and trades councils, offered to take the responsibility for one or more children. So did sections of the suffragettes.
They were given a room at Liberty Hall, the Transport Union HQ, and a meeting of wives of strikers was called. These mothers of hungry children eagerly grasped at this offer of help. The Catholic Church `discovered’ that this was a plot to convert children into Protestants and spread the whisper that Montefiore was really an agent of the White Slave Trade, who would sell the children to foreign brothels! Scenes of intimidation were seen at the station and the quay. Dora Montefiore was charged with kidnapping, although bailed and the charges were later dropped.
Dora Montefiore, was heavily involved in the international socialist women’s movement and was a close communicating confidante of Alexandra Kollontai, the celebrated Russian revolutionary. A British Socialist Party executive member, Montefiore was enthusiastic about the creation of the Communist Party out of a range of socialist groups. Despite her then advanced age – she was then 70 years old – she was elected as the first woman on the executive committee of the Communist Party at the 1920 convention to form the party. She died in 1933.