Emmeline Boulton was born in Openshaw, Manchester, to James, an engineer, and Emily, a weaver. Emmy’s mother was to become a member of the Communist Party. No doubt this had an impact on little Emmeline. She was only 10 when she was nicknamed `Red Emma’ for her fiery speeches, when she preached socialism from St Stephen’s Square in Manchester; for the rest of he life she was never afraid to speak her mind.
At 12 years of age she contracted rheumatism and was offered a new, free cure – which failed. Bedridden for eight years, she was home-schooled by a family friend, who taught her to appreciate art, and she resolved to study it. The surgeon Sir Harry Platt made medical history by breaking and resetting most of 20-year-old Emmeline’s bones. Eventually, she learned to walk again.
In 1936 Emily took her daughter to the art school in an old wheelchair and together they argued that she be accepted for a trial year. Emmeline excelled, gained a scholarship, and graduated, specialising in mural painting. It is inconceiveable, given her background, that the young Emmeline was not, at the very least, connected to the large group of young artists in Manchester that adhered to the Communist Party at this time. A number of significant muralists were part of this trend. Emmeline’s own murals adorned Manchester’s wartime restaurants, canteens and hospitals,
Boulton’s famed and lifelong friendship with LS Lowry began when she challenged him when he was a visiting lecturer at Manchester’s Municipal School of Art over his assumptions on students’ work. He had criticised what he assumed was her work, the smallest – she was herself only 4ft 6ins but had actually painted the biggest canvas.
In later years, Emmeline lectured widely in art history, taught art in Greater Manchester and died aged 95 in 2008.
Source: Guardian March 7th 2008
photo credit: “Mother”
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