Thompson Dorothy

Dorothy Thompson


Dorothy Katharine Gane Towers was born on 30th October 1923 in Greenwich, south-east London. Her interest in progressive struggles was first stimulated during her school days in Bromley, Kent, when she was active in a Young Communist League branch. From 1942 she studied history at Girton College, Cambridge, where she was active in the Communist Party and attended meetings of the Party’s infamous History Group.


In 1945, Dorothy met Edward Thompson (see separate entry for E P Thompson) and they both helped in foreign volunteer brigades to build a railroad in Yugoslavia after the end of the Second World War.  They married and settled in Halifax, West Yorkshire, where they taught in extramural adult education. Dorothy's first major broad campaign was directed at keeping wartime nurseries open in the period immediately after the war. In 1956, like her husband, she was part of the small dissenting group that produced the New Reasoner, as its "business manager", and this led to her breach with the Communist Party.


She continued to teach in adult education, was active in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and helped to draft the May Day Manifesto, published in 1968. From that year, Dorothy was a popular teacher in the history department at Birmingham University.


Best known for her writing on the social and cultural aspects of the 19th-century Chartist movement, in 1982, she edited the collection `Over Our Dead Bodies: Women Against the Bomb’. She also edited `The Early Chartists’ (1971) and `Outsiders: Class, Gender and Nation’ (1993), mixing deep scholarship and a political insight that caused her to be admired by specialists and students alike. A collection of essays was produced in her honour, `The Duty of Discontent’, in 1995.


Dorothy died on 29th January 2011 at the age of 87.


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