A Life for Education
A Celebration of Leah Manning
Join us for a celebration of alumna Leah Manning, who campaigned for education and equality, and is best known for organising the evacuation of 3,840 children during the Spanish Civil War.
100 years since women won the vote, we are celebrating the life and work of an exceptional change-maker, Dame Leah Manning.
Manning (1886-1977) trained as a teacher at Homerton from 1906 to 1908. Her career focused relentlessly on redressing injustice, and she became well known for her courageous humanitarian work.
She is best known for her involvement in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939. Against the official stance of the British government, Manning became Secretary of the Spanish Medical Aid Committee, and visited Spain many times during the war. She witnessed the bombing of Guernica, brutally depicted by Pablo Picasso. In a 1937 telegram to Labour Party Leader and future Prime Minister Clement Atlee, Manning describes the situation in Bilbao, fearing a ‘repetition of Guernica… which risks the lives of thousands of women and children’. While the British government practised a policy of non-intervention, Manning almost single-handedly organised the evacuation of 3,840 children from Bilbao to Britain on the steamship SS Habana.
Before the War, Manning had already been driving change more locally, in Cambridge. She taught in an extremely poor area, and campaigned for free school meals and milk for the children, and also set up an after-school play centre. Manning became President of the National Union of Teachers in 1930, and was twice a Labour MP, in Islington (1931) and Epping (1945-50). During this latter term she used her platform to campaign on foreign affairs and education, as well as women’s rights, equal pay, and family planning. In 1966 she was appointed DBE for political and public services.
On Tuesday, 20 November, we will be celebrating Leah Manning, 110 years after her time at Homerton College. We look forward to welcoming representatives from Bilbao, Spain, who have created a documentary about her work there. As well as a screening of the documentary, there will be short talks about her work in education and politics, and the unveiling of a permanent memorial to this extraordinary woman.