"Not Just Wilberforce"

When we think of Hull, particularly if we have a concern for the protection of human rights in the world, our minds automatically turn to William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery.


It was therefore something of a revelation when I opened the book just published by the Hull Amnesty Group entitled "Not Just Wilberforce" to see that several other people from Hull and the surrounding area have made great contributions towards the struggle for human rights.


I had heard of two of the people profiled, Mary Wollstonecraft and Winifred Holtby, but it was not until I read the chapters devoted to them that I fully appreciated the influence they had exerted. As these accounts show, "feminism" existed long before the 1960's.


Dr Mary Murdoch, who was unknown to me before I read this book, did her utmost to ensure that women enjoyed full human rights as well as making a lasting contribution to providing better health care for children and their mothers in Hull.


I was further inspired by the stories of several other people from Hull and the East Riding who had also contributed very significantly in their different ways to winning, and preserving, the full gamut of rights for those people who were no longer slaves in name but were so in reality. There was still much work to do once slavery had been abolished by Act of Parliament.


The book ends with an analysis of the campaign led by Lilian Bilocca following the loss of three Hull trawlers in 1968. She, and the women she led, were strikingly successful but, for reasons that the book explains well, she was not held in high regard by the City of Hull on her death.


"Not Just Wilberforce" is an excellent read. It presents inspiring accounts of the lives of people who would now be described as "human rights activists" but it does not shirk from telling the unguilded truth about them. Even those who fight for the rights of others, it seems, have human frailties too.


Rod Heath

AIUK Regional Rep for the North East

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