Work by Jan Reid :: Poem by Gerda Stevenson
Helen Macfarlane, born Barrhead, near Glasgow, 1818, died Nantwich, 1860; Chartist revolutionary, admired by Karl Marx as a political commentator and essayist, she was the first translator into English of The Communist Manifesto, published in Red Republican magazine, under the nom de plume of Howard Morton, her identity as translator not revealed until 1958.
From Quines by Gerda Stevenson
Helen MacFarlane, although born into wealth, was nevertheless a passionate campaigner for social justice. A radical journalist and philosopher, she was the first person to translate the Communist Manifesto into English, under the pseudonym Howard Morton.
She found common ground between Christ and Communism. The most graphic images the poem conveys are those of Christ’s hands on the Cross and the hands of the family’s mill workers steeped in red madder and bullock’s blood. Those images were the inspiration for my piece. Hands are printed in shades of red against the calico background. (Helen’s family owned a calico printing mill.) These hands are dominated by the gloved hands of the elite. The latter is stitched in silk organza. There is text from her writings in the background and a simple cross also worked on silk organza.