Tom Mann was born in Foleshill, Coventry in 1856, the son of Mary Ann Grant and her husband Thomas Mann. Starting work at the age of nine, he eventually found his trade as an engineer in Birmingham and London, joining the Amalgamated Society of Engineers in 1881. An attempt to become the union's General Secretary in 1892 failed, but Mann had already gained fame as the leader of the 1889 London dock strike, and he became President of the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers' Union of Great Britain and Ireland in the same year. This was a post he held until 1893, during which time he was also a member of the Royal Commission on Labour. Mann's political interests also grew during this time, and he became Secretary of the Independent Labour Party in 1894. An advocate of direct trade union action, Mann was imprisoned several times, both in Britain and abroad. Mann's career was truly international, and in 1896 he founded and became the first President of the International Transport Workers' Federation. He continued to be active in the labour movement throughout his life, founding the British Communist Party in 1920, and becoming General Secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers (1919-20) and its successor, the Amalgamated Engineering Union (1920-1).
He married Ellen Edwards in 1879 with whom he had two children (a daughter Effie and son Charly?). He later met Elsie Harker and had two sons Tom and Robert. Elsie remained his partner for the rest of his life. He died in 1941.
Reference: The Concise Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford, 1992).