A RAMBLE ABOUT THE GOOD OLD DAYS OR WERE THEY?
Karenps comments on her new allotment neighbour started me thinking of the womans role in industry over the last 90years.From the age of 21 to my retirement I was always an active trade unionist,not the down tools at the drop of a hat brigade but more concerned along with many others into getting equality and equal pay in the work place for women.
As a teenager in my grandmothers shop I had the privalage to meet some of the women chain makers who took part in the first strike by women,they were all elderly now but their stories although hard to believe were never the less true and fasinating.Their treatment bordered on the barbaric These women had worked up to 60 hours per week doing work that was hard and dangerous,hammering 5000 links a week for just 5 shillings [25p]The government of the day had agreed a minimum wage of 11 of shillings a week but the chain masters refused to pay women this and used to make them sign a get out paper and as they could not read they had no idea what they were signing.
Roert Shephard in his book White Slaves of England wrote “I saw the women trying to make the best of things talking and singing as they worked.At first the signs of sociability makes one over look the misery which is all to visible in the foul rags the women wear,in their haggard faces,and the faces of the frightened infants clinging to their mothers while they ply the hammer,or sprawling in the mire on the floor amid the shower of fiery sparks”.
Comes the hour comes the man but in this case it was a formidable lady Mary Macarthur born in Glasgow 1880 founder of National Federation of Female Workers,a strike was organised and 800 women chain makers fought for the minimum wage over 10 weeks many were arrested but Mary was so well organised a strike fund was raised and a new media was used in the struggle the Cinema via Pathe news the struggle was shown in 600 cinemas across the country.The day was won and in Cradley each year the occasion is celebrated.
These women were the same ones whos daughters helped to keep us going in the bleak days of ww2 the land army ,munition factories,lorry driving .I feel humble yet proud that this is part of my Black Counrty heritage