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

10 Responses

  1. gibbon says:

    my grand parents were well off reely, he was the head roller in the local steel works, he moved with the firm when they came from Staly bridge, my grand mother was a midwife that walked miles to deliver babys and never charged anyone, yet she had 7 lads and two girls herself, in the 30ts my father stud outside the steel works hoping to be picked for a days work, and in his paypacket one week he like every one else had a note ,vote consertive or we will close the works down, he jumpted at the chanch to become a union rep, and I followed his lead, my mother who had 3 young children, during the war drove an overhead crain, we were some of the first latch key children, it is good to remember, as you say’ we owe a lot to these people,

  2. Molly says:

    With all the austerity measures being bandied about now, it’s easy to forget what conditions were like all those years ago. Those poor women and the men too with working conditions like that. Poor wasn’t just poor – it was destitute.

  3. Beanstew says:

    I honour Mary McArthur and others of her ilk, who have fought so hard to gain equality of pay and conditions for women. But I am still full of anguish for the way women are treated in many parts of the world, and even in a country as civilised as ours. Tonight we have news of the Met Police persuading victims to write off allegations of rape in order to “improve” their apparent meeting of targets. I know women are not so exploited as they once were, but I do think there is still some way to go, and I can’t be flippant about it.

  4. gibbon says:

    that is discusting as if they don’t have enough having to relive the incerdent agine under police questioning,

  5. karenp says:

    interesting read and we certainly have to thank these incredible women and others like them, yes i agree we still have a way to go, and especially after the news today regarding the police, such a shame as it cant be easy for anyone to go to the police to report this type of despicable crime :-(

  6. VegVamp says:

    I do sometimes despair of our police forces. I know personally of one child abuse case where a male police officer was sent out to interview a 13 year old girl. Is it any wonder the wee lassie couldn’t speak to him, she was mortified. Makes me incandescent with anger.

  7. Vistamoraira says:

    I really enjoyed your thought provoking read dandlyon.

  8. roly says:

    i have to say although we have always watched the pennies and sometimes gone without some luxuries we did managed to buy our own bungalow and bring up four children

    when i left the farm to take up a new career driving lorries for a living my wages where not that much more but as time went on and i managed to get driving articulated lorries the pay did increased and i actualy bought a new car an m Reg i those days

    then i left that company after being offered a better driving job it was like utopia better conditions more money it must have been a good move because Ive been working there some 35 years and being a union rep for 15 years

    my wife did part time working in various jobs that fitted in with the kids then when the kids got older she got a job on the Royal Mail as post lady in our village and been there for around 20 years

    my Dads good old days on the railway biking to work about five miles then doing a days work then biking back home and still finding time to do his allotment and working overtime on the railway on Sunday’s and sometimes the odd chimney sweeping job in the week i can still see the chimney sweeping kit tied on his bicycle

    my mother worked at the BTH at Rugby catching the morning train the station is about a mile from where she lived and walked morning and night come rain come shine people told me she nearly had me on the footpath going to work one morning to catch the train both my parents worked hard all there lives you could say work was there lives because when they packed up work they didn’t have many years of retirement

    and they both said they had a better life that my grandparents did poor pay never enough to go round my grandfather would walk 4 miles to get work on the farm thrashing corn to be told its going to rain so we don’t need you today only one wage coming in that household most people really had tough times bringing up a family

    i hope ime not around if those days ever come back although i am getting concerned just how this country is going for our grand kids will they ever get a full time job and afford to get married and buy there own home and have a family

    do you think the recent by elections mite have done some good to wake up those politicians that remain complacent and completely oblivious to improving this country’s future

  9. dandlyon says:

    It makes you think Roly is this the land fit for heroes promised by Winston Churchill? :negative:

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