Striking A Light
Louise Raw takes you back on an journey to the Matchwomen's strike of 1888, when 1400 women downed tools at the Bryant and May Match Factory in London and found their way into history.
The Matchwomen went on strike to show their support for a fellow employee who had been made a scapegoat for an article in a publication called the Link, highlighting the in-human working conditions in the Bryant and May factory.
The conditions were compared to white slavery and included, lower pay than 15 years previously; 14 hour working days; excessive fines; foreman able to beat workers; unsafe machinery and hazardous working materials.
The authors of the Link article, Annie Besant and Herbert Burrows, received much credit for the strike mainly due to them being more socially acceptable to `polite society'. However Louise Raw, author of the book Striking a Light, shows the main heroes to be the Matchwomen themselves, who defied their exploiters and gained public support, by showing the bosses that their profits were reliant upon their workforce.
Having no place in Victorian society, the Matchwomens' struggle and belief in standing up for what is right, and their victory, is as much an inspiration today - in the face of fat cats and their bonuses and spending cuts - as it was in 1888.
For the second talk, Lynn Collins will bring us back from the smoke of London's East End to the uncertain landscape of 21st Century Britain. A leading trade union activist, Collins will talk about the role of women in trade unions, showing how they can influence and lead the continuing fight for workers and their rights - a fight which the Matchwomen won in 1888, but one that still continues today.
Striking A Light
Sat 5th March 2pm free
Working Class Movement Library
51 The Crescent Salford M5 4WX (big black and white building opp Salford Museum).
Further details: 0161 736 3601
Words by Gareth Lyons
See also International Women's Day event: The Vagina Monolgues and debate at manchester Town Hall Tues 8th March 6:30pm: click here