Bishopsgate Institute, London. 6th July 2013. Admission Free. Children and family friendly
Celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Matchwomen’s victory, and the beginning of the modern labour movement!
125 years ago the Matchwomen’s gallant struggle and victory against all the odds led to the new union movement. For far too long they have been unsung heroes in the pages of history. Celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Matchwomen’s victory, and the beginning of the modern labour movement!
The festival will be the kind of ‘knees- up’ the Matchwomen themselves would have enjoyed - there will be bands, comedians and actors, choirs, stalls, and great food and drink.
In July 1888, several hundred women walked out of an East London match factory - and changed the world. The strike was a reaction to management bullying and terrible conditions, and it should have failed.
Bryant & May were powerful and prosperous, with friends in government. The women were mere ‘factory girls’, and even worse, mostly Irish.
But their courage, solidarity and refusal to back down impressed all who saw it. What they revealed about conditions inside the factory, including the horrors of the industrial disease ‘phossy jaw’, shamed Bryant & May, and their shareholders, many of whom were MP’s and clergymen. In just two weeks, the women won better rates of pay and conditions, and the right to form the largest union of women in the country.
Their victory was remarkable, but until now, rarely acknowledged as the beginning of the modern trade union movement. Following the Matchwomen’s victory a wave of strikes, including the 1889 Great London Dock Strike, swept the nation. Multitudes of the most exploited workers formed new unions, sowing the seeds of the modern labour movement, and Labour Party. The Dock Strikers never denied the Matchwomen’s influence. In the throes of the Dock Strike, leader John Burns urged a mass meeting of tens of thousands to ‘stand shoulder to shoulder. Remember the Matchwomen, who won their fight and formed a union.’