Tag Archives: Trade Unions

Julia Varley: champion of the woman worker

In September 2016, as part of Birmingham Heritage Week, Sheroes of History organised an event about Birmingham Sheroes at The Library of Birmingham. It was a pleasure to hear Dr Cathy Hunt speak about Julia Varley. Below is a transcript of her talk. [Not to be cited without the author’s permission.]

The woman I am going to talk about this evening was not a native Brummie. She was born in Bradford in 1871, but I think that the fact that there is a blue plaque on the house in which she lived in Bournville for a large part of her adult life, highlighting the work that she did for women’s suffrage and for trade unionism gives her at least honorary Brummie status – and well deserved it is too. Continue reading Julia Varley: champion of the woman worker

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Mary Quaile

Mary  Quaile was born in Dublin on 8 August  1886. The Quailes emigrated to England in 1889 or 1890.  Mary left school aged 12, working as a domestic servant,  which she later described as “by no means a bed of roses.”  She went abroad, working in the French port of Brest for a time where she gained a working knowledge of French,  a skill that no doubt  later proved very useful at international trade union meetings. Back in Manchester she became enthused by trade unionism after  the well-known trade union organiser Margaret Bondfield came to Manchester to  organise women workers. Continue reading Mary Quaile

Esther Roper

What connects Winston Churchill, women’s trades unions, Irish independence, an early 20th century magazine opposing traditional gender concepts and a suffrage petition long enough to carpet a railway platform?

The answer is Esther Roper: suffragist, labour organiser and pioneering writer on gender and sexuality.
Continue reading Esther Roper

Margaret Bondfield

Margaret Bondfield was a leading trade unionist, a camaigner for women’s rights and the first female member of the British Cabinet.

Margaret was born in Somerset in 1873. She came from a big family and was the eleventh child! Her parents were textile workers, and her father was known for his radical political views.

When she was just 14 Margaret left home to go and work in a fabric shop in Hove. While working there she became friends with Louisa Martindale, who was part of the women’s rights movement. Louisa invited Margaret to her house and let her borrow books about working people’s rights and socialism which began to really inspire young Margaret’s mind.

Continue reading Margaret Bondfield