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Match Women

Match Women


Saturday 5th July 2014

Mander Hall

Hamilton House, Mabledon Place



11AM to 9PM

Nearest stations: Euston and King’s Cross




The Legacy of the Matchwomen

In the summer of 1888, 1400 women walked out on strike over management bullying and appalling, hazardous working conditions. The women and girls working at Bryant & May’s match factory in London’s East End shocked the world, and ultimately changed it.

Working-class women at this time were supposed to be seen and not heard, especially if, like many matchwomen, they were of Irish heritage. Instead, the matchwomen paraded the streets of the East End, singing songs and telling the truth about their starvation wages and mistreatment by the firm.

They marched to Parliament, and their strength and solidarity won them better pay, safer conditions, and the right to form the largest union of women and girls in Britain.

They were an inspiration to other groups of workers up and down the country and throughout the world. The modern movement for workers’ rights had begun, and the matchwomen were at the forefront of it.

Last year’s first Matchwomen’s Festival marked the 125th anniversary of the Matchwomen’s Strike.

It was a brilliant day with around 700 visitors, including the late Bob Crow, and was one of Tony Benn’s last public engagements.

Since then, the importance of the matchwomen to British history has been acknowledged in Parliament with a debate devoted to them, and Labour MPs recommending that the book about them, Striking a Light, should be on the school syllabus. Minister Ed Vaizey replied that Michael Gove would read it: so far, no word on whether Mr Gove enjoyed it, but we wait with baited breath.

MPs also wanted to see a properly-worded blue plaque acknowledging the women’s courage at the old factory site, which Vaizey supported. Watch this space, or indeed, that space if you live nearby.

This year’s festival is smaller, but still perfectly formed. We have some wonderful speakers, songs from Tina McKevitt, and spoken word from Faisal Ali.

We’re excited to have the inspiring Sara Khan on the importance of making links with Muslim women, Sukhwant Dhaliwal on the work and history of Women Against Fundamentalism, eminent trade union and human rights barrister John Hendy QC, and the TUC’s Scarlet Harris.

Kate Connelly will speak on her book about the astonishing life of Sylvia Pankhurst,

Terry McCarthy will speak about the matchwomen-inspired London Dock Strike of 1889, on which he is an authority. Actor and director Kate Hardie will talk about her film Shoot Me, and Alex Wall will talk about working with people with eating disorders, and how they can affect us all.

Heather Wakefield and Caroline Raine have excellent records on organising trade union women, and will update us on the latest issues and disputes and how we can support them.

Louise Raw is the author of Striking a Light and speaks and writes on the Matchwomen, women, unions and history.  Diana Johnson MP was instrumental in bringing the Matchwomen’s legacy to the attention of parliament.


Special Guest:

Eam Rin

We welcome to the festival a very special guest. Eam is at the forefront of the dangerous struggle for workers’ rights in Cambodia, which has left 5 people dead this year alone. A garment sewer for 14 years and secretary of the Cambodian Democratic Union, Eam is visiting the UK to talk about the current brutal government crackdown on freedom of association.


The Line-up:

Tickets are £2 each for the whole day through Eventbrite, plus a small booking fee.


Bryant & May

Bryant & May


‘Human Herbs’ – a song by Cold Hands & Quarter Moon:

Posted here by Glenn Rikowski

Glenn Rikowski @ Academia:

Glenn Rikowski @ ResearchGate:

Online Publications at The Flow of Ideas:

The Flow of Ideas: