Issue date
10 Jun 2019

In the Autumn of 1910 the Women Chainmakers of Cradley Heath focused the World’s attention on the plight of Britain’s low paid women workers. In their back yard forges hundreds of women laid down their tools to strike for a living wage.

Led by the charismatic union organiser and campaigner Mary Macarthur, the women’s struggle became a national and international cause célèbre. Mary led the Women to demand that the minimum rate of pay set by the Chain Trade Board was implemented fairly. 
 

Mary Macarthur addressing the crowds
Mary Macarthur addressing the crowds during the Chainmakers strike 1910 ©RexxS

After ten long weeks they won the dispute and increased their earnings from as little as 5 shillings (25p) to 11 shillings (55p) a week. This was all the more remarkable because the women worked at home, or in small factories and had no history of working together to achieve a common goal. Using her 'bundle of sticks' analogy, Mary was able to convince the women about the strength of solidarity, empowering them to achieve wonderous results and lay the foundations of equality for future generations.

Their victory helped to make the principle of a national minimum wage a reality. We have such a lot to thank them all for.

TUC Women Chainmakers' Festival

Every year in July residents of Cradley Heath in the West Midlands take a step back in time, in honour of the women who fought to secure better rights for female workers, as part of the Women Chainmakers’ Festival. 

The annual event, which takes place on Cradley Heath High Street, recognises the efforts of trade unionist and women’s rights campaigner, Mary Macarthur, and women across the county, who successfully campaigned to abolish exploitative wages within their industry by staging a ten-week strike in 1910.

The family street festival will involves market stalls, debates, street theatre, music and speeches from influential figures.

For more information please contact organisers Midlands TUC, 0121 2626380, rjohnston@tuc.org.uk