Women Chainmakers and Mary Macarthur
Mary Macarthur addressing the crowd in Cradley Heath during the women chainmakers’ strike of 1910.
One of a set of five celebrating the successful strike in 1910 by the women chainmakers in Cradley Heath. Produced in conjunction with Midlands TUC.
Photograph reproduced with the kind permission of the Black Country Living Museum
Original photography by Edwin Beech/M Hessey 1910
Cradley Heath women chainmakers’ strike of 1910
“Sweated labour” was a feature of many trades at the beginning of the twentieth century. The 1909 Trade Board Act created the Chain Trade Board which set a minimum rate of pay for mainly women chainmakers working at home or small factories. Most employers resisted and used underhand methods to deny the often illiterate women workers their rights.
The National Federation of Women Workers called upon the women to stop work. Although most of the women who responded were members of NFWW, many were not and they and their families faced severe deprivations. The NFWW ran a successful campaign, increasing the number of women on strike, recruiting members and drawing in financial and moral support from across the country.
The strike was to have significance far beyond Cradley Heath – enforcing a national minimum wage for their trade.
"Women are unorganised because they are badly paid, and poorly paid because they are unorganised.” (Mary Macarthur)