Women Chainmakers and Mary McCarthur 2013
Mary Macarthur addressing the crowd in Cradley Heath during the women chainmakers’ strike, 1910.
Produced in 2013 to celebrate the successful strike in 1910 by the women chainmakers in Cradley Heath. Produced in conjunction with Midlands TUC.
For current information about the festival look here. http://womenchainmakersfestival.blogspot.co.uk/
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 (NFWW) 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)
The Friends of the Women Chainmakers
Formed in early 2014, this community based group was set up to promote the legacy of the women chainmakers and to support the annual TUC Chainmaker's Festival. The group also aims to raise awareness of past and present women’s issues in the workplace and beyond.
There is a programme of regular monthly meetings and the group is currently investigating applying for Heritage Lottery Funding to refurbish a chain shop in Old Hill.
Details can be sought from Midlands TUC and at