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Wednesday’s wise women … in the Trade Union

June 12, 2013


Annie Kenney like Hannah Mitchell became active in the Suffragette movement from the shop floor.  Unlike Mrs Pankhurst, her daughter, Christabell and the likes of Emily Wilding Davison who were from the middle classes, able to afford private education and were now able to benefit from further education at University and of course unable to vote and partake in matters of state..

Hannah Mitchell after only two weeks of education fled the repression of home for the drudgery of domestic service and the misery of a clothing sweatshop.  She married and had a child, but her commitment to fight against sex and class discrimination remained, as Labour Party campaigner and writer.  

Annie Kenney began  her campaign a bit sooner.  After meeting Mrs Pankhurst and becoming a Trade Unionist  she began speaking out for women at Fair grounds and public places around Manchester.  Soon she was encouraged to canvas for new members.  Before long she was canvassing for herself.  It had come to her notice that while there were 96,000 women members of the union there wasn’t a woman official.  At a coming election there were two vacant seats and three candidates.  After a show of hands on election night Annie was top of the poll.  As a committee member she was required to meet with the other members weekly.  They would hear cases of injustice and pay ‘out of work’ money.  She was paid a shilling for each meeting attended.  

Annie wanted to learn more about the history and the aims of Trade Unionism so joined a correspondence course at Ruskin College.  

Meanwhile she was mentored by a constitutional Trade unionist, Mr Crinnion,  whom she described as a friend to the factory women.  He took her to meetings and encouraged her to speak with women and explain the benefits of cooperation.

Annie in her memories  suggests that the Trade Unionism then was absolutely genuine; in its objectives to protect the workers against real injustice. The funds were for those out of work..   She went on to say that now (some 10 years later in 1924) the whole movement seemed to be one of mild revolution, and the one word that is used for all purposes was strikes!

She thought that may be Trade Unionism had had its day, that the State may have to undertake the work that undertaken by the movement in the past.  Now that there was a Insurance Act, Unemployment Act and the relief work that had been done by the Trade Union has been taken over by the state.  Now women had the vote and a legitimate member of the state it should offer the protection that the Union had provided before.

Please note I have missed out the the fight that occurred during this time to enable women to find themselves in the care of the state!

I will return …

2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 12, 2013 9:19 am

    Having just finished Tony Benn’s ‘Free At Last’ I can agree with some of the sentiments expressed by the subject of your article. The trade unions seemed to become hag-ridden and developed into something less chivalrous than was originally intended, though I doubt Tony Benn would agree with me. Times have changed, and people too, but that’s progress – or so we’re told. Thanks for visiting my post.

    • June 12, 2013 9:34 am

      Did you read his mother’s book … its title escapes me? It was a good read too!

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