Today UNISON Northern is celebrating International women’s day and recognising the amazing role of women in our union.
International women’s day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
We want to remember the women whose stories are rarely told.
Stories like that of Emma Paterson (nee- Smith) 1848-1886 who worked to encourage the formation of trade unions for women workers. Emma played a supporting role in the 1875 Dewsbury Weavers’ Strike when women struck after a reduction in wages. The women developed a highly organised response and after six weeks of lock out, obtained concessions from the employers. Emma and other women founded another organisation in Bristol, the National Union of Working Women (NUWW). The NUWW argued for representation at the Trades Union Congress and Emma and Edith Simcox became the first ever women delegates to the TUC, attending the Congress held in Glasgow in October 1875.
How well known is the match girls strike of 1888? Women standing together, to protest at the long working hours, with poor pay in awful working conditions which was killing and maiming their friends, by the end of the first day around 1400 women and girls refused to work.
Did you know that the first strike for equal pay was taken by 1500 women card –setters in Yorkshire in 1832!
What about Margaret Bondfield- who is she? Well, in 1929 Margaret became the first female cabinet minister! She was a labour MP for Northampton. Becoming active in the trade union movement in 1894 Margaret agitated the shop workers union and soon became assistant general secretary. She went on to form the first all female trade union – the national federation of women workers.
These are just a few women who fought for change and equality. UNISON Northern will continue to recognise the role of all women in our trade union and labour movement who continue to campaign for equality and social justice.