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Meeting Report - October 2017

Around 50 members and visitors attended the meeting of the Romsley and Hunnington History Society on Tuesday 24th October. The speaker for the evening was Margaret Bradley and her very interesting talk was on, "The Cradley Women Chainmakers' Strike of 1910."

After the talk we found ourselves asking if we would work for 10 hours a day, doing hard physical work, in a hot smoky atmosphere, hammering iron rods into chain, for tuppence halfpenny an hour? This was the fate of the women chainmakers of Cradley, AFTER the strike of 1910!

For many years Cradley and Cradley Heath had been the centre of the important chainmaking industry. There were many different types of chain, the men made the heavy chain while the women made the smaller chain, in the Chainshops or in the forges in their back yards. The slavish conditions were primitive and unsanitary. The women, and sometimes their children, worked long hours making chain, as well as cooking and washing for their family, all for a pittance. They were at the mercy of the Foggers, the men who supplied them with iron rods.

In the early 1900s, Mary MacArthur, who formed the National Federation of Women Workers, began to campaign for a minimum wage. By 1910, conditions and pay in Cradley had become so bad for the women that they decided to go on strike. Mary MacArthur came to Cradley to support them and the strike lasted eight weeks. They achieved a minimum wage of tuppence halfpenny an hour and went back to their hard labours. By standing together, the women of Cradley had won a magnificent fight for humanity and the rights of women in the workplace. Looking back we have to admire their spirit and determination and wonder if we would have been so resilient to such hardship. However, many of the women lived to a ripe old age, enjoying the companionship of the community despite the adversity!

The next meeting of the Society will be on Tuesday, 28th November at 7.30 p.m., when Alan Peace will give a talk on, Himley Hall – Past, Present and Future. Everyone is welcome.

Pat Evans

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