Women's Workplace Victories to Remember
Sally Groves, author of Trico: A Victory to Remember: The 1976 Equal Pay Strike at Trico Folberth, Brentford and Louise Raw, author of Striking a Light: The Bryant and May Matchwomen and their Place in History discuss their research and consider the role women have had, and continue to play, in workplace struggles.
When the Bryant and May matchwomen walked out of a Bow matchfactory on strike in 1888, even they would never have guessed they were about to launch a movement.
Their unprecedented victory against a cruelly exploitative, wealthy and very well-connected employers helped to change perceptions of working-class women. Previously, ‘factory lasses’ had been considered the ‘lowest of the low’ and ‘no better than they should be’. Now, they stood revealed as principled and articulate fighters for their sisters and their class. Louise Raw, author of Striking a Light, the only in-depth study of the strike, has campaigned for 20 years to have the magnitude of the matchwomen’s victory acknowledged. An activist and writer, Louise is also resident historian on BBC London’s Robert Elms show.
Throughout the long, hot summer of 1976 and beyond, an historic 21 week battle was fought at the Trico-Folberth in Brentford, West London, with the employer throwing everything it could at the strikers. This was the first time American-style picket-busting convoys of lorries and ‘scab’ labour was used against strikers who were mainly women. Sally Groves started working at Trico for the very sound reason that, having been offered two jobs, Trico’s hours allowed her an extra half-hour in bed. She became a stalwart union activist, the AUEW Strike Committee’s Publicity Officer, and, now, the co-author of aground-breaking biography of the strike. The story is highly relevant today, and a call-to-arms to everyone suffering inequality.