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Bryant & May matchwomen's strike, 1888.

Author: Louise Raw
Publisher: Wakefield, United Kingdom : Microform Academic Publishers, 2014.
Edition/Format:   eBook : Document : English
Summary:
"On the 2nd July 1888, around fourteen hundred mostly female workers from the Bryant & May match factory in Bow, London, went out on strike. The reasons for action were numerous. Wages had been driven to levels lower than they had been ten years previous, which was compounded by the increased imposition of fines and compulsory contributions upon its workforce. Conversely, it would be revealed by contemporaries such  Read more...
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Details

Genre/Form: History
Material Type: Document, Internet resource
Document Type: Internet Resource, Computer File
All Authors / Contributors: Louise Raw
OCLC Number: 900481992
Notes: "Part 5 of the BOA series People & Protest in Britain and Abroad, 1800-2000."
Holder of originals: C L R James Library, Hackney.
Description: 1 online resource
Contents: Early years --
Heyday --
The strike --
Aftermath --
Later years --
Present day sources.
Other Titles: Bryant and May matchwomen's strike, 1888
British online archives.

Abstract:

"On the 2nd July 1888, around fourteen hundred mostly female workers from the Bryant & May match factory in Bow, London, went out on strike. The reasons for action were numerous. Wages had been driven to levels lower than they had been ten years previous, which was compounded by the increased imposition of fines and compulsory contributions upon its workforce. Conversely, it would be revealed by contemporaries such as Annie Besant that Bryant & May shareholders enjoyed the pay-out of high dividends. Additionally, the grisly, and often fatal, industrial disease, phosphorous necrosis ('phossy jaw'), was a danger well known to the Bryant & May hierarchy though little counteraction had been taken. By the end of the two week action, however, the matchwomen had all their demands met, including a wage increase as well as the abolition of all fines, though phosphorous necrosis would remain an on-going issue until the use of white phosphorous in matches was finally banned in 1908. This was unexpected. Strikes by those low in the Victorian labour hierarchy rarely ended in victory for the workers. In addition, Bryant & May were immensely powerful and well-connected economic players: their importance to domestic and foreign markets would be acknowledged by successive governments, and policy on occasion modified to take the firm's interests into account. The directors had assiduously cultivated friends in very high places, with the Bryant family in particular becoming powerful individuals in their own right. The workers seemed at the outset considerably out-gunned; their employer's dismissive response to their initial demands seems to confirm that Bryant & May certainly believed this to be the case. Newspaper reports show that news of the surprising outcome spread far and wide, and were not lost on other groups of 'casual' workers. Both locally and further afield, they took their cue from the matchwomen's success and began to organise themselves into trade unions, often by taking action. The momentum begun by the matchwomen's action would build to become the New Unionism movement, recognized as the start of modern trade unionism. Broadly speaking, the unions that went before had been mostly concerned with protecting their members' labour price, often by controlling access to their professions. The 'New' unions would embrace wider class and political concerns, and this would ultimately lead to the creation of the Independent Labour Party in 1893, the first parliamentary party to dedicate itself to representing the interests of working class men and women. The matchwomen's strike was therefore a crucial turning-point in British labour history, but its import would not be fully recognised until new research, beginning in late 1990s, uncovered the full forgotten story. The records available here are derived chiefly from the Bryant & May company records (D/B/BRY) currently housed at the C L R James Library in Hackney, London. These records are supplemented by selected personal papers of the historian and author, Dr Louise Raw, whose research in recent years has done much to 'revise' the traditional historiography belonging to the strike. Accompanied by a guide and scholarly introduction to the collection by Dr Louise Raw, historian and author"--Collection metadata page.

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