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Siu Index
April/May 2006 No.60

Sponsor a brick for Mary MacArthur

UNISON Scotland has backed a 'sponsor a brick' campaign to honour the memory of Scottish trade unionist Mary MacArthur.

In 1910 the women Chainmakers of Cradley Heath embarked upon a ten week lock-out, led by Mary MacArthur. The women's campaign and ultimate victory would establish the beginnings of Britain's minimum wage movement.

The strike, which attracted international support, raised almost £3,000 in strike funds - part of which was used to build the Worker's Institute in Lomey Town, Cradley Heath.

The Black Country Living Museum has now moved to rescue the building by re-locating it to the Museum's 26-acre open-air site in Dudley, hence the 'sponsor a brick' campaign.

Mary Macarthur, was born in Glasgow in 1880. She became active in the shopworkers union and the Independent Labour Party in London where she worked with two other Scots, James Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald.

Mary was involved in the Exhibition of Sweated Industries in 1905 and in forming the Anti-Sweating League in 1906. The following year she founded the Women Worker, a newspaper for women trade unionists. She was an inspirational figure and recruited many women into the movement.

Active in the fight for the vote, she was opposed to accepting the franchise for only certain categories of women. This made her unpopular with middle class suffragettes who saw limited suffrage as an important step in the struggle to win the vote.

As Mary MacArthur died at the young age of 40 she has been largely forgotten by the general public.

Mary MacArthur's story is one UNISON Scotland wants to bring to a wider audience. For more on how you can sponsor a brick (for just £10) see www.bclm.co.uk.

For more information on Mary see www.electricscotland.com/history/women/wih28.htm

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