1896: Minutes of Manchester and Salford Women’s Trades Union Council


This is the second post of the Transcription Project and it is 1896. In 1896 the Council held its first Annual Meeting  in February and  began the year by joining together with other organisations to investigate the working conditions of women. These other organisations included the  Women’s Co-operative Guild and the Christian Social Union. Their investigations showed that some workers had been coerced by their employer into trying to change the Factory Act which would allow employers to get women to do home work after having worked long hours in the factory. All three organisations opposed home working.

In March the organising secretaries, Miss Sarah Welsh and Miss Frances Ashwell,  were busy holding meetings with workers in a variety of industries including Umbrella Workers, Tailoresses, Folders and Servers and Laundry Workers. They reported on a strike by female costume makers.

The question of the vote for women came up for the first time and the Council voted against supporting it because they felt it was “foreign to the purpose of the MSDWTUC”.

By June they had got the support of men in industries such as the bookbinding and printing trade to circulate information about setting up a women’s union in the industry with the male union actively encouraging women to join. This was no doubt because the male workers feared that the women would be used by the employers to  undercut their rates. The Council  decided it might be a good idea to draw up lists of “fair dealing” employers in industries such as laundries, tailoring and printing.

One of the big problems in organising women into unions was finding women who would take on the crucial role of secretary.

In September the organisers  concentrated on supporting home workers eg pocket handkerchief workers. They were also visiting places of work at dinner times in order to get women to join the union. At one meeting they increased the membership of the Shirt and Jacket Cutters and Shirt Makers Union by 40.

The Council   had to deal with an issue that was controversial and affected one of their organisers, Miss Sarah Welsh,  who had recently got married. Some of the members of the Council opposed married women working,  but this was a  minority. Conscious of this, Miss Welsh (now Mrs Dickenson) offered her resignation. A discussion was held but the issue was deferred for three months, and Mrs Dickenson stayed in her post. At the  next meeting in December, the members of the Council  voted unaminously for Mrs Dickenson to withdraw her resignation. They said that; “The Council value her services very highly and wish to retain them.”  They bought her a sewing machine as a wedding present.

Read about the MSWTUC Transcription Project here

Donations are welcome  to continue this project – there are 23 years of Minutes- please contact maryquaileclub@gmail.com

About lipstick socialist

I am an activist and writer. My interests include women, class, culture and history. From an Irish in Britain background I am a republican and socialist. All my life I have been involved in community and trade union politics and I believe it is only through grass roots politics that we will get a better society. This is reflected in my writing, in my book Northern ReSisters Conversations with Radical Women and my involvement in the Mary Quaile Club. .If you want to contact me please use my gmail which is lipsticksocialist636
This entry was posted in education, feminism, human rights, labour history, Manchester, political women, Salford, Socialism, Socialist Feminism, trade unions, Uncategorized, women, working class history, young people and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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