A St Albans writer and historian will have the opportunity to speak about women’s bravery during the Bryant and May matchwomens’ Strike with Members of Parliament next week.
Dr Louise Raw will discuss her book Striking a Light, where she explores the way East End Victorian women changed the world for working people when they took a stand against intolerable working conditions, with MPs on Wednesday, March 19.
After researching the strike for ten years, her work was debated in the House of Commons in October last year with Minister Ed Vaizey calling her an ‘excellent historian’ and calls from nine MPS for her findings to be on the school curriculum.
Striking matchwomen marched to Parliament in July 1888 and met with MPs, which later blew the whistle on the truth behind the huge profits Bryant and May enjoyed.
Although historians had traditionally dismissed the women’s victory as ‘minor’ Ms Raw discovered a wild and wonderful army of women, 1,400 strong, who loved a night out and a big hat, but had the strength to defend themselves and each other against injustice.
Dr Raw found that their inspiration was freely acknowledged by workers’ leaders at the time and was undoubtedly the match that struck the tinder of the movement for workers’ rights.
Since the success of the book, now in its fifth reprint, Dr Raw been asked to speak all over the UK, Europe and the US, and last year organised a sell-out festival to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the women’s courageous stand.
The festival in London was attended by 700 people and hosted bands, poets including former children’s Poet Laureate Michael Rosen, and speakers like Frances O’Grady, head of the TUC, and late Labour politician Tony Benn. The late Bob Crow also attended and praised the festival.