Mary Quaile Club event: Women and Music, 19th October 2019

Women and Music, Friends Meeting House, Manchester.  Saturday 19th October, 2.30pm.

Kelly Wood, Michael Herbert, Lucy Whitman

Our first speaker was Kelly Wood from the Musician’s Union, who  works in the union’s  Live Performance department, advising musicianson on all elements of gigging & touring. She explained what the union was doing to support women  in the music industry in the wake of #MeToo.  One initiative was to set up a dedicated email address – –  which encourages women  to come forward with their experiences of sexism and harassment

Kelly was involved in the creation of the MU’s Fair Play Guide, which outlines how musicians can work with promoters/venue owners to find fair gig deals. The MU has now launched a Fair Play Venue database whereby artists can search for venues across the UK that have committed to the terms of the FPG. In order to help musicians in promoting their shows and growing their audiences, Kelly recently worked with Jay Taylor (Night & Day) to create a workshop,    How to Win Friends and Influence Promoters, which has been delivered several times over the past year to MU members and at wider industry conferences and events.

Overall she felt that women had made gains in recent years  but there was still much to do!

Our second speaker was writer and cultural commentator Lucy Whitman, a co-founder of Rock Against Sexism, who  give an illustrated history of the movement, setting it in the context of the feverish cultural and political climate of the late 1970s when she called herself  Lucy Toothpaste and created a feminist, anti-racist, anti-fascist fanzine, JOLT. She also  joined Rock Against Racism (RAR) which started in 1976 in reaction to a growing tide of racism against a background of  unemployment and the growth in support for the National Front.

Lucy   wrote extensively for the RAR magazine, Temporary Hoarding, and then helped to found Rock Against Sexism (RAS), writing for and co-editing the RAS magazine, Drastic Measures. some copies of which she brought along to show the audience. The aims of RAS were:

1, to fight sexism in rock music and use rock musicto fight   sexism in the world at large

2. to challenge the stereotype images ov women and men and promote a more postive image of women in rock

3. to  attack the exploitation of women  in advertising, in the press and on the stage

4. to encourage women musicians by giving them more opportunity to play

5. to assert the right of everyome to determine their own sexuality

She stressed the grassroots  nature of RAS, mirroring RAR, with local groups forming and then  organising gigs. Amongst other campaigns, RAS gave a lot of support for the National Abortion Campaign which  was fighting attempts to limit abortion.

After both speakers there was a lively and informative discussion  with the audience, chaired by Michael Herbert (Mary Quaile Club)

Thanks to our speakers Kelly  and Lucy and to the Friends  for their hospitality and technical assistance.

nb  Lucy is still writing, these days focusing on the experiences of people affected by dementia. Her books Telling Tales About Dementia: Experiences of Caring and People with Dementia Speak Out, are both published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. Lucy’s website is:

This is our last  event for 2019. We are planning  events for 2020.

Tagged with: , , , ,
Posted in Feminism, Music, women's history

Mary Quaile Club event on 3rd August 2019: Sheila Rowbotham in conversation

On Saturday 3rd August 2019 we held a meeting with Sheila Rowbotham, socialist feminist, historian and activist, to maek  the re-publication of her autobiography Promise of a Dream: Remembering the Sixties.

The room was packed with women and men who listened intently as Sheila explained how and why she decided to write her autobiography. Many women activists fail to do so, like Mary Quaile, and there is a massive gap in radical history because of women’s lack of confidence or lack of support to do so.

Sheila decided to write up her memories of the 1960s because “like many people who have lived through the sixties, I feel that my memories of what has happened then have been swallowed several times over.” She condemned the way the politics and social radicalism of the era was being entombed “under the waste deposits of Conservatism, sixties pop culture was sent off to rehab.”

In Promise of a Dream she writes her own history of the 60s putting those thoughts, ideas and actions within a wider social and historical context. In the meeting local feminists of different generations read out extracts from the book.

The audience was made up of women who have come through feminism from their own perspective.  Older feminists talked about their lives and the restrictions that girls faced in this era from the education they received to the subservient position within the law.

Feminists who had followed down the same path as Sheila spoke of their experiences and that they, like Sheila, were now part of a radical past.  Some of them are still involved in campaigns defending the NHS and were concerned about the lack of other women taking part.

Ex-students of Sheila, from her time at Manchester University, remembered being taught and inspired by her teaching. A Chinese woman spoke of her own experience on Sheila’s course and her feelings about how life for  women in China  had deteriorated as capitalism has taken over society. Younger women spoke about their commitment to campaigns such as Reclaim the Night.

Overall the event was inspiring, educational and hopefully will encourage everyone to write up their political activity and become more active as feminists and socialists.




Some other reading material:

An interview with Sheila in the Morning Star.

Sheila’s article in Black Dwarf, January 1969.  “Women: the struggle for Freedom

Lorna Finlayson’s review in LRB see

Ruth Pearson’s article “A feminist analysis of neo-liberal politcs and austerity.”


Tagged with: ,
Posted in Book launch, Mary Quaile club meeting, women's history, Women's Liberation

Mary Quaile Club event: book launch with Kate Hunter 13th July 2019


We were delighted to welcome Kate Hunter to discuss her  new novel Common Cause, a sequel to her first novel The Case Room,  published by Fledgling Press. Both novels   are set in Edinburgh, beginning in the 1890s, and follow the fortunes of Isa, who very unsually is working as skilled compositor in the male -dominated world of printing.

In conversation with Bernadette Hyland Kate explained that  she had became interested in this topic when she learned from the 1911 census  that her grand-mother had been a compositor. She had done some  extensive research in Scottish archives and had also done a type-setting course.   Kate  had begun writing after retiring from work.

There was a good discussion with the audience and all agreed that it  had been a very enjoyable event.

Both novels can be ordered  from News From Nowhere bookshop,

Our thanks to Kate and Clare  from Fledgling Press for journeying down with the books.



Kate and Bernadette

Tagged with: , ,
Posted in Book launch, novels, women's history

Mary Quaile Club event on 6th April 2019: Launch of our new publication ““For the sake of the women who are to come after” Manchester’s Radical Women 1914 to 1945.

      Michael Herbert, Ciara O Sullivan and Zoe Iqbal

On Saturday 6th  April the Mary Quaile Club launched its latest publication; “For the sake of the women who are to come after” Manchester’s Radical Women 1914 to 1945.

Author and socialist historian  Michael Herbert explained how the book was a culmination of his research and the radical history courses that he has run over the last four years. It is a sequel to his previous work “Up Then Brave Women” (2012) which told the story of Manchester’s radical women from the fields of Peterloo in 1819 up to the partial suffrage victory of 1918 when women aged over 30 gained the vote.

Beautifully designed by Mike Carter the book and the women’s stories are brought to life by some wonderful photographs. They show the hardships faced by the political women,  but also their hopes and joys for the future.

In the book we learn of the women who  campaigned during the First World war for a  just and lasting peace that would prevent another such war: went on a delegation to Ireland in 1920 to investigate what was happening; supported miners and their families during the Miners’ Lockout in 1926:  marched from the north to London  on Hunger Marches  in the 1930s, went to Spain to serve as nurses during the Spanish Civil War, opposed the fascist Blackshirts;  and discussed the role of  women workers  during the Second World War  in the Lancashire Women’s Parliament.

Michael dramatised the book  with  photographs and films of the era while  actor Zoe Iqbal read the words of the women themselves  and led the audience in some impromptu chanting of a slogan used by women marching in the 1930s:

Work Work Work

We want work

                                                                                         And an end to the Means Test

                                                                             Slave camps and the rest!


The Mary Quaile is indebted to 3MT for the venue and John Topliff for his technical support.

To buy the  book  please contact us directly at

Price £5.95 plus postage.

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Book launch, women's history

“You Can’t Kill the Spirit”: our celebration of International Women’s Day 2019

Our IWD event  You Can’t Kill the Spirit celebrated the history and contemporary actions of women from the Pit Campaigns of 1992-3 to women today active in trade unions and a new Manchester feminist magazine.

Our first speaker was Debbie Mathews,  one of the women who set up pit camps in 1992-3 to stop the closure of 31 viable coal mines across the country. Refusing to accept the Tory Government’s death sentence on their local pit at Houghton Main in Sheffield  they sprang into action,  building a community campaign based on principles learnt from the  1984-5 Miner’s Strike, the Greenham Common campaign and the peace movement.  Collectively they set up home with donated portacabin and a brazier to establish a 24/7 camp at the gates of Houghton Main, their local pit.

In You Can’t Kill the Spirit the women have documented how they built the campaign,  bringing together the local community,  including children. The book is an important self-help manual for today’s campaigns and is an important part of working class history – celebrating the role of women and their imagination, resilience and dignity. More information about the book here.

Our second speaker was Sarah Woolley, a full-time officer for the Bakers’ Union (BFAWU) ,who  continued on the theme of the importance of women organising. She spoke about the incredible contribution made by young women in her union in the strikes against McDonalds. She stated that it was not just a national campaign for better pay and conditions, but an international one that had made links across the world with American McDonald workers. Find out more  about BFAWU here

Our final speakers  were Katy and Naomi from the new Manchester feminist collective, online magazine and podcast  Make More Noise.  They talked about their inspiration for the magazine  and podcasts and their  womanifesto of demands for justice and equality. Katy and Naomi  encouraged women in the audience to get involved in feminist activism. You can read Make More Noise here.

Our speakers were followed by a discussion with  the audience.

At the end the chair Bernadette from the Mary Quaile Club thanked the speakers and reminded the audience of our next event on  6th  April, 7pm,   at Three Minute Theatre,   the launch of our new publication. “For the sake of the women who are to come after” : Manchester’s Radical Women 1914-45.

Sarah, Katy, Naomi, Bernadette and Debbie

Tagged with:
Posted in Feminism, women's history

Mary Quaile Club/NUJ event, 10th November 2018. Northern Radicalism in 1907: birth of the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester & Birth of the National Union of Journalists.

John Harding

Our joint event with the Manchester and Salford Branch of the National Union of Journalists explored the vibrant radical history of 1907 in the Manchester area.

Our first speaker  was  John Harding  who discussed his latest book Staging Life The Story of the Manchester Playwrightsthe story of  the wonderful world of Annie Horniman who spent her inherited wealth on setting up and running the Manchester Gaiety Theatre. John showed how the Gaiety Theatre was an important cultural centre for the growing radical movement, attracting writers who would explore controversial issues,  including the right wing press, the oppression of women and exploitation of poor people. The Manchester group of playwrights included the journalist Harry Richardson.

Our next speaker, veteran NUJ activist, Tim Gopsill (author of Journalists: 100 years of the NUJ),  reminded the audience that Manchester was the birthplace of the NUJ with many leading figures working to set up the union in 1907, including William Newman Watts, Frank Rose and Harry Richardson .He then spoke about the challenges facing the union in a era of declining newspaper sales and the mushrooming of media on the internet.

From the floor Conrad Bower and James Baker  of Manchester independent media  The Meteor explained how they were going to set up a co-operative to run the publication in 2019. This would ensure that challenging investigative journalism would exist in Manchester,  but most importantly it would pay journalists to take up this important work.

Tim Gopsill

Thanks to John and Gina and the wonderful 3MT who provided the venue and wonderful hospitality.

Thanks to Kath Grant and Manchester  and Salford NUJ  for their support for this meeting.

The Meteor (thanks to James Baker for photo)

Tagged with: ,
Posted in Book launch, Media and Press, Public Meeting, theatre, trade unions, trdae union history, working class history

Mary Quaile Club event: Saturday 6th October, “Dreams and Nightmares: Feminist Utopias and Dystopias”

This event took place in a new venue for us, Levenshulme Old Library, on Cromwell Grove now running as a community space.

Una, Michael and Ciara

Our  two guest speakers were  Una McCormack and Ciara O’Sullivan. This session was chaired by Michael Herbert.

Una is a lecturer in creative writing at Anglia Ruskin University. Her  academic interests include women’s science fiction and fanfiction, and she is the author of a dozen  science fiction novels,  including  Royal Blood  and The King’s Dragon set in the world of Doctor Who. Her Doctor Who audio adventure Red Planets, featuring the Seventh Doctor and Ace, was published by Big Finish in August  2018.    

In her talk she discussed  the  work of the pre-war novelist Katharine Cade, who wrote under numerous pen-names, but is perhaps best known under her pseudonym Murray Constantine. Between 1922 and 1940 she published 10 novels, increasingly with anti-Nazi themes. Una discussed her best known work,  Swastika Night (1937),  set in a Nazi world  700 years in the future  in which Hitler is worshipped as a god and women are   brutalised as breeding stock.She   also discussed Proud Man (1934) and The End of this Day’s Business, written in 1935,  but unpublished until the 1980s, which is a companion piece to Swastika Night.

Ciara  is a founder member of the Mary Quaile Club. She began with a short survey of  some less well known women’s utopia and dystopia writings. These included:

The Blazing World by Margaret Cavendish (1666)
The Book of the City of Ladies by Christine de Pizan (1405)
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892)
New Amazonia by Elizabeth Burgoyne  Corbette (1889)

She then went on to speak about  two novels: Herland by Charlotte Gilman Perkins (1915) set  in an undiscovered country of women  without men into which three men  make their way and are confronted with a society in which they have no role; and Woman on the Edge of Time by Marge Piercy  (1976)  set in the  USA in the 1970s where Consuela Ramos struggles against oppression and mental illness  and in 2137 where society is run on equal, communitarian and environmental  lines  and which  Consuela is able to visit  from time to time in the company of Luciente.

After discussion we  adjourned for tea or coffee and biscuits, and excellent they were too. During the break audience members wrote their suggestions for utopias on post-it notes  which were put on a wall. We then reconvened and discussed these  ideas,  with Ciara chairing the session.

We reproduce the post-it notes below (thanks to Ciara for creating this excellent  display).

Our thanks to Ciara and Zoe for arranging things at the library and to everyone who attended this thought-provoking event.


Further Reading

Michael writes a blog on science fiction Fantasies of Possibility  which includes reviews of many books by women, including those published by Women’s Press in the 1980s.

Utopian Fiction website has many references to novels by women, including.

The New Atalantis by Delarivier Manley (England, 1709)

Three Hundred Years Hence by Mary Griffith (USA, 1836)

Mizora: World of Women by Mary E. Bradley Lane (USA, 1881)

Unveiling a Parallel by Alice Ilgenfritz Jones and Ella Merchant (USA, 1893)

Moving the Mountain by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (USA, 1911)

With Her in Ourland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (USA, 1916)

Metropolis by Thea von Harbou (Germany, 1926)

Anthem by Ayn Rand (USA, 1938)

Kallocain by Karin Boye (Sweden, 1940)

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson (USA, 1948)

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (USA, 1957)

The Female Man by Joanna Russ (USA, 1970)

The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin (USA, 1974)

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Canada, 1985)

Always Coming Home by Ursula Le Guin (USA, 1985)

The Children of Men by P.D. James (England, 1992)

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (Canada, 2003)

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (USA, 2008)

Divergent by Veronica Roth (USA, 2011)

MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood (Canada, 2013)

We are  very pleased to acknowledge the support given to this event by Burnley branch of Unite , Merseyside Civil Engineering branch of Unite, Preston 0754 branch of Unite, Manchester EMS branch of Unite,  North West  Retired Members branch of Unite, NW/1400/5 branch of Unite,  Fylde Coast  branch of Unite,  Sainsbury’s branch of Unite, Central Manchester branch of unite, Greater Manchester Social Action branch of Unite, Chorley branch of Unite  and Barrow branch of Unite.

Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Mary Quaile club meeting, novels, women's history

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow us on Twitter!