next Mary Quaile Club event: “You Can’t Kill the Spirit” a celebration of International Women’s Day, Saturday 9th March, 2.30pm

International Women’s Day was founded by socialist women as a working women’s day. Not just about winning the right to vote, it wanted to turn the world upside down! To overthrow capitalism and promote  socialism. And to abolish the wage slavery of workers and the domestic slavery of women.

In 2019 we are celebrating the lives of women who have campaigned for a better future for all; encompassing ideas of community, justice and solidarity.  A new book by the women who organised the Women’s Pit Campaigns in 1992-3 called “You Can’t Kill the Spirit” has just been published.

One of the women involved, Debbie Mathews,  who was involved in the Houghton Main Pit Camp in Sheffield, will speak about how they challenged the closure of the coal mines  using principles influenced by the women’s peace movement;  including non-violent protest, creativity and sharing skills.

Lynne, one of the  campaigners, summed up their determination saying “The attempt to walk all over us, wipe us, our families, and our villages out has had the opposite effect…we are not bowed, not depressed, not about to admit defeat because we have got everything that is dear to us to fight for and absolutely nothing to lose.”

Read more about the book here

Other speakers, yet to be confirmed, will include women active in their trade union and  the new women’s movement.

Venue; Friends Meeting House, 6 Mount St., Manchester.

To book a place at this event: please email

Children leading a march through Houghton, 27 March 1993 (photo Martin Jenkinson)

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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)

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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.

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

Mary Quaile Club event on Saturday 19th May 2018. Northern launch of “Workers’ Play Time”

Doug Nicholls

At our latest event at Three Minute Theatre Suzanne Bury chaired an evening of speeches, drama and song to launch a book of radical plays “Worker’s Play Tme”  edited by  Doug Nicholls, General Secretary of the GFTU. We were very pleased  that  Doug  could join us. In his opening address he outlined how cultural and artistic expression has always been integral to labour movement struggles: “There have never been bread without roses,” he said, “and we need more of both.”

Three Minute Theatre’s own  in-house company, the Manchester Shakespeare Company, then dramatised excerpts from three of the plays included in  Worker’s Play Time. All three of them reflected the way in which women (and some men) have fought for justice in their pay packet and equality at work.

“The Chambermaids”, written in 1987, showed how a group of chambermaids took on the Trust House Forte empire when their shop steward was sacked. “Dare to Be Free” commissioned by the Mary Quaile Club told the story of Mary Quaile,  a forgotten Manchester Irish trade unionist,  and linked her struggle with today’s fast food  strikers.


Manchester Shakespeare Company and John Topliff

“Out on the Costa del Trico” was written by the Women’s Theatre Company in 1977 about the Trico strike of 1976 when 400 mainly women, who made  window screen wipers,  went on strike for equal pay. They won and  we were very  pleased  that Sally Groves, who was the publicity officer for the strikers and later became a shop steward  could join us.   Sally explained how they succeeeded after 21 weeks on strike but also pointed out  why it could not happen today with the legislation restricting trade union activity and  why such action is even more important in 2018.



Suzanne and Sally

Sally  explained how  the American multinational Trico totally underestimated the strength of the women. “They thought we would give up after we lost at Tribunal but not one of the women broke the strike and went back to work. In fact it just made us angrier and  more determined to stay out.” Next month a book about the strike written by Sally Groves and Vernon Merritt is being published Trico: A Victory to Remember  The 1976 Equal Pay Strike at Trico Folberth, Brentford.

Our thanks to Doug Nicholls, John and Gina at Three Minute Theatre,  the Manchester Shakespeare Company and Sally Groves.

You can buy Worker’s Play Time here.

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Posted in Book launch, trade unions, women's history, working class history

Mary Quaile Club event on 10th March 2018: Presentation of the Minutes of the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trades Union Council to the Working Class Movement Library


At this event we were delighted to formally present the minutes of the Manchester and Salford  and District  Women’s Trades Union Council   to the Working Class Movement Library.  These two handwritten volumes are the complete record of the meetings of the MSWTUC from 1895 to 1919. They came to light several years ago  during research for a pamphlet on Mary Quaile, who worked as an organiser for the Council from 1911-1919. It appears that she took the volumes with her when the MSWTUC merged with the Manchester and Salford Trades Council in April 1919, and the office was closed. Fortunately her family had  preserved them after Mary’s  death in 1958 and were kind enough  to give them to the Mary Quaile Club, who decided that their natural home was  the WCML.

The event took place in the WCML’s Annexe and was chaired by Ciara O’Sullivan from the  Mary Quaile Club, who welcomed the audience to the event. She introduced Maggie Cohen, chair of the Trustees of the  WCML, who spoke about how delighted the library was to receive the minutes,   and the importance of the stories contained in their pages, which  she illustrated with a number of examples.

She was followed by Bernadette Hyland from the Mary Quaile Club,  who has transcribed the whole  of the minutes (130,00 words) for a website on the MSWTUC. She began by stating that,  “The history of the MSWTUC is a reminder of how a small group of determined working and middle  class women and men working together could make a real difference to the lives of working women.” She went on to give a short account  of  the history  of the Council, which had been set up in February 1895 by middle-class philanthropists such as C P Scott and Julia Gaskell.   The stated  aim  of the MSWTUC, she explained,   was “to bring trade unionism within the reach of scattered individuals working in unorganised trades and to draft them off into their own trade unions.”

The work of the MSWTUC was carried out by a number of organisers, who,  during the life-time of the Council,  included Olive Aldridge  Frances Ashwell, Sarah Dickenson and Eva Gore-Booth.  The offices were at 9 Albert Square: for most of the life of the Council they did not have a telephone or even a typewriter. Bernadette  noted that, “These women worked extremely hard. They had to travel on public transport everywhere; they worked long hours, they were often not allowed on the premises of workplaces to talk to women and had to meet with them at their homes or in the evenings in the office.” Some of the unions they organised included Cigar-makers, Fancy Box Makers,  Tailoresses and Upholsteresses. In 1902 they helped set a Weavers’ Union in Salford which soon had 800 members.

Joan and Bernadette

In the autumn of 1904 the Council split acrimoniously over the issue of adopting “Votes for Women” as an aim, a proposal put forward by Christabel Pankhurst. When this  was rejected at a Council  meeting by 4 votes to 2, Sarah Dickenson and Eva Gore-Booth resigned their posts with the MSWTUC and were joined by seven unions. They set up a a new body: the Manchester and Salford  Women’s Trades and Labour Council. For this part of her talk Bernadette was joined by actress Joan McGee,  who read out some of the letters and minutes relating to the split. Bernadette  explained that with the passage of time the two Women’s  Trades Councils began working together, particularly during the First World War.


She ended  her talk optimistically,  noting that groups of  women workers  eg the LSE cleaners in London, the Durham TAs,  the St. Barts hospital workers  in London,  and McDonalds workers had been fighting back,  using social media to meet up and organise as well as taking part in strikes and demos. “They are the inheritors of the MSWTUC,” she concluded, “they are the modern day Mary Quailes who believe that trade unions are as  important for women as women are for the trade union movement.”


Bernadette  was followed by Lauren McCourt, an activist in BFAWU,  who has been organising in McDonalds. Lauren  noted the similarities between  the situation for workers described by Bernadette – and the situation in 2018. She explained that many young people had little or no idea of what a trade union was,  but were responsive  to initiatives to address low wages, zero hours contracts, poor working conditions and bullying. Despite the difficulties she was  positive that things could change for the better, if people got organised.


Dorothy, Bernadette, Maggie, Lauren and Ciara

After a short discussion  the audience adjourned to the main building for refreshments and to look at the minutes and letters which  had been placed on display in the foyer.

Our thanks to Joan McGee and Lauren,  and to Maggie, Eleanor, Chris  and Elaine from the WCML.  We must also thank  Lindsey and Jane, two members of staff at the WCML,   who created a wonderful display of the minutes,  letters, photos and other items.

The MSWTUC  minutes  may be read in their entirety here.








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Posted in Mary Quaile club meeting, trdae union history, women's history, working class history

Mary Quaile Club event: A Celebration of Thomas Paine’s birthday, 27 January 2018

“The world is my country”: a celebration of the life and writings of Thomas Paine, “the most valuable Englishman ever”

Thomas  Paine (1737 to 1809), the author of  Commonsense, The Rights of Man, etc  was perhaps the most influential radical writer these islands have ever produced. He took part in the American and French Revolutions and almost started a British Revolution.  Forced to flee his native country in 1792 he never returned and died in the USA.

In the 1820s the  followers of Richard Carlile (who called themselves Republicans)  began celebrating Thomas Paine’s birthday at the end of January.  We decided to revive the custom and organised a joint event with the Working Class Movement Library which  took place in the Annexe at the library.

The event was chaired by  Bernadette Hyland from the Mary Quaile Club who welcomed the audience to the event. She was followed  by three  speakers:

Michael Herbert, a historian and organiser of Red Flag Walks,  spoke about the celebrations of  Thomas Paine’s birthday by radicals in Manchester,  London  and elsewhere, who held dinners with numerous toasts.


Mandy Vere from Liverpool’s News from Nowhere bookshop,  spoke about the history of the shop, founded in the 1970s, how it had faced and  survived many  challenges,  and its contribution to the radical culture of the city which continues to-day.


Trevor Griffiths, author of a play about Thomas Paine, These are the Times. Trevor was born in Manchester and has written extensively for televison, film and the theatre from the 1970s onwards. His other work includes OccupationsAll Good MenThrough the Night, Comedians, Reds (1981) (directed by Warren Beatty), Food for Ravens and the series Bill Brand (1976) in which Jack Shepherd starred as a left-wing Labour MP.

Trevor  spoke about the importance of Paine’s work and thought and read some extracts from his play.

The speakers were followed by a discussion  with contributions from the audience.

Geoff Brown proposing a toast to workers on strike.

We then adjourned to the main building where we enjoyed  tea and cakes. David Ward from the Thomas Paine Society  then  proposed a toast to Thomas Paine and this was followed by a number of others.

Our thanks to Royston Futter, Trustee of the WCML,   for  opening up the library and his  assistance in making the event success,  and to Gill Griffiths,   and  to Suzanne Bury for her homemade biscuits.


The WCML has a very good Thomas Paine collection which is open to readers by prior appointment.

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Mary Quaile Club event: 30th September 2017

Our event on 30 September 2017 –  Fighting Unemployment, Poverty  and Austerity –  took place against the background of the introduction of the horrendous change to the social security system ie. Universal Credit and the annual Tory Conference which was taking  place down the road in Manchester. It was held in the Annexe at the Working Class Movement Library.

The WCML was founded by Ruth and Eddie Frow, communists who believed that the world could be turned upside down to  favour the masses and not the millionaires.  Eddie’s politics were shaped by his experiences as a victimised engineer who played a key role in the National Unemployed Workers’ Movement. Just across the road from the WCML in 1931 took place the Battle of Bexley Square where police attacked protestors,  including Eddie,  who was framed and sent down for 4 months for his political activity.

Our first speaker was Sean Mitchell, activist in People Before Profit, and author of Struggle or Starve, Working Class Unity in Belfast in  1932, published by Haymarket Books.  He brought to life the story of how Protestant s and Catholics  united to demand equality and justice in the Poor Law system. Through first hand accounts and original research Sean told the story of charismatic leader Tommy Geehan who led and help win the demands for a fairer poor law system.

Charlotte Hughes from Tameside against the Cuts,  then reminded us of how the social security system is going backwards in its treatment of poor people. She spoke about individual cases  she has encountered and how her group works to support individuals as well as publicising their activities through her blog,  The Poor Side of Life.

Our final speaker was Chris Rea, chair of  Manchester and Salford branch of the National Union of Journalists,  who  spoke about how his union was challenging media stereotyping of poor people through its initiative of the Reporting Poverty Guidelines. Crucially the guidelines were developed in partnership with the Church Action on Poverty and have now become part of the national NUJ guidelines for all media workers.

We then had a discussion on the issues raised by our speakers,  and the meeting finished with a collection towards Charlotte’s blog. Charlotte does not get paid for  writing this,  so please read it, and   make a contribution if you can afford to.


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Posted in Austerity, Book launch, Fighting austerity, Mary Quaile club meeting, Unemployment

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