Mary Quaile Club event, 29th November 2020: book launch of “Anti-Nazi Germans.”

This event took place via Zoom.

We were delighted to be joined by Merilyn Moos and Steve Cushion,  authors of Anti-Nazi Germans,  and  very  pleased to organise a northern launch of this very important book. Merilyn and Steve are activists as well as historians.

In this fascinating talk they discussed their research concerning the resistance put up by individuals and by the German working class movement.

Merilyn highlighted the role of the young people who have often have been left out of the resistance story – the  Edelweiss Pirates- a working class group of people aged between 14 and 18. Criminalised by the Nazis and marginalised until 2005 these brave young people assaulted Hitler Youth Patrols, purchased firearms and committed burglary and theft.

Steve Cushion spoke about his research in France. He cycled around the country visiting resistance centres and unearthing research about the large number of foreign fighters in the liberation movement:  a subject that the establishment in France has  felt very uncomfortable with – particularly as  a good few French citizens had collaborated with the regime.

After the talk there was a discussion with a number of participants.

 You can watch the talk and discussion on Youtube  here

You can buy the book directly from Steve,  please email him for details:

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Posted in Anti-fascism, Book launch, working class history

Mary Quaile Club event: 7th March 2020. Visions of the Future: Feminism and Science Fiction

This event took place at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester.

We were delighted to welcome back lecturer  and novelist Una McCormack who spoke at our previous event on 6th October 2018:  “Dreams and Nightmares: Feminist Utopias and Dystopias,” on the pre-war feminist and pacifist writer Katharine Cade, better known as Murray Constantine. Her best known work is Swastika Night (1937), a dystopian  vision of the future 700 years hence in which Hitler is worshipped as a god.

Una has written many science fiction novels including both Star Trek and Doctor Who as well as writing for Big Finish series of Doctor Who audio adventures. Her most recent novels are The Undefeated and Star Trek Picard: The Last Best Hope.

Her academic work includes a monograph on the Doctor Who story ‘The Curse of Fenric’ and co-editing, with Regina Yung Lee, a forthcoming volume of essays on Lois McMaster Bujold: Biology and Manners: the Worlds and Works of Lois McMaster Bujold. She has also written a critical afterword for the recent reprint of Vonda N. McIntyre’s The Exile Waiting, from Handheld Press. (You can  find out more about Una’s work and writing  here.)

Una McCormack

This time Una discussed the work of science fiction writers  Ursula Le Guin and Vonda McIntyre. Her talk was entitled . “Ygor and Buntho: the friendship and legacies of   Vonda McIntyre and Ursula Ke Guin.”

Una explained that Le Guin and McIntyre were very close friends throughout their lives. They met in the late 1960s, when Le Guin was in her early thirties, and McIntyre in her very early twenties. Both based in the Pacific Northwest, they established a friendship of mutual support (and fun) that lasted almost 50 years, adopting the shadowy personas of Ygor and Buntho (hence the title of her talk), which they used for teaching workshops, writing collaborations and so on.

“So this talk today is my small contribution to helping ensure that the writing of both these women – these friends – is remembered. We are unlikely to forget the works of Ursula Le Guin, but the danger is that one woman writing science fiction comes to stand for all women writing science fiction, and authors like McIntyre fade away. Part of the thrill of reading both these women is discovering not only their books, but also the community and debates in which they were involved – a systematic retooling of science fiction during the 1970s to the purposes of feminism and the women’s movement. Le Guin and McIntyre were, with other writers, part of a radical revisioning of science fiction that continues to have relevance today.”

Una said  that until the 1970s science fiction was very much dominated by men: women writers often faced the outright sexism  as they tried to establish themselves within the genre of their choice.  She then went on to discuss four novels.

Ursula Le Guin

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (1969)

“The Left Hand of Darkness is Le Guin’s first attempt to consider gender seriously in her work. I often comment that Le Guin, who was a decade older than most women involved in the second wave, seems to learn feminism as a second language: her earlier work, including The Left Hand of Darkness, sees the masculine as the universal. It’s not until the 80s, particularly in her revisioning of her Earthsea novels, that Le Guin’s work fully changes its subject, becomes fully informed by feminism. In The Left Hand of Darkness, we see the start of that shift.”

“The novel is set on the permanently wintry planet Gethen, where an envoy from Earth, Genly Ai, has been sent on behalf of the Ekumen, a loose confederation of worlds who are seeking to re-establish contact with lost ‘human’ colonies and encourage them to join up. On Gethen, the population is ambisexual, neither male nor female, except during a period of sexual receptiveness known as ‘kemmer’, when Gethenians take on male or female sexual characteristics:  they can exhibit the characteristics of either. This ambisexuality is a real barrier to Genly Ai’s understanding of this world; he utterly misreads his peril, and he’s forced to flee across the ice in the company of Lord Estraven, who exiles himself from his homeland in order to save Ai and promote Gethen’s entry into the Ekumen.”

“You’ll note I used ‘himself’ here: this is a real problem in the novel, which uses masculine signifiers as default. Joanna Russ criticized this at the time, and Le Guin herself later agreed she would do this differently. Questions about gender are posed throughout the novel, but the book defaults to masculine as universal. Formally, however, this is a work of exquisite craft and beauty – the detail and minutiae of life on Gethen, and the effects of the ambisexual nature of the population upon the culture, are meticulously drawn; the account of Ai and Estraven’scrossing of the ice rivals anything written by a polar explorer. In this first major novel, Le Guinexplores the limits of what it might mean to be human, and continues her process of changing the subject of her own work.”


The Dispossessed  by Ursula le Guin (1974)

“Le Guin’s second major novel of this period, The Dispossessed, is one of the literature’s most finely worked pieces of utopian fiction (until Le Guin’s1985 compendium novel, Always Coming Home). She herself called The Dispossessed an ‘ambiguous utopia’, and we certainly see a society in the process of remaking itself, having drifted from the ideals upon which it was founded. The settings are the two worlds – Urras and Anarres: Urras has a variety of nation-states (the two powers are broadly speaking, capitalist and state-communist); Anarres, however, was settled centuries earlier by anarcho-syndicalist revolutionaries who leave Urras to set up their brave new world. Anarres is an anarchist utopia.”

“The protagonist, Shevek (again, male), is a brilliant Anarresti physicist on the verge of a breakthrough in temporal physics which will allow instantaneous communication between worlds to become a reality. In opening dialogue with scientists back on Urras, however, he’s incurred the wrath of his community, and the book opens with him fleeing to Urras. There, he initially enjoyed the luxurious lifestyle offered by capitalism (a sharp contrast to the hardships of his barren homeworld), but quickly starts to recognise the exploitation, inequalities, and brutal suppression of labour movements that underpin this society. Recognising he’s in danger of becoming a pawn in a geopolitical power game between the two blocs, Shevek gives his breakthrough theory to an envoy from the Ekumen to transmit freely, and he returns to Anarresrecommitted to make his own society – which now sees is in danger of stagnation – work once again.”

“This only skims the surface of this rich and deeply rewarding novel. Le Guin’s anarchist revolution is documented down to the linguistic level.If some aspects of the book now seem dated, particularly Shevek’s rather traditional nuclear family, this, agains hould be seen as part of the process of Le Guin’s steady move towards implementing feminist ideas in her writing. In its thorough depiction of how an anarchist society might work, The Dispossessed is a major imaginative speculative endeavour. In it, we see Le Guin start to come to the height of her powers.”


The Exile Waiting by Vonda McIntyre (1975)

Vonda N McIntyre

“When we turn to Vonda McIntyre’s first novel, The Exile Waiting, we do see an immediate difference. The protagonist is Mischa, a fifteen-year-old girl who lives by her wits in a dystopian underground city. What is most interesting about this novel is how bleak the world is that McIntyre creates – a dystopia built on exploitative power dynamics – but in which gender is an irrelevance. Centre, the bunker city in which Mischa lives, is run by Mafia-like families who have reduced the bulk of the population to beggary and slavery, but in making this society non-sexist, McIntyre examines the power structures at work while simultaneously showing there’s nothing natural about them. Power is not inherent, the book argues; it does not arise from status or gender, and, as a result, it is subject to change.”

“The world of Centre is vividly drawn. Nuclear bunkers form the main part, but these have been dug and expanded to make use of natural cave systems all around, where outcasts from Centre live. These have been mostly banished because of disfigurements or mutations. The book is completely radical – and forward-thinking – in its examination of disability, and prefigures many of the central concerns of contemporary disability activism in its emphasis on the social construction of disability.”

“The novel perhaps suffers from being too pared back to fully explore all the subjects it raises, but its protagonist and themes are before-their-time. Centre itself, the vast underground prison from which Mischa must escape, making new allies on the way, in particular is a fully imagined and presented setting.”


Dreamsnake by Vonda N McIntyre (1978)

“Dreamsnake, McIntyre’s second and most acclaimed novel, is set in the same world, but this time upon the surface of the far-future, post-apocalyptic Earth. The protagonist is a young woman, Snake, an itinerant healer who travels with three snakes who assist in her cures. Two of these snakes, a cobra and a rattlesnake, provide venoms which are the basis of potions. The third snake is a mysterious and very rare ‘dreamsnake’, whose bite causes hallucinations which help in the healing process. At the start of the book, Snake visits a small community of desert people, and saves the life of a young boy; however, the tribe, frightened by the dreamsnake, kill it. This is a source of deep shame and stigma for Snake (dreamsnakes are practically irreplaceable) and her hopeless quest to find another forms the central narrative of the book.”

“In a very simple way, putting a woman with full agency at the heart of her story, McIntyre changes the subject of science fiction. The hero’s journey becomes the heroine’s journey: Snake is not defined by the men around her, but by her attempts to make good her mistake, and her explorations of her world. (There is a romantic interest, but he spends the book chasing after her, providing emotional support.) The resolution, which I shall try not spoil other than in general terms, depends on Snake throwing away entrenched ideas of the world working on binary oppositions, particularly when it comes to gender. Notions of masculine and feminine, of male and female, will not ultimately help Snake in her quest.”

Una finished with  the hope that she  had given some insight into these two remarkable writers.

Feminist, radical, and utopian ideas permeate all their works. Even as aspects of those fournovels might seem dated, other aspects seem as fresh and as radical as they did at publication. Behind both writers lies a belief in the power of speculative, non-realist fiction to provide the tools to imagine and create new and better worlds. Let me leave you, then, with these words from Le Guin, in the speech she gave when accepting that medal for distinguished contribution to American literature:

“Hard times are coming, when we’ll be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine real grounds for hope. We’ll need writers who can remember freedom — poets, visionaries — realists of a larger reality.”

In the second half of the event we opened up the discussion to the audience to talk about their own visions of the future. The topics raise included:   the position of young people in society today;  the impact of poverty and austerity; climate change;  the positive and negative effects of social media;  the need for more women writers on GCE English Literature courses;   and why a moneyless society might be desirable.


Our thanks to our sponsors of this event:

Unite North West Regional Committee

Unite Fylde Coast branch

Unite Jaguar Halewood branch NW 0373

Unite Retired Members  branch NW 10299

Unite Merseyside Area Civil Engineering branch  NW 127404

Unite Bolton branch  NW/0121

Unite Burnley branch  NW /0176

Unite GEMS Sector  branch  NW/0904

Unite Preston branch NW 0754

Unite Preston and South Ribble branch

Unite Bamber Bridge

Unite Staff branch

Unite Manchester Central branch 0604

Unite Greater Manchester Social Action  branch

Unite Fujitsu branch


Unison Environment branch

Unison  Knowsley branch

Unison  Manchester University Heath care  branch


GMB Wigan  branch 187





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Posted in Feminism, Mary Quaile club meeting, science fiction, Women's Liberation

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.

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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.”


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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

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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.

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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

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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)

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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

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