Mary Quaile Day, 21 March 2015

Mary Quaile

Mary Quaile

Venue: Lincoln 1 room, Methodist Central  Hall, 4/5 Oldham Street, Manchester M1 1JQ

A day of talks and discussion on radical history and politics.

Programme for the day

Registration 10.00 am to 10.30am
Morning session 10.30am to 1pm

The socialist origins of International Women’s Day – Ciara O’Sullivan

The life and politics of Mary Quaile, trade unionist and socialist – Alison Ronan

Trade Unionism Today – Hannah Ravenscroft

Women for Independence, Scotland – Natalie McGarry

Podemos in Spain – Alba Maiques


Lunch 1pm to 2pm (not included)
Afternoon session 2pm to 4.30pm

Sex, Race and Class – Selma James

Panel Discussion: Where are Women in 2015? Speakers:  Bernadette Hyland, Jessica Lishak,  (one more speaker to be confirmed)

Conference fee £5.00 / £1.00 (people on JSA).

To book a place please email:


This event is part of the Wonder Women Festival and has been sponsored by UNITE North West Region,  UNITE  Preston branch UNITE Greater Manchester Social  Action branch, UNITE  Wharton and Samlesbury branch , UNITE Bamber Bridge branch  and UNITE Central Manchester health branch.

About the speakers

Ciara O’Sullivan is a founder member of the Mary Quaile Club

Alison Ronan is an historian who has researched the life of Mary Quaile and other political and trade union  campaigners in Manchester. She is the author of “A Small Vital Flame” Anti-war women in North West England 1914 – 1918

Hannah Ravenscroft is a UNITE shop steward at Vauxhall

Natalie McGarry is a member of Women  for Independence

Alba Maiques is a member of Podemos, Manchester

Selma  James has been active in socialist and women’s politics since the 1950s.   She is the author of A Woman’s Place (1952), Sex, Race and Class–the Perspective of Winning: A Selection of Writings 1952–2011 ( 2012)   and many other books.  Her documentary on women  for the BBC, shown in 1971,  can be seen here.

Bernadette Hyland is a founder member of the Mary Quaile Club and author of the forthcoming book Northern Resisters: Conversations with Radical  Women.

Jessica Lishak is the Women’s Officer for the Students Union,  University of Manchester.


About Mary Quaile

Mary Quaile came to Manchester with her family from Dublin in the early 1900s. She led a strike of café waitresses and then went on to work as an organiser for the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trades Union Council. Mary opposed the First World War and was active in the No Conscription Fellowship. After the war she became an organiser with the newly formed TGWU. Mary was elected on to the General Council of the TUC in 1924 and took part in campaigns to increase union membership. She also visited the Soviet Union on a trade union delegation. During the General Strike in May 1926 Mary spoke at rallies in Manchester and elsewhere

Mary returned to Manchester in the 1930s and was Treasurer of the Manchester Trades Council for many years. She died in 1958. Her obituary appeared in the Manchester Guardian which said that “her determination to get trade unionism for women accepted was often met with jeers, boos, rotten apples, and threats of violence. She spoke at hundreds of factory gate meetings in both the East End of London and Manchester; she never betrayed any sign of fear when faced with hostility. Her warmth and lovable personality won for her many friends in the labour and trade union movement.”

Posted in Events, Feminism, Mary Quaile club meeting, Public Meeting, women's history, working class history

Sixth meeting of the Mary Quaile Club: Hannah Mitchell Day 18 October 2014

Hannah Mitchell

Our sixth  Mary Quaile Club event took place in Ashton-under-Lyne and was a celebration  of the life and politics of  Hannah  Mitchell (1871 -1956).  Hannah  was a socialist and suffragette who lived in Bolton between 1900 and 1910 on Elizabeth Street. The  Day  was held in Topaz Cafe on Katherine Street and was well attended. It was chaired by Bernadette Hyland.


audience 1Our audience

We opened with a  song  England Arise,  sung by Jennifer Reid. This was written by the socialist Edward Carpenter and  was the unofficial anthem of the socialist movement in the early C20th.  Jennifer is a member of the Mary Quaile Club  and researches  and performs C19th ballads.

Michael Herbert   and Rachel Austin gave a joint presentation   about  Hannah as a socialist. Michael  explained how she became a socialist after reading The Clarion  newspaper  and hearing Katherine St John Conway speak.  He also talked about  Hannah role as an ILP  councillor in Manchester in the 1920s and 1930s.  Rachel illuminated the talk  by  reading  extracts from Hannah’s  autobiography The Hard Way Up.  Michael is a socialist historian  who teaches history and leads Red Flag Walks. Rachel is an actress who has  played Sophie Lancaster  in Black Roses   at the Royal  Exchange   and Jemima  Bamford in Manchester Sound: The Massacre for the Library  Theatre.

 Ciara speakingCiara  discussing Hannah and the WSPU

Ciara  O’Sullivan then  looked   at Hannah’s  role as a suffragette  in the militant campaign  for Votes for Women, led by Christabel  and Emmeline Pankhurst. Hannah knew the Pankhursts as  fellow socialists  and joined the WSPU in 1905. She was very active in the camapaign for two  years speaking at many  meetings up and down the country  but then suffered a nervous breakdown because of overwork. Shockingly the Pankhusts never contacted her. When she recovered Hannah joined the Women’s  Freedom League led by Charlotte Despard.  Ciara is a member of the Mary Quaile Club.

Christine Clayton  discussed the activites of the No Conscription Fellowship which  supported the men  who refused to fight in the First World War. Hannah’s son Frank appeared before a Military Tribunal and was granted exemption.  Conscientious objectors were often very badly treated in prisons and in work camps and 73 died. Hannah was involved in a number of anti-war meetings in Manchester.  Christine is a historical researcher  and volunteer at the Working Class Movement Library.

Rachel reading Hannah's storiesRachel reading Hannah’s stories

To round off the morning session Rachel read two  stories written by Hannah in strong Lancashire dialect which appeared in Labour’s Northern Voice in the 1930s.

At lunchtime we enjoyed an excellent vegetarian  buffet of sandwiches  and wraps.

Our afternoon session began with Eileen Murphy performing her monologue Hannah, written by her in 2001,  in which Hannah  talks about her life and political activity. After her performance Eileen explained how she came to write the play and answered questions.

Charlotte speakingCharlotte speaking

Our last  speaker was Charlotte Hughes who is campaigning in Ashton against benefits cuts  and assists   the unemployed with advice and support. She explained the constant  pressure that the unemployed were  under with sanctions being rountinely applied by the Job Centre. This  was followed by a discussion to which  many  in the audience contributed.

jennifer singingJennifer singing

We finished with another song, The March of the Women , the suffragette  anthem written by Ethel Smythe in 1910, again sung by Jennifer.

Our thanks to all our speakers  and contributors  and to Kevin and the staff at Topaz Cafe.


some useful links..

Charlotte Hughes’   blog The Poor Side of Life

No Conscription Fellowship archive at the Working Class Movement Library

England Arise! a play about being toured by Bent  Architect  theatre company  around the north. It will be at the Peoples History Museum on 14 and 15 November.


This  was   our final event for 2014.  We are currently planning events for 2015 and welcome suggestions as to possible speakers  and topics. Pleaae contact us  by email ;

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

Fifth meeting of the Mary Quaile Club

The audience discussing the play over refreshments

The audience discussing the play over refreshments

The Mary Quaile Club held its 5th event  on Saturday 27th September  2014 at 3 Minute Theatre, Oldham Street, Manchester.  We showed United Kingdom, a BBC  Play  for Today  written by Jim Allen and originally shown in December 1981.  Jimmy McGovern  had suggested that we should show this when he spoke at our screening of The Spongers. Over 40 people attended the screening.

The play is centred on  a group of Labour councilors in the North East  who are defying the government and refusing to make cuts in council services. They are dismissed by  the   government  which sends in a Commissioner to run the Council  but his  efforts are frustrated  by the removal of  computer tapes by the councillors. The play also  follows the actions of the police, led by a Chief Constable similar to James Anderton,  who works with the Commissioner to recover the tapes and end the protest. This  has  escalated to barricades around an estate after the police attempt to arrest the councillors. The government and police  present the situation as a matter of law and order and not politics.

Honor Donnelly, Michael Herbert and Andy Wills

Honor Donnelly, Michael Herbert and Andy Willis

We  were delighted to welcome two guest speakers: Andy Willis from the University of Salford  who introduced the screening  and Honor Donnelly from the Anti-Bedroom Tax  campaign  who  led  off the discussion afterwards on the issues raised  by the play,  including how working class communities  can fight austerity. We were very pleased that two of Jim Allen’s children – Joe Allen and Kathy Allen –  were able to attend  the screening.

Our  thanks to Andy and Honor and also to  Gina and John at 3MT for their hospitality and technical assistance.

Andy Willis has written an article about The Spongers and United Kingdom which can be found in the British Journal of Cinema and Television, vol 5/2. It is called ” Jim Allen:Beyond Days of Hope”.

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Posted in Drama, Events, Public Meeting, Television, working class history

Fourth meeting of the Mary Quaile Club

the Spongers 009On 21st June 2014  we held our fourth  event in the Annexe of the Working Class Movement  Library which was a special screening of The Spongers written by Jim Allen. First broadcast in 1978  as part of the Play for Today series, the drama depicts in unhurried but relentless detail how Pauline, a  single mother with four children, one of whom has  learning difficulties,   falls deeper and deeper in debt and how the social  security sytem and social services department –   supposedly there  to support  and help her –  not only utterly fail her,  but   contribute to  her taking a dreadful decision at the end of the play.

the Spongers 008

We were delighted to welcome the writer  Jimmy McGovern to our event who  expressed his admiration for Jim Allen’s work in general,  and this  play in particular,  which  he described as “a  work of genius”. Jimmy  was followed  by a thoughtful and often passionate  discussion about Jim’s work and the issues raised in the play with many of the audience taking part.  This was  recorded by Lizzie  Foster who is making a BBC radio documentary about Jim Allen with the actor Christopher Eccleston. Christopher was unable to join us but he sent  a message to the event:  “Jim Allen cared about others and was a technically brilliant writer. A precious combination. The Spongers is  a masterpiece.The greatest British drama.Has anybody currently running BBC, ITV and Channel 4 seen it? I don’t think he’d have wanted to just preach to the converted”.

We would like Jimmy McGovern, Andy Willis,  Alice Nutter, Christopher Eccleston,  the Working Class  Movement Library  and everybody attending for an outstanding event.

The Jim Allen archive  is housed at the Working Class Movement Library  and is available for researchers.  For more information, please contact  the library:




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Posted in Drama, Mary Quaile club meeting, Television, working class history

Third meeting of the Mary Quaile Club


On Saturday 24 May we welcomed John Fay, writer of TV  dramas such as Brookside Coronation Street, Blue Murder and The Mill, an historical Channel 4  series set in Styal Mill.  In a wide ranging, thoughtful,  and never less than entertaining discussion which  lasted   an hour and a half,   John discussed how he  became a writer and reflected on the various TV dramas he has written for… and a great deal more.

Our thanks to John and Gina at 3MT and above all  to John for taking the trouble to come over to Manchester and share his  passion for writing.

The second series of The Mill will air later this year.

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Posted in Events, Public Meeting, Television, working class history

Second Meeting of Mary Quaile Club



CPBF 003CPBF 007

Our second meeting, ably chaired by Alice Searle,  was a success.  A packed room at the Friends Meeting House heard Granville Williams  from the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom  and Stephen Kingston from the Salford Star discuss issues of media ownership,  censorship and bias,  truthful reporting, right of reply and alternatives to the mainstream media. This was followed by a lively and informed discussion. Afterwards there was a healthy sale of books on the press and the miners strike.  Our thanks to our speakers and everyone who attended and also to those organisations and individuals who sponsored the meeting.

some useful  links

Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom

Salford Star

National Union of Journalists – Manchester and Salford branch

Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign




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Posted in Media and Press, Miners Strike 1984-85, Public Meeting, working class history

First meeting of Mary Quaile Club is a success.

First meeting of the Mary Quaile Club

First meeting of the Mary Quaile Club

The Mary  Quaile Club held a well-attended inaugural meeting on Saturday 15 February 2014  at Cornerstones Cafe, Langworthy, Salford.  An attentive audience heard Paula  Bartley discuss aspects of the life of Ellen Wilkinson,  including her involvement in the the suffragist  campaign, anti-fascism, the Jarrow Crusade and the 1945 Labour government. She was followed  by Hugh Caffrey who  gave a summary of  the campaign to save the NHS from privatisation and explained how  people can get involved.  The audience  then discussed  the issues raised for some time  with many people joining in.  It was generally agreed that it had been a sucessful and enjoyable event. The meeting  was filmed by Quays News. It was tweeted in real time  by Chloe on the MQC Twitter account @maryquaileclub.

Paula Bartley and Hugh Caffrey

Paula Bartley and Hugh Caffrey

The MQC is now planning events for April on the media and the 1984-85 miners strike and for May on trade unionism, past and present.  These will be posted here as soon as details have been finalised.

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Posted in Events, NHS, Welfare State, women's history, working class history
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