next Mary Quaile Club event: Saturday 4 June, 2pm, launch of “Dare To be Free : women in trade unions, past and present”


Dare to Be Free front coverOn Saturday 4 June,  as part of the Manchester Histories Festival,   we will be launching our  second publication,Dare to Be Free”: women  in trade unions, past and present. This publication has  two parts: a biography of Mary Quaile, written by Michael Herbert, and ten interviews with women of today  active in trade unions at grass roots level, written by Bernadette Hyland. The common thread is the belief of Mary Quaile,  and her modern-day  sisters,   that trade unionism can make a real difference to the lives of working women  and men.

This event will take place  at Three Minute Theatre, Afflecks Arcade, 35 Oldham Street Manchester M1 1JG. It is free. The launch will start at 2pm with speakers followed by  discussion; we are delighted that Sarah Woolley (BFAWU) and  Nilufer Erdem (UNITE), who are amongst the women interviewed for the publication,  will be joining us for the launch.

At  3.30pm there will  be a final performance of “Dare to Be Free,” a play commissioned by the Mary Quaile Club and written by Jane McNulty. The play takes place in the past and present.  It’s 1908 and waitresses in a Manchester cafe are  fed up and ready to strike for proper pay and decent working conditions. It’s 2016 and   workers  in a Manchester  “fast food experience”  are fed up and  ready to strike for proper pay and decent working conditions. Linking the two eras is Mary Quaile, a pioneer of women’s trade unionism in the C20th,  come to help out her modern-day sisters  because the issues she fought on 100 years ago  are back with vengeance…The play premiered at Manchester May Day Festival and has been very well received by audiences. It lasts about 30 minutes.

photo 1We are very pleased to have received donations for the play from the following trade unions: BECTU, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists, Communication Workers Union, Fire Brigades Union (Region No 5), General Federation of Trade Unions, Bristol branch of NUJ, Calderdale branch of NUJ, Glasgow branch of NUJ, Manchester and Salford branch of NUJ, the Professional Footballers’ Association, Bolton branch of NUT, Bolton branch of UNISON, and UNITE (North West region). We have also received donations from the following individuals: Geoff and Judy Brown, Christopher Eccleston, John Finch, Tony Garnett, Gaynor Lloyd, Rita Machin, Maxine Peake, Sheila Rowbotham, and Margaret Ward.

The publication of the pamphlet has been made possible by grants from the Barry Amel and Norman Melburn Trust and the General Federation of Trade Unions.



For more information on the play, please go here. For more information on the pamphlet, please go here.

The Mary Quaile Club can be contacted by email ;

Our twitter account is @MaryQuaileClub

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Posted in Book launch, Events, Mary Quaile club meeting, the Irish in Britain, women's history, working class history

Mary Quaile Club event on Saturday 9 April 2016, Migrant workers: past and present

scorrish herring women workers

On Saturday 9 April, 2pm,  we held an event at which  we discussed the issue of migrant workers, past  and present. This took  place in The Annexe at the Working  Class Movement  Library, 51 The Crescent, Salford M5 4WX. The event was  free

Chris Unsworth, author  of The British Herring Industry 1900-1960,  spoke  about the forgotten story of Scottish women who migrated   to England to  work in the herring industry. Every year from the 1880s to 1960s  thousands of  women  went south from Scotland in the late summer and  autumn  to work in  the fishing ports of  North East and Eastern England,  such as Seahouses and  Great Yarmouth.  They were brought by special chartered trains.  This was tough outdoor work with the women often  suffering from  cuts and cold sores. As  a workforce they were not  unionised, but there was a spontaneous strike in the 1930s when the employers tried to impose a wage reduction.

Chris was  followed by  Sandra  Penaloza-Rice, co-odinator and co-funder of Migrant Support Migrants  Manchester, who  spoke about  the position of migrant workers today,  and how MSM is working  to support them with education, cultural and other projects.

After  the speakers and a lively discussion, we enjoyed tea and cakes.


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

Mary Quaile Club event on 14th November 2015, A screening of The Lump by Jim Allen

jim Allen pictureWe  hosted a screening  at 3MT of the  television drama The Lump by Jim Allen,  first broadcast in The Wednesday Play series on the BBC on 1 February 1967.  This play  was directed by the late Jack Gold and produced by Tony Garnett. We were  delighted that Tony was able  to  come up from London to be with us for this  event.

In 1967  Tony  wrote this  in the Radio  Times about the play.

“The headlines scream. A strike has broken out. The economy is being ruined by irresponsible elements. There are Reds under every bed. When it is very serious we hear grand phrases about “a tightly knit group of politically motivated men”. Yorky is such a man.

What is Yorky like? Physically he is a giant. Over six feet tall and sixteen stone, he is a bulldozer of a man. He loves his ale and hates the bosses. He is a bricklayer by trade and a revolutionary by vocation. For him a strike it not just an argument about another penny an hour – it is part of his life’s work to change the very structure of our society. Nothing will divert him from his purpose. A gentle man with a wry humour, he will not draw back from violence. He is a tough man in a rough industry. An industry which is getting rougher. Because over it falls the shadow of “the Lump”, a system of work where men are self-employed and on their own. Bought and sold like cattle on the hoof, they are often behind with their tax, their cards are unstamped, and an accident at work can lead them to the scrap-heap.

The Government is worried about it. The Unions hate it and many employers oppose it. It leads to industrial anarchy and it has been spreading like wildfire. Its shadow falls over Yorky. But he knows what he is doing – or so he thinks. Meet this man who sets himself up to fight the whole world. Whatever you think of him, I hope the conflict will grip you”.

IMG_3945IMG_3946This event was sold out. After the screening Tony gave a fascinating account of  his work with Jim Allen, praising his honesty and integrity and the quality of his writing. He described him as perhaps the most important writer on television in that era. He also  believed that it would be impossible to get this kind of drama on television nowadays.

This is a link to the  Blacklisting campaign , which campaigns for justice for trade unionists blacklisted by employers in the building and other industries.

Our thanks to Gina and John at 3MT.


We  showed a  copy of  The Lump  provided by the British Film Institute.  Our thanks to Matthew Harle at the BFI  for arranging this.

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

Mary Quaile event on 3 October 2015 with Brian Lavery and Hilda Palmer


We were delighted to welcome  Brian Lavery and Hilda Palmer to our event on 3 October in the Annexe at the Working Class Movement Library.

Brian discussed his  book “The Headscarf Revolutionaries” (Barbican Press, 2015)  which looked back  to 1968 at the remarkable and  successful  campaign waged by working class women  in Hull, led by Lillian Bilocca, to get proper health and safety on trawlers after the loss of three trawlers in a matter of weeks.  He also  spoke about the way that Lillian was portrayed  in the press and  how sadly  this led to people in Hull turning against her.

Hilda from the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre reflected on the struggle for proper health  and safety at work and how the gains of the last 40 years are under assault as never before  by the present government.

Our thanks to Brian and Hilda for two excellent talks

front of bookBrian’s  book can be purchased online from News from Nowhere





The Greater Manchester Hazards Centre relies on donations to keep going. You can find out how you can support it here.

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Posted in Book launch, Events, Feminism, health and safety, Mary Quaile club meeting, women's history, working class history

Mary Quaile Club event on 6 June 2015, Book launch of Northern ReSisters:conversations with radical women

Northern ReSisters front cover

More than  40 people packed into the Annexe of the Working Class Movement  Library on the afternoon of Saturday 6 June  for the launch of the first Mary Quaile Club publication,   Northern ReSisters: conversations with radical women by Bernadette Hyland.  The event was chaired by Dorothy Winard who welcomed the audience to the event and introduced  Bernadette who  spoke about her reasons for writing the book:  to record the experiences of  northern women active in campaigns over the past 40 years  and  to offer their  stories  as an inspiration for new generations of activists.  She was followed  by Betty Tebbs, Linda Clair, Honor Donnelly, Mandy Vere and Christine Clark  who  spoke about their personal experiences as activists. There was then a wide-ranging debate amongst the audience with a large number of contributions  on how radical movements could make progress in the Age of Austerity and the recent Tory victory.

Finally it was time for tea and cakes over which the debates and discussions continued very animatedly.

Our thanks to everybody who came along to the launch,  to the Working Class Movement  Library and to John Crumpton for taking the pictures below.

Bernadette would be delighted to speak about her book at events, meetings, conferences and book festivals  and can be contacted by email; Her book can be purchased from News From Nowhere

Bernadette Hyland

Bernadette Hyland

Dorothy Winard

Dorothy Winard (centre)

Betty Tebbs

Betty Tebbs

Honor Donnelly

Honor Donnelly

Mandy Vere

Mandy Vere

Christine Clark

Christine Clark

the audience

the audience

Linda Clair

Linda Clair

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Posted in Book launch, Feminism, Mary Quaile club meeting, Publication, women's history, working class history

Mary Quaile Club event on 21 March 2015 , A real International Women’s Day event!

International Women’s Day was celebrated for its true socialist feminist origins on  21 March by the Mary Quaile Club. The day celebrated the life of trade unionist and socialist feminist Mary Quaile with contributions from historians, trade unionists and women activists.
MQC activist Ciara O’Sullivan opened the day with a reminder of the history of IWD and the role of socialist feminists, Clara Zetkin and Louise Zeitz, in its founding.


The first session comprised a fascinating account of Mary’s life by historian Alison Ronan and a contribution by Unite shop steward Hannah Ravenscroft on her work at the Vauxhall Car Factory in Merseyside.

The next session looked at two of the new movements for political change in Scotland and Spain. Susan Lyons joined us from Scotland and spoke about the Women for Independence movement, its birth and role in the referendum campaign. Laura and Elena from Podemos, (We Can) the Spanish political party which has a “circle” in Manchester and across the country, spoke about why the party started and its policy on feminising the economy.

Selma James of the Global Womens Strike Movement spoke about the need for women to organise and reflected on her new book about Tanzania and the socialist movement there in the 1960s.

The last session looked at the role of activism in Manchester particularly the trade union movement. Annette Wright, President of Manchester Trades Council, spoke about the role of trades union in the current climate and the need for back to basics work including the recruitment of young people into the movement. Bernadette Hyland, writer and activist, reflected on the lives of women activists that she had interviewed for her new book. “Northern Resisters; Conversations with Radical Women.” It is the first Mary Quaile Club publication.

Lots of interesting comments were made during and between the sessions as well as connections between people keen to get involved in political activity.

Michael contributed to this news item on BBC online see

Thanks to Conrad Bower for the photos.

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

Mary Quaile Club event on 18 October 2014: Hannah Mitchell Day in A-u-L

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 Feminism, Mary Quaile club meeting, women's history, working class history

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