We launch our second publication ” Dare to be Free: women in trade unions, past and present” 4 June 2016

DTBF launch 1

On Saturday 4 June,  as part of the Manchester Histories Festival,   we  launched  our  second publication,Dare to Be Free”: women  in trade unions, past and present. This publication has  two parts: a biography of Mary Quaile (1886-1958), 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 took  place  at Three Minute Theatre, in Afflecks Arcade. Bernadette Hyland spoke  first,  outlining  the facts of Mary’s Quaile’s life as a trade unionist  and her role in organising  women into  unions, first  in Manchester and then nationally. She   drew  parallels with  2016 in which we are fighting the same battles for  basic rights at work as Mary and others did 100 years ago. Bernadette  ended her speech by quoting from Jane Stewart from  Unite, one of the women  she interviewed for the publication: “After  thirty  years I  want to encourage other people to get involved in the trade union movement. If we don’t fight we will never succeed. Too often things get worse because people do nothing, so not fighting is not an option.”

Following  Bernadette DTBF launch 2we were delighted to welcome  Sarah Woolley from the Baker’s Union who had travelled over from Yorkshire for the event. She spoke about how she had become  involved in the   union after  experiencing  problems at work.  She was asked by the union to become a shop steward and is now a full-time officer. It had changed her life in so many ways. She  said  that if she could do it “then anyone could.” Sarah  urged people to give support to BFAWU members at Pennine Foods, who were on strike against severe wage cuts.

We then welcomed our final speakers –  Khadija, Robert and Ana from the Hotel Workers branch of Unite – who had come up  from London that morning especially  to speak at our event.  They spoke about  their own experiences at work  and as members of Unite.  It was often difficult to organise workers in hotels or in cafes and restaurants,  but the union was making steady progress,  offering advice and support, as well as educational opportunities such as English classes.  However union activists were often targeted by managers determined to keep unions out of their businesses.

After the speakers had finished there was a question and answer session session with the audience, who were shocked at  some of the workplace  practices described by our speakers.

We finished the book launch  with 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 phto 2ready 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. This was very well received by the audience who enthusatically joined in the song at the end,   written by Carol Donaldson and Jane McNulty.

Our thanks to all our speakers, to John and Gina at 3MT and to Steve Speed for taking the photographs on this  post.

Dare to Be Free; women  in trade unions, past and present has 41 pages and costs £3.95. ISBN 978-0-9932247-1-3.  It can be ordered online from News from Nowhere

Bernadette Hyland  would be delighted to speak at meetings and conferences about the issues raised by her research for the pamphlet and can be contacted by email:  lipsticksocialist636@gmail.com




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Posted in Book launch, Feminism, Mary Quaile club meeting, Migrant workers, Publication, Uncategorized, women's history, working class history
One comment on “We launch our second publication ” Dare to be Free: women in trade unions, past and present” 4 June 2016
  1. excellent couple of hours ,glad we came,well done the actresses.

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