launch of our website on the Manchester and Salford Women’s Trades Union Council 1895-1919

On Saturday 29th April  2017 the Mary Quaile Club  launched the website of the Minutes of the Manchester and Salford Women’s  Trades Union Council  1895-1919 as part of Manchester Trades Council  May Day Festival.

This event was the culmination of a year-long project to transcribe the Minutes of the Council and place them on a  website for all to read and make use of.

We were given the two volumes of hand-written Minutes (comprising 760 pages) by Mary Quaile’s descendants  in 2016 who  made contact  with us in the course of our research for our pamphlet “Dare To Be Free” women  in trade unions:past and present.

It seems  that Mary took the volumes with her when the Trades Council dissolved in April 1919, and  fortunately  both she and  her family kept them  in very good condition.

The M&SWTUC was formed in February 1895 specifically to organise women workers, often in low paid jobs, into trade unions.  Its early supporters included C. P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian, who personally wrote by hand  the minutes of the first two meetings in a beautiful script, and Julia Gaskell, daughter of  the writer and novelist Elizabeth Gaskell. The Council fostered trade unions among sewing machinists, upholsteresses, tailoresseses, cigar makers,  power loom weavers,  and many other trades.

Christabel Pankhurst was a member of the M&SWTUC for a time, as were other prominent Manchester  women  such as  Margaret Ashton ( the first woman councillor on Manchester City Council)  Amy Berry and  Lady  Schwann. The Council’s paid organisers included Sarah Dickenson, Frances Ashwell,  Eva Gore Booth, Olive Aldridge and Mary Quaile.

It was plain that these unique records were of national significance, providing fascinating detail on the early days of  trade union organisation amongst women  workers.  We canvassed support among trade unions around the country who responded generously,  and we were therefore able to finance both the transcription of the Minutes and the creation of a website containing  both  the transcription and  pictures of the original minutes.

At the launch Bernadette Hyland spoke about her work on the Minutes and the insights it had given  her into the methods the organisers used  to unionise women.  She drew parallels  with the current  sitauation of low pay and zero hours contracts for many workers  Lisa Turnbull from the Durham Teaching Assistants spoke about their fight against a 23% pay cut threatened by their employers, Labour-controlled Durham County Council, a fight which had been built up  by grassroots activism. Lisa then officially  launched the website.

The website can be found  at


Durham TAs with Mary Quaile Club members Bernadette Hyland and Dorothy Winard (right)

    Lisa launches the website








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Posted in Events, Feminism, Mary Quaile club meeting, trade unions, women's history, working class history

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