Speaking of privilege and white middle-class feminism and all that – remember the women of the miners’ strike.
Within weeks, the national Women Against Pit Closures campaign was launched. It propelled miners’ wives, sisters and daughters into the heart of the epic struggle against the Thatcher government, challenged miners’ and other trade unionists’ assumptions about gender roles, and galvanised a feminist movement that had been dominated by middle-class, educated women. The ideals of feminism – political, economic and social equality and independence – channelled back into the mining communities. The profound impact on the daily lives of women is still being felt 30 years later.
In May 1984, 5,000 women from pit villages across the country attended a rally in Barnsley, and a few months later 23,000 miners’ wives marched through London. Women from the coalfields were arrested on picket lines, addressed rallies across the UK and Europe, and chained themselves to colliery gates. A partnership between miners’ wives and the feminist anti-nuclear camp at Greenham Common raised money and consciousness.
Ever seen Salt of the Earth? It’s like that – a strike that’s also full of feminist politics. A classic.
Looking back after 30 years, Liz says that: “In some ways, the strike was the best time of our lives. These men worked underground, had never been anywhere – and for some of them it was a real eye-opener. They weren’t fighting to go back underground, they were fighting to save communities. The women – we struggled, but we all ate our dinner together, with the kids. So there were nice times.
“Now it’s awful round here. I couldn’t even tell you who lives on my road now, and I used to know everyone. The welfare club used to be packed every night. Now it’s all strangers. I miss the community.”
Where’s my copy of The Making of the English Working Class…