Mary Macarthur –

by James Bargrave Deane, Grandson & Judy Schol, Granddaughter

Image Credit: BCLM, Black Country Living Museums.

Image Credit: James Bargrave Dean

This was taken at the presentation to the Mary Macarthur PCIU Clinic and from left to right Charlotte Victoria Addison (Nee Bargrave Deane). My daughter and a Great Granddaughter of Mary. Judy Samantha Scholes (Nee Latham) – Sally’s second daughter and a Great Granddaughter of Mary.

Mary was a firm believer in universal rather than purely women’s suffrage, and she had been careful not to allow the fight for the vote to become confused with her campaigns for better pay and conditions

Thanks to BCLM Black Country Living Museum and TUC Archives  for the kind permission to use the photographs.

Thanks to James Bargrave Deane, Grandson & Judy Schols, Granddaughter for the photographs & stories.

Mary Macarthur was a Scottish suffragist and trades unionist. She was the general secretary of the Women’s Trade Union League and was involved in the formation of the National Federation of Women Workers and National Anti-Sweating League.

In 1910 Mary led the women chain makers of Cradley Heath to victory in their fight for a minimum wage and led a strike to force employers to implement the rise. She dedicated her life to improving conditions for working women, although she herself came from a relatively privileged background. Her father, John Macarthur, owned a drapery business with several branches in Scotland.

In 1910 Mary led the women chain makers of Cradley Heath to victory in their fight for a minimum wage

Mary and the National Federation fought battles on two fronts, the first to organise women into unions, the second to campaign for laws fixing minimum rates of pay for women working in the worst sweated trades. Sweating labour was characterised by low wages, long hours and dangerous and insanitary working conditions in factories and in the ‘Home’ working environment. Together with James Joseph Mallon and George and Edward Cadbury, Mary organised the first Sweated Industries Exhibition in 1906. A founding member of the Anti-sweating League, Mary was called before a Select Committee of the House of Commons, set up in 1907 to enquire into Home Working. It was largely Mary’s evidence that at last made its members sit up and listen. In addition to being impressed by the facts she presented, the Committee’s impressions were reinforced by Mary’s personal experience. In gathering evidence on the baby linen trade, Mary found herself in one of the worst slums of London, where she found a girl making little lace-trimmed garments for one penny each. The girl had diphtheria; so poor that she had no bedclothes. At night she covered herself with the linen she was working on. Mary caught diphtheria and spent six weeks in hospital. She claimed it was worth it, because it brought home to the Committee the worst consequences of sweating. “When they saw it as setting death in the folds of a baby’s robe, they shuddered.” (Hamilton, 1925, p80)

Mary was a firm believer in universal rather than purely women’s suffrage, and she had been careful not to allow the fight for the vote to become confused with her campaigns for better pay and conditions. She was well aware that success depended to a great extent on the support of the male trade unionists and politicians. When, at the end of the war, women aged 30 and over were given the vote, and were allowed, for the first time, to stand for Parliament, Mary saw her next challenge.

Image Credit: Birmingham Country Living Museum

Mary – My Grandmother

by James Bargrave Deane, Grandson

“Mary died in the early hours of 1 January 1921. I was born in 1948.  There was no real connection in most of my life until I researched her and her work, placed in time and place and history and now feel very much emotionally connected.

She was rarely spoken of although my Mother was extremely proud. She married into an ‘establishment’ family (Law).  At that time this was considered an unpopular marriage with some in my Father’s family.  In addition it should be remembered that my Mother was only 5 when she was orphaned as Mary died young.  She had a number of papers but probably never put the full story together. We now know more than she ever did.  I doubt she ever even saw many of the photographs that are now coming out. 

You may be interested in the attached as an illustration of the pride my Mother had for her Mother ( newspaper cutting above ). Although Mary came from a wealthy family with conservative views she was one who was persuaded to show more compassion which quite often happened in those times.  The difference between her and others is that she actually followed it through.

During the Victorian era the area was high profile in the industrial revolution. Amongst others Chain Making was a major player. She helped and was accredited for leading in Union Terms the famous Chain Making Strike of 1910 at Cradley Heath. She was known as ‘The Angel of the Workers’ in the area and still is.  She also was one of the first of 17 women to stand for Parliament in the 1918 Coupon/Khaki General Election.  She failed to be elected mainly we think due to her campaigning in the maiden name she was best known as but the Retuning Officer had her name on the Ballot Card as Mrs Anderson – her married name.  She was also punished at the Ballot Box for her anti war stance despite her brilliant contribution to the war effort on the home front. 

Mary died in the early hours of 1 January 1921 before I was born in 1948.  There was no real connection in most of my life until I researched her and her work, placed in time and place and history and now feel very much emotionally connected. She was rarely spoken of although my Mother was extremely proud. 

 

 

She Founded the National Federation of Women Workers (1906) which had a major impact on women being allowed to join a Trade Union (1921) and the Chain Makers Strike.  She was also appointed Secretary of the Women’s Welfare Fund by Queen Mary in 1914 for wartime work done by women. she was one of many pioneers in social reform that has led to changes in legislation – some quite remarkable but still the battle goes on for some. Mary has several tributes including an English Heritage Blue Plaque in Golders Green, London, Memorial Park, Heath, NHS Mental Health Clinic and part of a statue artwork in Dudley Cradley area. The Mary Macarthur Memorial Park is located at Cradley Heath as is the Statues of the Chainmakers. The Mary Macarthur PICU Clinic is at West Bromwich. I should also add that The is also a Mary Macarthur Holiday/Education Trust.One major issue is that her Diaries known as her Blue Books which we know existed are nowhere to be found. Rumour has it they were lodged at Millbank and were destroyed in the Blitz.  I’m afraid I do not buy that as there was no real reason I can think of why they were stashed there. Indeed with other surviving papers it seems odd. This is a work in progress – not giving up yet.”

More material is located at BCLM, Black Country Living Museum, TUC Archives, Agnes Hamilton Biography (1925), A life’s Work – Margaret Bondfield’s Diaries and a host of Newspapers.

Thanks to James Deane & Judy Schol, grand daughter for the photographs & stories.

Thanks to BCLM Black Country Living Museum and TUC Archives  for the kind permission to use the photographs.

Image Credit: TUC Library, part of the Special Collections at London Metropolitan University.

Image Credit: TUC Library, part of the Special Collections at London Metropolitan University.

Image Credit: Agi Ch & Black Country Living Museum

Mary – My Grandmother

by Judy Schol, Granddaughter

Image Credit – James Bargrave Dean

 

 

“My name is Judy and I am the Great Grand Daughter of Mary Macarthur. I never met Mary but I think I have a lot to thank her for.

As the Great Grand Daughter of Mary, I’ve been privileged to be present on a number of occasions where her work has been recognised. Along with family members, I have attended the unveiling of a statue created to honour her, as well as attending the opening of a medical unit also named after her. It was also fantastic to attend the Black Country Museum and see a display showing so much information about her life and the results her determination yielded for the women chain makers who had to endure such tough conditions at work. Often mistaken for a suffragette, it is wonderful how people are having the opportunity to see just what it is she really did at such a tough time for a womans’ voice to be heard.

 As well as also been present on occasions where her work has been championed via books being launched by the authors where those present have also learned just how she used her status in life to help those who had so little.

Without Mary Macarthurs’ actions, I can only wonder what my working conditions would be like now but I’m sure they wouldn’t be as good as they are. I also wonder if I would even have had the opportunity I have had to work with equal rights alongside a predominantly male workforce at Network Rail as I do today.

Video Credit: Birmingham Country Living Museum

Sources

‘BCLM – Mary Macarthur’ video. Birmingham Country Living Museum. See full video here

Photographs from Trade Union Congress Library, part of the Special Collections at London Metropolitan University; Birmingham Country Museum;  photographer Agi Ch; and Mary’s Grandson James Bargrave Dean

Text from Mary’s Grandson James Bargrave Dean and Granddaughter Judy Schol

Mary Macarthur Holiday Trust

Friends of the Women Chainmakers