Collections Crossover: Strikes, industrial action, workers' and women's rights
Collections Crossover: Strikes, industrial action, workers' and women's rights

The news this week that RMT rail workers have voted to stage a series of 48-hour strikes over jobs, pay and working conditions throughout December and January, makes the subject of this week's newsletter particularly timely.

The trade union movement, legalised in 1824, gave workers, particularly those in factories and industry, a support structure through which they could achieve better wages and working conditions. One of the best sources we have for pictures on trade unionism in the twentieth century is the Marx Memorial Library and here you'll find pictures of Mick Lynch's predecessors, Jimmy Knapp and Bob Crow; important activists and supporters of the movement such as Len Murray, Bill Morris, Aneurin Bevin, Paul Robeson, Denis Skinner and Arthur Scargill, as well as marches and demonstrations. Look out for the Peoples' March for Jobs during the early 1980s and scenes of picketing and protest from the 1984-5 miners' strike.

The struggle for women's equal pay and equality in other areas of life is also well documented in this collection. There are photographs of pro-abortion demonstrations and women demanding to be paid the same as their male counterparts; the women at the Trico-Folberth windscreen wiper manufacturers at Brentford went on strike for 21 weeks before eventually achieving this aim. There is even a photograph of women protesting about the policy of the El Vino wine bar in London to only serve men at the bar. News-orientated collections such as Suddeutsche Zeitung and Keystone USA also have some excellent examples: shop workers picketing the Galeries Lafayette department store in Paris in the 1930s for instance, or protests against the Miss World contest in the 1970s. Elsewhere, the March of the Women Collection covers not only suffrage history but also touches on women in the world of work, notably during the Great War, and going further back, we have some good images on the Bryant & May match factory, and the famous Match Girls' Strike of 1888, from contemporary publications such as The Illustrated London News.

Industrial action is of course nothing new, and the mother of all strikes in Britain, the General Strike of 1926 saw all the magazines we hold in the ILN archive, as well as plenty of daily papers (courtesy of John Frost Newspapers) report on the crisis, with special emergency issues printing pictures of Oxford students and aristocrats mucking in by peeling potatoes or driving trains. One wonders if they would have remained so enthusiastic had the strike gone on longer than its nine days?

Finally, we have plenty of material on this subject from beyond the UK via other publications we hold here, or our partners. Africa Media Online for instance, or Everett in the USA where you can find photographs of employees of Coca-Cola or Ford downing tools in a bid for better terms, as well as the very smelly-looking 1911 garbage collectors' strike in New York. There are also scenes in the former Czechoslovakia of demonstrations that led to the Velvet Revolution in 1989 from new contributor, CTK. You can view a sample collection taken from these contributors here.

For all you workers out there, we're hope you're having a good week. We're currently waiting for the boiler to be repaired at Mary Evans but it's OK, our employer has provided us with electric blankets! Running round the library to carry out any picture requests will warm us up so do get in touch if we can help with that, with quotes or any other questions. Email us at or call 020 8318 0034.

Mary Evans Picture Library Ltd.  59 Tranquil Vale  Blackheath  London  SE3 0BS. United Kingdom.
Unsubscribe here