I recently had the pleasure of meeting Ginnie. One of her recent posts mentioned that she was about to visit England and was meeting up with photo bloggers from the Shutterchance community not far away from where I live. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet her.
On the day, there was initially a bit of a mix up about the exact place to meet but we found each other eventually. As a result of the mix up, I got the chance to sit in an authentic 1910 pub, which was a bit like stepping back in time. Children under the age of eighteen were not allowed in the bar area. Most people don’t realise that children are still not legally allowed in a public bar. Also, a comment was passed that it wasn’t seemly for ladies to be in the bar area…
We had a wonderful day and, amongst our conversations, we talked about the history of the region and also the women chainmakers and their struggle for a decent basic wage.
The Black Country Museum gives a great insight into the social history of the Black Country. Old buildings have been moved from their original location and been rebuilt brick by brick authentically within the museum to recreate a village that is centred around a canal. The museum is a living history of the traditional skills of the area where skilled craftsmen and costumed demonstrators bring history alive. There was a special event taking place that celebrated the metal industries that brought fame to the Black Country. This meant that we were able to see amongst other things; chain making demonstrations, brass foundry demonstrations, the rolling mill in action and the Cradley Heath women chainmakers’ strike exhibition.
The museum has been host the annual women chainmakers’ festival. A couple of years ago I attended the event with friends (a theme seems to be emerging). The event commemorates the struggle of the women chainmakers to earn a decent living wage.
In 1910 the women chainmakers of Cradley Heath successfully fought a a 10 week dispute to establish a minimum wage for their labour. The dispute was led by union organiser and campaigner Mary MacArthur. By the end of the dispute the women chainmakers had managed to increase their earnings from 5 shillings (25p) to 11 shillings (55p) a week. The victory helped to make the possibility of a national minimum wage a reality.
Women chainmakers were a good example of ‘sweated labour’ manning hours of toil for minimal wages. The women chainmakers’ pamphlet, which gives extensive information about the dispute, quotes the following about the working conditions of chainmakers:
“Author Robert Harborough Sherard visited Cradley Heath to collect evidence for one of a series of articles, later published as a book ‘The White Slaves of England’ (1898), on the sweated trades of the land. He was taken by James Smith, secretary of the Chainmakers’ Union, to a place called Anvil Yard. Sherard Wrote:”
“Two of the girls working in the shed were suckling babes and could work but slowly. Those who could work at their best being unencumbered could make a hundredweight of chain in two and a half days. Their owner walked serene and grey-haired among them, checking conversation, and being, at times, abusive. She was but one of a numerous class of human leeches fast to a gangrened sore.
I enjoyed the history of the museum and my visit was all the more pleasurable for spending time with Ginnie, Astrid and the Shutterchancers. The memory will stay with me for a long time to come.
This visit seems to have been quite an memorable moment. I find it really inspiring when I hear that online friends have been able to cross over to the real side and actually gotten lucky enough to meet in real life.
Reading about those woman chainmakers and all their struggles I am reminded once more of how blessed I truly am. 🙂
September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnyes – Far Away in the Sunshine
You and your husband were such good sports, Cherry, to join us at this incredible “living” museum. THANK YOU for your part in making this meet-up possible. I’ll remember it a long time to come as well.
You clearly got more into the history of the place and saw things I never even knew were there. I love reading all about the women chainmakers, especially after observing the man who did it. That would not have been fun work for anyone, least of all a woman nursing her babe! WOW. Thanks for sharing.
September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterGinnie
Oh, lucky you that you could meet and spend time together :).
Very interesting reading, very new information for me. I always wonder how and how much people had to work back then… and I ask myself: are we spoiled today or we came to our senses? Am not really sure…
September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJozica (aka Creatissimo)
I love how you’ve both – you and Ginnie – written about your real life meeting. Seems that your choice of meeting place added context and interest and excitement. Hard to believe that women have been fighting for equal pay for over a century….and – still – in some places and cultures in this world they don’t get it.
Sounds like it was the most wonderful time for all of you!!!
September 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterMarcie
So nice that you were able to meet! Sounds like a wonderful time. It’s nice that you can speak of European history. One day I hope to be as erudite!
September 14, 2011 | Registered CommenterPuna
a morning history lesson is a great way to begin any day. i surely didn’t know about chainmaking, but i suspect there isn’t one of us who has missed the point of equal rights and fighting to have them. thanks for the lovely post.
September 14, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhoney
Wonderful history lesson. Thanks for sharing. So cool that you met Ginny an Astrid.
September 15, 2011 | Registered CommenterPetra
Thanks everyone, it really was a fun day out 🙂
I always have to get into the history of the places I visit. It gives me perspective and context to life.
What was then, what is now and where are we going…
September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCherryPie
How lovely for both you and Ginnie to meet and that both of you wrote about it. I also love the history context – this kind of museum attracts me a lot. Thank you for telling us about it.
September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarola
what a lovely experience, meeting a new friend and a history lesson to boot, but gosh, it sounds like a rough life for those women!
September 15, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkelly
Two people we know have the chance to meet and we have the privilege of hearing about it from both of you. And it is so interesting to read the meeting written about from two different perspectives…with the main theme of the joy of being able to spend time together. I loved the history as well…how far we have come in this world and how the power of a woman making and taking a stand created change for all. Empowering!
September 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSherry Smyth
How exciting that you got to meet! I’m so close to Sherry that it seems silly that we haven’t had our “first date” yet ….
September 19, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkath
Wow you must have had a wonderful time. So nice to meet up like that.
September 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterFrida