This article was originally posted on the LSE History blog
In celebration of Women’s History Month, Archivist Kate Higgins uses the Women’s Library@LSE archive to look back at women’s response to the Miners’ Strike 1984-85, on its 30th anniversary.
Thirty years ago this month the miners’ strike of 1984-85 – called nationally by Arthur Scargill of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on 12 March 1984 following National Coal Board announcements of pit closures – ended and miners began to return to work. It had been the longest major period of industrial action in British history.
While women in mining communities had not participated actively in earlier miners’ strikes, this strike was different because the proposed closures threatened the communities’ entire way of life –affecting whole families, villages and towns as well as individuals. Spurred by this and by early press reports that miners’ wives were not supporting their striking husbands, women formed local groups to organise community kitchens, fundraising events, demonstrations and other supportive activities. These community groups coalesced into a national body called Women Against Pit Closures (WAPC), founded in Barnsley by local women including a Women’s Studies lecturer at Northern College, Jean McCrindle.
The papers of Jean McCrindle and WAPC are now available on the Women’s Library@LSE online catalogue. These include national WAPC and Barnsley branch minutes, financial records, correspondence, conference papers and administrative records; ephemera; Jean McCrindle’s personal campaign-related records including diary entries; the WAPC newsletter ‘Coalfield Woman’; and objects such as photographs, postcards and badges.
These papers illuminate the story of female involvement in the miners’ strike, and in particular illustrate not only the strike itself but also the revolutionary effect it had on women’s lives and their role in local communities. Previously mining communities had a traditional structure with women expected to centre their lives around their homes and families, but their involvement in WAPC and related miners’ support groups enabled them to learn new skills, explore new fields and develop talents in a way not previously possible.
Further LSE study resources relating to women and the Miners’ Strike
- The Women’s Library collections contain transcriptions of interviews with WAPC members in the Betty Heathfield papers (7BEH).
- Type ‘strike’, ‘women’, ‘miner*’ etc. into the ‘Anytext’ field of the Women’s Library archive catalogue and LSE archive catalogue to explore the Library’s collections.
External web resources
- Co-op: From Kitchen Table to Conference Table
- Feminist Times Women Against Pit Closures: memories of the strike 30 years on
External archival resources
- C464/83: Jean McCrindle interview in the British Library Sound Archive.
- Records of South Wales WAPC in Glamorgan Archives.
- Records of Lancashire WAPC in the Working Class Movement Library
Contributed by Kate Higgins (Assistant Archivist, LSE)
March is Women’s History Month and Sunday 8 March is International Women’s History Day #IWD2015