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Emma Pizarro

February 28th, 2024

Women Against Pit Closures: the Jean McCrindle archives

1 comment | 3 shares

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Emma Pizarro

February 28th, 2024

Women Against Pit Closures: the Jean McCrindle archives

1 comment | 3 shares

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Learn about the Women Against Pit Closures movement through a tour of some of the archives held at LSE Library. The movement grew out of a network of local groups that had been set up by women in mining communities. A key figure was Jean McCrindle, who had helped to set up the first support groups in Barnsley.

Women Against Pit Closures (WAPC) was established during the 1984-85 miners’ strike. The strike was an industrial dispute led by the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) that began 40 years ago in March 1984. WAPC organised rallies and marches, petitions, fundraising events and ran soup kitchens to feed miners and their families. 

Two people stood near Sheffield bus station with a banner that reads "Sheffield Women Against Pit Closures".
Miners’ wives rally, c. 1984. LSE Archives

 

The movement grew out of the network of local support groups that had been set up by women in mining communities at the start of the dispute. An early rally held in Barnsley in May 1984 brought together many of these groups from across the UK, and in July a national coordinating committee was established, with the aim of strengthening the links made between the women.

It was agreed that the majority of officials should be wives of miners but that various organisations who had given their support, such as SERTUC (Southern and Eastern Region of the Trades Union Congress), would also be represented on the committee.

A pin badge with "1985 Strike" written on it and a knife and fork. Around the edges is written "Hickleton Main M.W. Food Kitchen".
A “1985 Strike” badge from the “Hickleton Main M W Food Kitchen”. LSE Archives

 

A group of people marching with banners that read "Sheffield Women Against Pit Closures" and "Coal Not Dole".
Barnsley WAPC march, 1984. LSE Archives

 

Jean McCrindle was a key figure who helped to set up the first support groups in Barnsley. She became the first Treasurer of the national coordinating committee and remained an active organiser throughout the strike. Jean was a well-known socialist and a lecturer at an adult education college with close links to the NUM and other trade unions. In the run-up to the strike, she argued that women should be encouraged to attend rallies and take an active role in the campaign against closures. 

A march with banners that read "The Right To Work Is A Human Right" and "Kent Miners Wives Support Group".
Barnsley WAPC march, 1984. LSE Archives

 

[t]he actual rally was indescribably exciting—electric, unconventional, joyful, exuberant—chanting, witty, ebullient. – Jean McCrindle’s diary

 

A large group of smiling (mostly) women on a march. They have banners that show support for the miners. For example "Notts Wives support their Men".
Barnsley miners’ wives rally, 1984. LSE Archives

 

The WAPC movement was mainly made up of working-class women and although some members were already politically engaged, for many this was their first experience of activism.

Jean used her links to the Women’s Liberation Movement to gain support from metropolitan feminists who might otherwise have been reluctant to be associated with the NUM. Reciprocal trips between women in coalfield communities and women in London were organised so that they could campaign together and learn from one another’s perspectives. WAPC representatives were also invited to speak at trade union meetings across Europe. 

A poster from 'Barnsley Women Oppose Pit Closures' advertising a national demonstration on 12th May 1984. Speakers include Arthur Scargill, Jack Taylor, Lorraine Bowler, Maureen Douglas and miners wives.
A “Barnsley Women Oppose Pit Closures” poster for a national demo on 12 May 1984. LSE Archives

 

A national women’s rally against pit closures took place in London on 11 August 1984. The route of the march went from Trafalgar Square down to Burgess Park in South London, passing by both Downing Street where demonstrators fell silent to express their disapproval at the government’s lack of concern – and the Department of Health and Social Security, which had withheld benefits from striking miners’ families.

A group of mostly women smiling and holding placards. One reads as follows: "Colliery closures kill the community. We refuse to die".
Barnsley wives and mothers rally, 1984. LSE Archives

 

Although there was some tension within the WAPC movement, between those with more traditional views and others who saw the campaign as an opportunity to challenge gender roles, the experience of solidarity made many feel that they were all part of the same women’s movement.

A leaflet advertising a talk with speakers including Ann Scargill. The leaflet reads as follows: "A woman's place is on the miner's picket line! For nearly four months, the miners have been out on strike in defence of their jobs. The women have joined them on the picket line, on the streets, organising support, organising action to defend their communities. The Women in South Yorkshire have joined together as 'Women Against Pit Closures'."
A leaflet advertising a talk with speakers including Ann Scargill. LSE Archives

 

WAPC provided vital practical support but also empowered women in coalfield communities and connected them to campaigns for women’s rights and other women’s protests, such as Greenham Common.

A large group of people including Jean McCrindle and Arthur Scargill leading a march down the Strand in London. There are various banners on show, including ones (and T-Shirts) from the 'Women Against Pit Closures' campaign.
London NWAPC rally, 1984. LSE Archives

 

The WAPC material in McCrindle’s archive contains meeting minutes, records of the Barnsley WAPC and other local support groups, conference papers, photographs, and badges and artefacts, like a Women in Action mug and a WAPC replica miner’s lamp. The archive also includes pamphlets which record the women’s stories and activism through poetry, writing and images.

A page from a book with a photo of two children of striking miners wearing T-shirts with "My Dad is a Striking Miner" written on them.
Two children of striking miners wearing “My Dad is a Striking Miner” T-shirts. LSE Archives

 

Women Against Pit Closures provided vital practical support but also empowered women in coalfield communities and connected them to campaigns for women’s rights and other women’s protests, such as Greenham Common.

A photo in a book of wives of striking miners joining a pensioners' peace vigil at USAF Greenham, December 1984. Behind the seated women is a police officer stood in front of a metal gate.
Wives of striking miners joining a pensioners’ peace vigil at USAF Greenham, December 1984. LSE Archives

 

The WAPC material in McCrindle’s archive contains meeting minutes, records of the Barnsley WAPC and other local support groups, conference papers, photographs, and badges.

The archive also includes pamphlets which record the women’s stories and activism through poetry, writing and images. 

 

A paper with a red female symbol on with "There's a lot you can do if you really want to" written in the middle of it. Underneath is a WAPC banner and the name of the local group 'Barnburgh Women Against Pit Closures'.
A paper with images and “There’s a lot you can do if you really want to” written on. LSE Archives

 

A poem entitled Coal not Dole, by Susan Wilson from Barnsley. There is also a photo included showing children picking coal with buckets to collect.
A poem entitled Coal not Dole, by Susan Wilson from Barnsley. LSE Archives

 

A set of 3 poems entitled: 'Visions from the past', 'Violence of a picket line', and 'The little blue bus'. There is a drawing of a cola mine with two police vans and a policeman blocking the road to it.
A set of three poems entitled: Visions from the past, Violence of a picket line, and The little blue bus. LSE Archives

 

 It also includes artefacts like this Women in Action mug and a WAPC replica miner’s lamp.

A mug with 'Women In Action Miners Strike 1984-85" written on it along with a drawing of a coal mine and people protesting on.
A “Women In Action Miners Strike 1984-85” mug. LSE Archives

 

A hand held lamp with "WAPC Strike 1984-85" engraved on it.
A hand-held “WAPC Strike 1984-85” lamp. LSE Archives

 

LSE Library collections are open to all and we’d love for you to visit to find out more about WAPC!

Front cover of an item. Yellow and black colour with two photos from the miners' strike. Text reads: "Ey Up Mi Duck. Images and Poetry from Derbyshire Miners Wives".
Front cover of book of images and poetry from Derbyshire miners wives. “Ey Up Mi Duck”. LSE Archives

 

More information

Papers of Jean McCrindle, including records of Women Against Pit Closures

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About the author

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Emma Pizarro

Emma Pizarro is an archivist at LSE Library.

Posted In: LSE Library | Women and LSE

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